"Everybody knows everybody if you CrossFit in Jacksonville, and we like it that way."
The CrossFit East Family in Jacksonville, Fla., is exactly that — a family.
“Everybody knows everybody if you CrossFit in Jacksonville, and we like it that way,” says Colleen Lehane, member of Crucible CrossFit.
The CrossFit East Family, started by T.J. Cooper, owner of CrossFit East, consists of more than 22 local CrossFit boxes, as well as several out-of-state affiliates.
Lehane and Lance Scott, her boyfriend, are still somewhat new to the community.
“The Open last year was the first time we met most of them,” Lehane says. “But now when we come by, it’s like we were always part of the family.”
Mark Moore, a member of CrossFit Ragnarok, moved to Jacksonville in August. He says everyone in the CrossFit East family is very welcoming, and the members support and help each other the way a family does.
“Recently we changed locations,” Moore says. “The owner of CrossFit Sovereignty, Coach Paul (Villarreal), a former Marine engineer, brought all his tools and expertise, stayed with us until midnight one night, and basically managed the setup so we could open the following morning.”
All of the coaches and members of the family regularly show their love and support for each other.
“We have local ‘Rep Your Box’ throwdowns throughout the year and are always supporting each other on grand openings, fundraisers and competitions,” Lehane says.
For the past three years, the family has come together to support each other throughout the weeks of the CrossFit Games Open.
“It was three years ago the CrossFit East Family decided to have five boxes each host one workout to bring everyone together,” says Russell Peters, owner and coach of CrossFit Total Control.
Every Saturday, athletes from every affiliate gather to compete against each other in the Open workouts. Other members serve as judges, and still others come just to cheer on the competition.
“Usually each Saturday has about 60 people running through heats, but the big showing is spectators,” Lehane says. “The place is packed, loud and exciting!”
Lehane, who competed in the South East Regional last year and hopes to make it again this year, says the Saturday competitions are good preparation for the environment at Regionals.
“Last year, I was a deer caught in headlights at Regionals when I first walked in on the floor and saw the stands full of people,” she says. “This year, the throwdowns help remind me to stay focused on my workout and not get wrapped up in everyone around me and where they are.”
The Saturday workouts also help to hold the athletes accountable for their performances and the judges accountable for decisions.
“Given the recent controversy with the standards, it has the added benefit that multiple sets of eyes from different gyms are there making sure that all the scores are aboveboard,” Moore says.
In addition to the Saturday competitions, some of the affiliates host their own Wednesday night parties to watch the Open workout announcement.
Paul Villarreal, owner of CrossFit Sovereignty, says his members meet at 7:30 on Wednesday nights and wait for Dave Castro to announce the workout.
“Once he does, some of us do it, talk strategy and whatever else,” he says. “It really is cool and it gives you a chance as a coach to really see how bad some people want to compete and take note to where they are deficient and just simply want to get better.”
At CrossFit Total Control, about 60 people come to the gym to find out the workout. The members who choose to do the workout Wednesday night also have the benefit of being able to redo it on Saturday.
Crucible CrossFit has two members face off to perform the Open workout immediately after the announcement. For 13.1, the duel was a family affair: a member versus his 19-year-old cousin who joined just over a month ago.
“They were rep for rep almost the whole (workout),” Lehane says. “Everyone was in their face, and in the end, the 19-year-old took the (workout) by three burpees.”
For the affiliates in Jacksonville, family is the most important part of CrossFit. Whether competing against each other or cheering for each other, the CrossFit East Family sticks together.
“CrossFit is about the community of people all having the same goal of making themselves better and having fun doing it,” Peters says. “In the end, everyone is still cheering on the last person to finish.”