July 23, 2013
Earning Their Keep: CrossFit New England
By David Thomas Tao

“We want to be in that final team event and back up on the podium, but I can’t say we expect that. You still have to earn your keep.” 


After winning the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games Affiliate Cup, CrossFit New England had their sights set on a repeat in 2012.

But while individual champs Rich Froning and Annie Thorisdottir kept their titles, the year saw a new team champion — Hack’s Pack Ute.

Poor finishes in the sprint relay and Big Bob sled push were too much to overcome, and the 2011 champs were eliminated before the last day of competition.

“We have an incredibly supportive community. So when we didn’t make that final day, it felt like we let them down,” New England captain James Hobart says.

CrossFit New England left California tired and disappointed, but also determined to redeem their performance. That meant reevaluating their entire training philosophy.

“We were 12th and very disappointed,” CrossFit New England Coach Ben Bergeron says. “I went back and basically rewrote the entire team training program.”

Bergeron dialed back on strength programming and had his athletes shift their focus to improving overall fitness. The change meant less stress for team members and more time to explore new movements and workouts.

“In past years, I was constantly worried about what I should be doing rather than just doing,” Hobart says. “It’s not haphazard programming, but the calculation of variance became better than ever when I started focusing on what I had been doing a lot of and what I hadn’t done in a while.”

As 2013 approached, New England upped their volume and began incorporating more team-specific movements like partner holds and carries into their workouts.

The addition of former gymnast Rachel Martinez to the roster brought more competition experience and a new skillset to the team.

“CrossFit New England has a bunch of studs, so to be considered one of the team athletes was a privilege, and I ran with it,” Martinez says.

Led by stellar showings from Martinez and Hobart, CrossFit New England’s Team A finished the 2013 Open in fourth place. The box also qualified a second team, which finished the Regional in 11th.

While Hobart’s Open performance placed him among the top 50 individuals worldwide, he says the choice to go team was a logical one.

“My goal this year was to get back to the Games and into that final day. After taking everything into consideration, I believed team competition was the best way to achieve this,” Hobart says.

His decision paid off and CrossFit New England turned the first four events of the North East Regional into a clinic on timing and efficiency. After a win on Jackie, they took second on Events 2 and 3 before another win on Event 4’s chipper.

Their only hiccup on the weekend came during the deadlift/box jump couplet, where a 12th-place finish knocked them a spot below Team Dynamix. But New England showed why they’re still a team to watch with a decisive win on Event 6. Spectators looked on in awe as Hobart and Martinez powered through each movement with remarkable precision. They finished the event more than three minutes ahead of the next-fastest team.

“Exactly according to plan,” Martinez said after the workout.

CrossFit New England finished the North East Regional in second place, and they’re undoubtedly one of the most talked about teams headed into the Games. But that doesn’t mean the former champs are expecting an easy road back to the podium.

“We want to be in that final team event and back up on the podium, but I can’t say we expect that. You still have to earn your keep,” Hobart says.

In the meantime, that means more training, more team-specific movements and lots of running workouts courtesy of Bergeron. For Hobart, the grind of a long Games season is all part of the process in representing something greater than himself.

“Since I’ve been at CrossFit New England so long, I see it as a franchise more than just a single team,” he says. “I’m not just competing for me or even the five other teammates. We are there for an entire affiliate, 300-plus members. A community.”

Just a few days from now, that community will be watching closely as the team fights to regain their crown.