"It's more of a brotherhood. We use their experience to help us, day to day."
Hack’s Pack Ute is drawing a lot of attention to the team competition at this year’s the South West Regional. With all first-place finishes in six events, so far, the reigning Affiliate Cup champions don’t look to be in danger of losing their top position. Close behind them is the Ute All-Stars in third place, just four points behind Front Range CrossFit.
Second teams can often feel like the junior varsity to their more experienced counterparts. The All-Stars might be competing and training in Hack’s Pack’s shadow, but according to the All Stars, their relationship is more like family than rivalry.
“It’s more of a brotherhood,” said All-Star team member Adam Picarri. “We use their experience to help us, day to day.”
In training, the two teams worked together to strategize and prepare, doing the Regional team events side by side, following virtually the same programming.
Tommy Hackenbruck, owner of Ute CrossFit, programs for both teams, with slight variations for the All-Stars.
“They needed to work more on strength,” he said.
The training paid off, as all three of All-Star female athletes put up 155 lbs., on the Overhead Squat Complex, with one member completing three reps at 165.
According to Hackenbruck, the relationship between the two teams is supportive, but also competitive.
“I think the All-Stars have a little bit of a chip on their shoulder, being the second team, and that’s a good thing. They’ve taken ownership of that role,” he said. “They say, ‘We’re the second team, but we’re out here to prove we’re just as good.’ It’s working for them.”
No one would dispute that account, with the All-Stars finishing second to Hack’s Pack first in Events 1 and 3.
Team member Keslie Okubu Roberts said training with Hack’s Pack has made the All-Stars into a more competitive team.
“I see the way Tommy, every single time he finishes an (Interval Weight Training), he looks like he’s going to die,” Roberts said. “And I said, ‘Oh, I guess I need to push that hard every single time, also.’”
Teammate Mike Baker agreed.
“Training with great athletes makes us that much better,” he said.
The All-Star team includes Alli Cerruti and Robert Shaffer, who competed together at the CrossFit Games in 2011 for the Ute team.
“Having two veterans on the team makes it easier,” Shaffer said. “We have a better idea going into a workout knowing it’s better to focus on just our team, knowing we stick to the strategy we agreed to and just not going into it blind.”
Cerruti has additional experience in CrossFit competitions. Last year, she competed at the South West Regional as an individual. While acknowledging that she is more of a team player (she played soccer for the University of Utah), she says she benefitted from last year’s competition. “Competing as an individual last year was probably the best thing I did. I grew a lot last year as an athlete.”
Mandi Janowitz, the third female on the team, received an invitation South West Regional this year after placing sixth in the Open. Finishing sixth in the region in the Open was a surprise for Janowitz. She considered going individual, but when the athletes decided to form a second team, her decision was easy.
“Immediately, I was done. I want two teams to go."
Whatever the result, team members agree the camaraderie is why they compete in the team competition.
"The CrossFit Games, to me ... it's like Disneyland," Janowitz said. "Yeah, you want to go, you want to have a good time, but it'd be so much better to bring five friends with you. It's just that much more enjoyable."