July 2, 2013
Eyes on the Podium: CrossFit Dallas Central
By Eddie Malone

“We knew the level of competition out there and realized that winning was never guaranteed or would be an easy thing to do."

Since the Affiliate Cup’s inception, CrossFit Dallas Central has been a model of consistency. For four straight years, the team has qualified for the CrossFit Games, and each year they have climbed in the standings. 

In 2010, the team finished 25th. The next year they were 13th and in 2012 they climbed to seventh place, just missing the top six, which would have meant competing in the final heat to decide the overall champion.

In 2013, they proved again to be a dominant force in the South Central Region. In six events, CrossFit Dallas Central never finished outside of the top six, securing first place overall with a cushion of 11 points over their closest rival. In spite of their track record of excellence, they insist they were pleasantly surprised by the result. 

“We were kind of shocked that we ended up winning,” says Julianne “Julz” Kennedy, the team’s unofficial spokesperson. “We knew the level of competition out there and realized that winning was never guaranteed or would be an easy thing to do. The Regional (Events) were challenging for us, so while we never doubted our ability, we didn’t know how we would end up. Our goal was to obviously do our best at each workout, and if we did that, we knew it would be enough to hang on. We didn’t win any of the workouts except for the muscle-up one, so we just stayed right where we needed to be. It was important also that we didn’t tank on any one workout that would drop us in the rankings too much.”  

“We didn’t blow anyone out of the water from a competitive standpoint, but we maintained our composure, fought for each other and ended up with the best outcome,” she adds. “This was a pretty special experience for us in the way our team came together. We now have a lot of amazing moments to cherish and hope there will be more to come.”

For CrossFit Dallas Central, last year’s seventh-place finish at the Games was a bitter pill to swallow. They went to Carson, Calif., looking for a podium spot. To have gotten close was devastating. It also served as a wake-up call and motivation for 2013.

Looking forward to the Games, Kennedy says each team member is focused on making improvements.

“We laugh because we say that we are working on not sucking at CrossFit.”

The Regional Events brought to light certain weaknesses, which they are addressing in their preparation. In particular, gymnastics movements such as handstand push-ups, muscle-ups, bar muscle-ups and handstand walks/holds have given them trouble in competition. Kennedy would characterize the team as “strong.” In other words, the team excels at heavy lifting.

“We are somewhat of a ‘strong’ team, so at Regionals, the workouts we were worse at were the ones that included an aspect of skill,” Kennedy says.

Team CrossFit Dallas Central is also looking to improve its proficiency at “conga line” workouts, as well as workouts of shorter to moderate duration with high reps.

Games preparation has been intense. The team started a week after Regionals, with programming that has brought “intensity, volume and a big kick in the ass.” 

The athletes are at the mercy of a team of coaches, led by programming guru Sam Nix and head coach Spencer Nix. Games veteran Chase Ingraham (aka Captain America) provides them with competition strategy.    

The programming includes days of multiple workouts, intense conditioning, targeted weight training and skill work.

“We always have a coach who is there for us during workouts. It’s crucial for cues, feedback and support, as well as having a sense of direction and flow,” Kennedy says.

Team members are well aware that the days of succeeding with specialists are long gone. The superior team is one that meshes well together, communicates constantly and has the most well rounded athletes. Still, they never lose sight of individual skills and strengths.

In her fourth year on the team, Meredith “Mere” Ramsey has an exceptional engine, can run well and holds her own with strength and skill movements. Also in her fourth year of competition, Kennedy is a strong-willed competitor who excels at max lifts and can move heavy weight quickly. Audra LeBeau shines at both gymnastics and strength, and has an engine to boot. 

On the men’s side, James “Toge” Hugo is a physical specimen, strong and “an excellent mover and can out-row anyone.” 

Don “The Body” Walker is an explosive athlete and excellent teammate because of his composure in the trenches. Charles “Trey” Kubacak responds well to high intensity workouts and leads the way on gymnastics. Matt Anderson is mechanically strong, excellent overhead and comfortable with any modality.

To further team cohesion and camaraderie, they socialize outside of the gym.

“We have family dinners, are constantly in communication with one another via group text or G-chat, and occasionally have chill pool time and grill out,” Kennedy says. “Every weekend in between workouts we go to cryotherapy as a group. With as much time as we spend together, it’s a good thing we still like each other.”

Given their Games experience, past mistakes and attention to detail, Team CrossFit Dallas Central isn’t traveling to California looking to make up the numbers. They are looking for a little redemption. By the end of competition weekend, they would like to have something shiny hanging around their necks.   
“We aren’t going to the Games for the experience … been there done that … we want to win!” Kennedy says. “Who doesn’t go into a competition wanting to win? So we want to be there on Sunday for sure. In our minds, there is no other option than to be there. It’s our driving force, and once that’s accomplished our eyes will be on the podium.”