March 6, 2014
Finding Inspiration in Defeat
By Jeff Rice

“Our view from 31st place is what drove us to work harder and be a better team. It will ultimately bring us success. I can feel it.”

Photos courtesy of Nicole Alekson

In any athletic endeavor there are ups and downs. The flipside of the exhilaration earned through victory is the unwelcomed disappointment inevitably experienced by those who lose.

But oddly enough, it is often in their defeats that athletes find the greatest inspiration from which they draw new strength.

For the team of CrossFit Brickyard in South Windsor, Conn., the culmination of the 2013 Open gave them a bitter disappointment. They finished one spot out of qualifying for the North East Regional, missing the cut by just 1 point.

Sarah Feeney, a member of the 2013 team, recalled how the team felt once the final scores were validated.

“The closing day of the Open last year was the best and worst day for our team,” Feeney said. “After being in the top 30 in the North East every week, we found ourselves in 31st place in the last five minutes of entries. Looking back on that night now, I know that there is nothing more motivating than missing the top by 1 point. I mean come on, 1 point!”

In 2013, Brickyard had assembled a team of athletes with plenty of background and credentials to have a strong shot to make it to the regional.

CrossFit Brickyard owner Gerry Matyschyk and coach Dan Schreiner had both been part of teams at the North East Regional in 2010, 2011 and 2012. In 2010, both competed as team athletes at the Games, as well. Brickyard athlete Cindy Briggs had also competed in the Games as a masters athlete in 2011, 2012 and 2013. Additionally, athletes Seth St. Amand and Jen Norman had regional experience.

By any measure, the 2013 team was one that had a legitimate shot to qualify for the regional.

“We were only training about 11 people for the Games in 2013, partially because CrossFit Brickyard had only been open for six months,” Matyschyk said.

Since the 2013 Open season, the depth, breadth and focus of the Brickyard team has changed dramatically.

“We are now training 21 athletes to be very competitive in the Open and at the regional,” Matyschyk said. “As a larger group, we can push each other in every training session. We also started using an internal blog so we can push each other even if we train at different times.”

The team’s programming also changed leading up to the 2014 Open season.

While much of the team has been following Outlaw programming for the bulk of their workouts, the regular programming at CrossFit Brickyard has played a big role.

“We have all seen big gains because of Outlaw’s programming,” Matyschyk said. “But we also incorporate our regular class programming into our training. Mainly because it is fun to workout with everyone in our Brickyard family.”

Suzie Williams, a new member of the 2014 Brickyard team also drew some additional motivation watching her friends through the 2013 Open.

“After experiencing the five weeks of madness last year, my goals changed,” she said. “A fire was lit and I became excited to see what I could do and how I could improve over the next year. I knew I had a long way to go, and still do, but with the support of Brickyard's awesome competitors and coaches, I have made some amazing gains these past eight months. This year, I'm excited!”

“I have some high expectations for our team and for myself,” Williams continued. “It'll be fun. The next five weeks will be pretty hype at the Yard and I just can't wait to see how all the hard work over the past year pays off for our team and coaches."

Even with optimism, expectations of the level of competition are realistic and provide additional focus.  

“I’ve had blinders on in life for the past few months,” St. Amand said. “Right now the only thing I can see is Feb. 27 to March 27. The North East is one of the biggest and most competitive Open divisions in the world. The level of competition cannot be underestimated."

After the first week of the 2014 Open, CrossFit Brickyard is in 23rd—firmly in the pack racing to Canton, Mass., for the North East Regional, but with a lot of work still ahead. Of course, Matyschyk has not forgotten about last year’s results.

“We also have the extra motivation of not placing 1 point away from qualifying this year,” he said.

Going into Week 2 of the Open, Feeney, along with the rest of her teammates, feels confident the outcome of the 2014 Open for CrossFit Brickyard will be different than that of 2013.  

“Our view from 31st place is what drove us to work harder and be a better team,” she said. “It will ultimately bring us success. I can feel it.”