"We are going to compete at the highest level for our sport. Not a lot of people can say that they had that opportunity."
CrossFit Intensify team members debated going team or individual at the end of this year’s Open. They had four strong contenders who had the option to return to Regionals as individuals: Kendall Burnham, Ben Stoneberg, Christina Sloyer and Jered Souder all placed within the top 60 in the Open.
Team member Colin Schoonover says having members who could have competed as individuals contributed to the team coming together. “What unified us was we wanted to make that sacrifice worth it,” Schoonover says. “It would stink to sacrifice your individual goals and not have that decision pay off, so I believe we are all committed to making all of our goals come true.”
The decision to go proved to be a good one for CrossFit Intensify. Standing atop the podium at the end of the North West Regional and earning the trip to Carson was an incredible moment, Schoonover says.
“I think we expected to do well at Regionals,” he says. “We knew we were capable, that we had the potential to be in the top three for sure.”
Burnham, who placed fourth at the 2011 North West Regional as an individual, agrees. “Yes, we had the potential with each of our individual abilities, but we weren’t sure how it was going to tie into the team aspect,” she says.
The team trained together prior to Regionals and familiarized themselves with each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Through this learning process, a strong team emerged. “That’s exactly how it went down,” Burnham says.
Souder says the team went in well prepared for the Regional. “Then Kendall got hurt about 10 days before. We became very focused on making it. It was pretty promising that we could win it, even when she was about 85 percent that weekend,” he says. “In Heat 2, where she was the anchor, we were over a minute slower at Regionals than our PR. Because we knew what we were capable of with Kendall healthy, our mindset was, ‘We got to get to Carson.’ That was more important than winning. We are feeling really healthy right now and really encouraged for what we can do at the Games.”
The final heat at the North West Regional was a nail biter. The experience prepared Team Intensify to move forward into the Games.
“The workout is never done until the last rep is over,” Souder says. “Even if you are behind, you stay calm and just keep plugging away. Since we had never competed as a team before, we learned we might do the movement faster, but Fort Vancouver had better transitions, and that made the difference in their finishing ahead of us in Heat 1. We learned a lot working as a team in that [high] pressure environment, even in the final heat we made mistakes and have learned from that to help us transition faster and do things as a team better for the Games.”
Stoneberg says he is looking forward to returning to the Games this year and experiencing it for the first time as a team member.
“Going as an individual, I didn’t pay attention to what the teams were doing,” he admits. “I’d catch the workouts on the screen, but I was focused there as an individual competitor. It is going to be pretty cool to see it from both sides now.”
Schoonover says he is looking forward to competing at the Home Depot Center. “I can’t wait to walk out onto the stadium, to perform for that many people,” he says. “It hit home for me, that there are so many people who busted their butts to try to get to the Games, and we are fortunate enough to have accomplished that goal. I am looking forward to enjoying the moment, relishing it for all that it is, and performing up to our capabilities.”
The members of Intensify are continuously learning through their training.
“For us, with Caitlin Ritchey and Rachel Jacobson, who are both new to CrossFit, we have learned how to work together, bringing them up to the next level, which has been really fun to watch,” Burnham says.
Ritchey says she feel ready to compete. “If I can’t do it, it is because I haven’t tried it,” Ritchey says. “We have been really working on skills. Any kind of skill that we think might come up. We work on it until we are comfortable with it.”
The community surrounding CrossFit Intensify has been improved through the team’s success. “It has been huge for our box,” Schoonover says. “The Open generated a lot of buzz towards competition. Zach and the staff put on a competition for the box, and that got everyone geared up and looking forward to Regionals. There are people not even affiliated with our gym that know we are going. There is so much excitement for this.”
Souder says that is the beauty of CrossFit. “Unlike a lot of sports, where you pretty much train with your team or you have one or two training partners, the thing that is cool about CrossFit is that you are all working together,” Souder says. “Most of the people at our gym, we train with them, and they push us. I might be doing the workout next to a 50-year-old man, who will yell at me during the workout to push harder, when they are doing the same thing as me. That kind of thing is what pulls the community tightly together, they support us and we support them. They are excited about what we are doing, but it is exciting when you see someone drop 10 percent from their body fat and achieve their personal goals and know why they started CrossFit in the first place. It’s that shared support. It is not just about the people competing, not just about winning the Games, but the mutual support to achieve those goals that bring us all together.”
Burnham says she comes to the sport from a team background, so going team was a no-brainer. “I competed as an individual these last two years, sometimes questioning ‘What am I doing here?’” she says. “This year was just a whole different ball game, a lot less pressure, more relaxed in so many different areas. And fun, just a lot of fun. I needed that.”
The team has some advice for those who are inspired to compete in CrossFit:
“Do it,” they say, almost in unison.
“You have nothing to lose, you can only gain from it,” Schoonover says.
“We are going to compete at the highest level for our sport,” Souder says. “Not a lot of people can say that they had that opportunity.”
“When they post the workouts, you find that people who haven’t done this kind of thing before start pushing themselves beyond what they thought they could,” Burnham says. “And they wouldn’t do that without competition.”