We all knew the Central Regional would be exciting. With the addition of two-time third-fittest woman on Earth Sara Sigmundsdottir on the women's side, the return of two-time Affiliate Cup champion CrossFit Mayhem and a men's field full of perennial Games athletes, the competition was sure to be riveting. But what we couldn't predict were the rookie qualifiers who came from behind to steal the show. Here are a few things I learned from the Central Regional.
MAYHEM STILL RULES BUT THE GAP IS SHRINKING
Another Central Regional and another win for the team from CrossFit Mayhem. While it should come as no surprise that the two-time reigning Affiliate Cup champion won the Regional for the third consecutive year, it was a vastly different competition in 2017.
Day 1 for Mayhem was business as usual as the team swept the competition, winning Events 1 and 2. The returning champs won Event 1 by nearly a minute, and in Event 2, they showcased stellar communication and timing with the Worm.
On Day 2, Mayhem notched a second- and a third-place finish. Not bad by any means, but not what the team is used to.
Day 3 brought the team’s only finish outside of the top three, a fourth-place finish on Event 5. Mayhem finished strong with a second place in Event 6 and put a bow on the Regional win, but a closer look at the final Leaderboard tells a much different story than previous years.
Mayhem won the 2016 Central Regional by a country mile. CrossFit 417 finished 96 points back, and third-placed OC3 Black was 100 points behind. Coincidentally, this year the finish order behind Mayhem was exactly the same, with CrossFit 417 and OC3 Black occupying second and third. The point spread this time, though, was a fraction of what it was a year prior.
CrossFit 417 was just 20 points back this year, and OC3 Black finished 10 points behind them. Both teams finished every event inside the top 5.
The teams heading to Madison took home 26 of a possible 30 top-five finishes in the competition, including every event win. There was simply less room for error at the top in 2017.
NEW NAMES: WHO DIS?
Some heavy hitters took the floor in the Central men’s competition, and it looked to be a weekend filled with familiar names battling it out for the top spots—until R. Paul Castillo and Streat Hoerner showed up.
Two relative unknowns, each with just one year of Regional experience under his belt, turned the competition on its head by outlasting Scott Panchik, Alex Anderson and Zak Carchedi in a wild shootout that saw first place through fifth separated by just 14 points.
Castillo got the party started by winning Event 1. He quickly moved out to the front of the pack in the early rounds and never looked back. An eighth-place finish in Event 2 put Castillo officially on the radar, and he finished Day 1 in first place overall.
Day 2 wasn’t as kind to Castillo. He finished Events 3 and 4 outside of the top 10. He went into the final day sitting on the bubble, needing a solid rebound to get him back into a qualifying spot.
And rebound he did.
Castillo notched back-to-back top-five finishes to close out the weekend, including a second place in the finale that secured his spot as the Central Regional champion. When it was announced that he’d won, Castillo stood there in disbelief before jubilation eventually took over.
Twenty-two-year-old Hoerner was arguably the most consistent athlete at the Central Regional. He was the only Games-qualifying male who didn’t have multiple finishes outside the top 10. He had five finishes of sixth place or better and had a trio of third-place finishes during the final two days.
In the end, Castillo and Hoerner finished in a tie for points at the top, with the tiebreaker going to Castillo by virtue of his Event 1 win.
In a few months the big test awaits them in Madison, where Regional finishes won’t matter. It’s no small feat to beat Panchik and Anderson in any capacity, though, and Castillo and Hoerner can walk into the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games knowing they beat some of the best in the sport to earn their place. That knowledge should definitely help their confidence.
SARA SIGMUNDSDOTTIR: VERSION 3.0
Lost in some of the bubble-race drama of the Central women’s competition was the fact that Sara Sigmundsdottir put down her best Regional performance yet. While Brooke Wells, Sheila Barden and Kelley Jackson fought for a top-five spot, Sigmundsdottir quietly demonstrated the effects of her sacrifices during the offseason.
Sigmundsdottir left the comfort of her hometown in Iceland to come to the United States and eventually settle in with Rich Froning’s crew at CrossFit Mayhem. Her Regional performance was nothing short of dazzling. After a fourth-place finish in Event 1, she won three of the next five events and never finished lower than third.
In every measurable aspect of the competition, she was better than in previous years. Her worst Regional event finish was ninth in 2015, and last year it improved to fifth. This year, a single fourth-place finish was her only blemish, if you can even call it that.
In 2015, her average points earned per event during the Meridian Regional was roughly 89. In 2016, she improved that statistic, taking home about 92 points per event. In a new Regional with a deeper field including seven individual Games qualifiers, she took home an astounding 94 points per event.
Sigmundsdottir mentioned during a few interviews that this is the first year she has completely immersed herself in training, and for once, is having a ton of fun doing it. Her sleep schedule, nutrition and recovery have been tailored to focus on her primary goal: winning the CrossFit Games.
In 2015, Sigmundsdottir felt like a force of nature that was hell bent on taking home gold in Carson. Despite leading for a majority of the competition, small but costly mistakes kept her from winning in the end.
It’s a new year, and from what we saw at the Central Regional, a new Sigmundsdottir. Sometimes small sacrifices yield great rewards. For Sigmundsdottir, the only reward this year is a CrossFit Games title.