If Mat Fraser, who placed second at last year’s CrossFit Games, is indeed the heir apparent to Rich Froning, consider the East Regional his opening act.
Fresh off winning this year’s worldwide Open, Fraser will have all eyes on him this weekend at Hartford’s XL Center. But he won’t be able to coast through as the new regional has a deep pool of men from the North East and Canada East Regions vying for the five spots at the CrossFit Games.
Daniel Tyminski—who missed last season due to injury—is back and expected to be a contender along with last year’s rookie Games standout, Craig Kenney. Austin Malleolo and Alex Vigneault, who both just missed qualifying for Carson a year ago, will also be in the mix along with Paul Tremblay and Spencer Hendel.
On the women’s side, the departure of Camille Leblanc-Bazinet from Canada East leaves room for Michele Letendre to shine as she guns for her fifth consecutive CrossFit Games appearance. Dani Horan, a two-time Games competitor, will also vie for the top of the East Regional podium while the other three spots look to be very much up for grabs.
What’s faster than fast?
The men of the east set a formidable marker in Event 1’s Randy with all of the top five times beating the previous event record of 2:34.3, set by Dominick Maurici at last weekend’s Atlantic Regional. Fractions of a second to set up—or drop the bar completely—made all the difference in the 75-rep snatch event, and Zachary Moran set an unforgiving pace in Heat 3 to win the event in an incredible 2:24.
“I’m usually made fun of because of my forearms, cause they’re extra large and disproportional, but I got to use them in this workout, (to) hang on to the bar as long as possible,” said Moran, who went unbroken for the win. “It paid off.”
Moran, who was 10 seconds ahead of the event record, beat out the entire top 10 of the men’s field.
“I watched a little bit (of the previous regionals). I knew 2:45 was a good time,” he said. “I knew I could get under 2:45, I just didn’t know by how much. So I went fast and hoped for the best.”
No one in Heat 4 beat Moran, but it was still an exhilarating race with Kenney jumping out to an early lead on the first 25 reps. Fraser closely followed suit, but it was Vigneault—who missed out on a Games spot by a tiebreaker last year—who dug deep and held on to distance himself in the final 25 reps to cross the finish first.
“I knew that the first 50 reps were fast, but I gave (it) what I got in the last 25,” said Vigneault, who passed Kenney on a late break. “I didn’t check the other side (of the heat).”
It didn’t matter as Vigneault finished in 2:27.6, out-sprinting Paul Tremblay (2:28.3) to the finish. Fraser took a close third in the heat, and fourth overall, finishing in 2:28.4.
“(There was) no pacing,” Fraser said of the final heat. “There are a lot of big guys, and that weight is easy for them. You just gotta go.”
Men’s Event 1 Results
1. Zachary Moran (2:24.0)
2. Alex Vigneault (2:27.6)
3. Paul Tremblay (2:28.3)
4. Mathew Fraser (2:28.4)
5. James Kozlakowski (2:32.5)
Four-time Games competitor Hendel knows the thrill of getting to Carson. He also knows how fleeting it can be.
“I keep working hard every year and, being in such a good region, it really depends on whatever workouts come out,” Hendel said. “I’ve come in fourth place for the last two years (when the top three advanced) so I’m really hoping for one of those top-five spots this year.”
Hendel helped his cause in Friday’s Event 2, taking first place in the Hero workout Tommy V by more than 30 seconds.
“In practice, it went just under 8 minutes,” Hendel said of the descending rotations of thrusters and rope climbs. “On the competition floor, with the fans and the screaming, I knew it was going to play to my strengths because I’m a game-time guy.”
Clearly a fan favorite, Hendel played right into the crowd’s adorations and easily established himself as the leader early on. His finish, which earned him a Heat 3 win, held up amongst the top-10 men in the following heat and catapulted Hendel into Games contention after Day 1.
Cody Mooney, coming off a 10th-place finish in Event 1, also used the ropes to his advantage and secured a second-place finish (8:04) from the outside lane. Like nearly all of the men’s field, Mooney did his thrusters unbroken. But he shimmied up the rope with incredible ease and was the first man in Heat 4 to start his second set of thrusters.
“You know these are people I look up to,” 20-year-old Mooney said of edging out the likes of Austin Malleolo, Fraser and Vigneault. “I mean two years ago I was in high school watching these guys and then I went to community college and decided to give it a try and I made it (to regionals) last year. Last year was kind of an eye opener, but this year I’m like, ‘Why not me?’”
Vigneault beat Malleolo in the final foot race to the finish, out-sprinting the Reebok CrossFit One athlete by 2 tenths of a second to take third overall (8:12.5). Fraser finished fifth—his second top-five finish of the day—to keep him in second overall.
Men Event 2 Results
1. Spencer Hendel (7:28.9)
2. Cody Mooney (8:04.6)
3. Alex Vigneault (8:12.5)
4. Austin Malleolo (8:12.7)
5. Mat Fraser (8:48.8)
1. Alex Vigneault (185 points)
2. Mathew Fraser (165 points)
3. Cody Mooney (162 points)
4. Spencer Hendel (151 points)
5. Zachary Moran (147 points)
6. Simon Paquette (142 points)
7. Craig Kenney (134 points)
8. Paul Tremblay (131 points)
9. Austin Malleolo (130 points)
10. Trevor James (130 points)
Kaleena Ladeairous wanted to start the weekend out with a bang. Smashing the Event 1 record held by 2013 Games champ Sam Briggs was quite the way to do it.
Ladeairous, who arguably has an engine on par with Briggs, flew through 75 snatches and sprinted to the finish line a full 15 seconds ahead of the field. Her first-place finish of 2:26 was two seconds better than Briggs’ mark and was the most dominant showing of the day.
Her strategy was simple: “Don’t put the bar down and go as fast as I could,” Ladeairous said. “Just suffer for 2 minutes and go as fast as I can.”
“This workout I knew was a good one for me, so my goal was just to go and not worry about anybody else," she added. "There’s no defense in CrossFit. You have to play your game—it doesn’t make a difference what they’re doing (next to me).”
Ladeairous easily outdistanced the rest of Heat 4, with the second- and third-place finishers coming from the previous heat. In that race, Kelly Munroe was able to hold off Carolyne Prevost to secure second place in the event with a 2:41 finish.
“My plan was to go unbroken and I knew I had to try with the competition out there,” said Munroe who is competing for the first time as an individual. “The first two sets of 25 went as planned but not the last set. I dropped at 12 and knew I had to get back on that bar and finish it off.”
Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault took fourth overall and second in Heat 4, while Michele Letendre took seventh in 2:49.
“I mean, the plan was that it was going to hurt, so it hurt, but the plan was also to do 75 (unbroken),” Letendre said. “The backup was to just keep moving and that worked well.”
Women’s Event 1 Results
1. Kaleena Ladeairous (2:26.7)
2. Kelly Munroe (2:41.9)
3. Carolyne Prevost (2:43.8)
4. Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault (2:45.0)
5. Jessa Lemoine (2:45.3)
While Event 1 was an all-out sprint, Event 2 involved a considerable amount of faith in each athlete’s ability to pace and avoid red-lining during 27 ascents up the rope.
Facing a 16-minute time cap for Tommy V, the final heat saw the Region’s top women stop, take a breath and collect themselves between each climb. Their mantras and attire—ranging from pants and gloves to shorts and bare hands—were all different, but the end game was the same: “The strategy was to start slow and finish fast,” said Letendre, who rallied to take second in 10:27.5.
Horan, who won the event in 10:04, had a lead early on but never swayed from her game plan. Like Letendre, Horan took deliberate breaks early on in the first round of 15 rope climbs and was able to stay steady throughout the event.
“Today was the day I was the most nervous for,” said Horan, who took ninth in Event 1 and is in first place overall going into Day 2. “My coach just told me to keep the rope in front of my face and not step away unless I needed chalk. So, I think that helped.”
For Letendre, quick descents and trusting herself went a long way in helping her bypass Kelley Jackson on the final 6 climbs.
“I’ve come a long way on my mental game this year,” Letendre said. “I was mentally strong to get through things (last year), but not mentally strong to push through bad situations. To hurt. This is different this year.”
Letendre is in second overall through the first two events, just ahead of Ladeairous who finished Event 2 in 10th. Jackson, who took third in 10:38.9, sits just outside of a Games spot in sixth.
The women’s field is incredibly tight in the overall standings, with a mere 3-point spread between the top four athletes.
Reason-Thibault holds onto the final Games qualifying spot, with just a one-point lead over 6th-ranked Jackson and 24-point lead over 10th-ranked Lauren Conner.
Women Event 2 Results
1. Dani Horan (10:04.0)
2. Michele Letendre (10:27.5)
3. Kelley Jackson (10:38.9)
4. Chloe Gauvin-David (11:10.5)
5. Jennifer Smith (11:11.3)
1. Dani Horan (169 points)
2. Michele Letendre (168 points)
3. Kaleena Ladeairous (167 points)
4. Kelly Munroe (166 points)
5. Carol-Ann Reason-Thibault (146 points)
6. Kelley Jackson (145 points)
7. Kari Pearce (140 points)
8. Jessa Lemoine (139 points)
9. Jennifer Smith (123 points)
10. Lauren Conner (122 points)