"When I started CrossFit, it was a super easy transition for me. I had the gymnastics background, so I have a lot of the skills; and then I was...

"When I started CrossFit, it was a super easy transition for me. I had the gymnastics background, so I have a lot of the skills; and then I was really strong from the power lifting."

Meet Kevin Simons.

Freakishly strong with mad gymnastics skills, this 24-year-old, 5-foot-7, 200-pound beast of a CrossFitter from Maple Valley, Wash., has catapulted to the top of the North West’s Leaderboard and landed in 11th place worldwide.

He hammered out 138 burpees during the Open’s 12.1 workout, using a metronome to pace himself.

“I had it beep every second,” he says. “So I did a burpee every three seconds – the first beep, I touched my chest to the ground; the second beep, my feet were on the ground; and the third beep, I’d touch the target. I stuck with that the whole way through, and it worked pretty well. I only missed my target twice.”

He nearly broke through the 90-snatch barrier during 12.2, powering through 86 of the Olympic lifts – despite having the flu.

“I was hoping to do a lot better, but I had lost some body weight and didn’t feel 100 percent going in,” he says, adding that his goal was 95. “It was kind of disappointing but, all things considered, it was fine.”

And in Workout 12.3, he polished off an unbroken 439 total reps, doing the 18 minutes of box jumps, push presses and toes-to-bar “at a pretty consistent pace,” he says. “I just tried to keep moving and not sprint out of the gate. The strategy worked well and I really didn’t feel like I left anything out there. None of the movements felt hard exactly; I just felt like I was overheating and fighting nausea.”      

Born and raised in Washington, Simons practiced gymnastics from ages 12 to 18 – a sport he still participates in today as a coach and personal trainer at a local gymnastic center where he also trains several times a day. When he graduated from high school and headed off to Washington State University, he added weight lifting to his repertoire.

“For a while, I did the bodybuilding thing, but with a real emphasis on strength,” he says. “When I started CrossFit, it was a super easy transition for me. I had the gymnastics background, so I have a lot of the skills; and then I was really strong from the power lifting.”

Really strong? That’s an understatement.

This guy can clean and jerk 330 pounds, snatch 225 pounds, back squat 500 pounds and dead lift 525 pounds. Yeah, he’s strong alright – and he can move well, too. His first Fran time, after only a month doing CrossFit, was 2:39; to date, he’s whittled that down to 2:09.

“I put up big numbers right away, and I knew I could be competitive,” he says. “So I stuck with it.”

Simons got his first dose of CrossFit two and a half years ago when he joined some buddies who were tackling Linda at the school gym. “I was a power lifter, so thought it would be easy,” he recalls. “I tried it, and 26 minutes in I threw up. I only got to round six. I was hooked after that, and wanted to get better at it.”

And he has gotten better. A lot better. So good, in fact, that he finished in the top 10 of last year’s Open, but fell out of contention during Regionals when he had catastrophic issues with the muscle-up WOD.

This year, however, he has a secret weapon.

To prep him for the 2012 challenge, Simons has enlisted the coaching expertise of Rudy Neilsen, creator of The Outlaw Way programming.

“In the past, I worked on my strengths and avoided my weaknesses,” Simons says. “And Rudy is really good about making sure that we’re prepared for everything, so I’m going to stick with what he’s telling me to do for training. He’s a fantastic coach. He’s training a lot of people who are probably going to qualify for Regionals this year. The guy really knows his stuff, and I really owe a lot to him.”

Simons is also cleaning up his diet a little bit.

“It’s not bad,” he says. “I just get a little more strict about making sure all my meals are prepared on time and I have food with me all the time.”

We’ll see how this dark horse fares during the 12.3 WOD and beyond. If his competitive streak has any say, it’ll be a race to the finish.

“I love to compete, I love to see the improvements and I love that the improvements are so measurable,” Simons says of sport of fitness. “And I’m going to keep pushing myself to the end.”

Fran: 2:09
Grace: 1:11
Clean and Jerk: 330 pounds
Snatch: 255 pounds
Dead lift: 525 pounds
Back squat: 500 pounds