The Fire of Team CrossFit Eagle Rock

March 27, 2014

Julia Papworth

“We’ve been hovering here (around 30th) the whole time,” Anne said. “We’re confident 14.5 will open the field a bit more and help us get in." 

"We've been hovering here (around 30th) the whole time," Anne said. "We're confident 14.5 will open the field a bit more and help us get in."

Photos courtesy of Dana Barsuhn and Jan Austad.

A family who competes together, stays together.

As young football, track and gymnastics stars, this mantra rings true for the fiery, redheaded Austads siblings. But when Anne and Paul Austad lost their sister Theresa, they turned to training to cope.

Twelve years later, they have opened an affiliate, competed at regionals and are now working together to help Team CrossFit Eagle Rock—currently on the cusp in 30th place—qualify for the 2014 Southern California Regional. With Anne currently in 47th and Paul in 38th in the region, it just may be possible to see these two siblings at the Del Mar Arena with their team in May.

Growing up in Glencoe, Minn., the three Austad siblings were all active in sports and their parents taught them early on about commitment.

“If we wanted to participate in anything active we were allowed to do it,” said Paul, the oldest sibling. “The only requirement was if we started we had to finish.”

But tragedy struck the family when Paul was 18 and Anne was 14. Their middle sister Theresa was killed in a car accident.

“When she died, I was a freshman in high school and I escaped to gymnastics and training,” Anne said. “It helped me cope.”

And the memory of Theresa has stayed with Anne, especially in competition.

“Theresa just laughed all of the time, and I try to use that in competition,” Anne said. “When I take things too seriously I remember that it is OK, it’s just a workout. Theresa would be proud of me and would have laughed it off.”

Paul channels his middle sister in athletics, as well.

“She gives me power through her spirit,” he said. “She would tell it like it is, which is what I do. When I get really intense I think of her to stay at that level.”

Both Paul and Anne stayed active in a variety of sports after Theresa died, playing and competing during college and after. In 2011, Paul opened CrossFit Eagle Rock in Eagle Rock, Calif., but he knew he couldn’t do it alone. He asked Anne to move from Seattle, where she was living at the time, to SoCal to open the box with him.

“Moving down to live with him changed our relationship,” Anne said. “We hadn’t lived in the same space since we were kids and it was tough. Paul is intense.”

Paul’s intensity pushed Anne through her inaugural Open season in 2012. The spirited redhead, who resembles the character Merida from Disney’s Brave, won over the crowd with her enthusiasm and took ninth place at the 2012 SoCal Regional. But afterward, she pulled back.

“After regionals in 2012, I revisited my goals and training,” Anne said. “I decided that I didn't want to train super hard anymore, that it wasn't what I wanted. I figured out that I wanted to back off. I wanted to just enjoy it again because I had been competing my whole life and I needed a break. Paul was supportive, but it was hard for him to hear. He saw me as a great athlete and (thought) that I was wasting all of my potential.”

That potential was reigned in during the 2013 season, when Anne came in 77th place in the Open and did not qualify for regionals.

However, the Austads saw the time off as a good thing.

“After some time off, both of our lives became more balanced,” Anne said.

And Anne and Paul became closer.

“We are so in sync,” Paul said, “and I am lucky that CrossFit has built our relationship from close siblings to best friends.”

“He is the most supportive brother anyone can have,” Anne added. “He always asked if I wanted to do it. I have a tendency to do what other people want. I want to make people proud, but I learned to do things for myself.”

This season, Anne is back on the competition scene and has some personal goals.

“I want to be in the top 30 in SoCal in the Open,” she said.

After 14.2, Anne was within the top 30, but after 14.4, she currently sits in 47th place with one workout left to climb back up.

Though her Open goals are individual, her regional ambitions are for her team.

“Our goal this year is to go as a team,” Anne said. “We have more people, and our members have improved. We could definitely try to qualify as a team.”

Paul, currently in 37th in SoCal, echoes Anne’s goals.

“Individual is a nice feat,” he said, “but having the opportunity to compete with five of my friends and represent our community together is much more fulfilling.”

With both Austads in the top 50 in SoCal, these siblings’ scores have helped their team at CrossFit Eagle Rock into 30th place in the region.

“We’ve been hovering here (around 30th) the whole time,” Anne said. “We’re confident 14.5 will open the field a bit more and help us get in. We’re not counting on it, but know athletes going individual will affect other team scores.”

Until they know for sure which teams will be impacted by athletes going individual, the Austads must continue to push each other through the Open workouts as they’ve done the past four weeks, side-by-side, at CrossFit Eagle Rock’s Friday Night Lights.

“We have a blast competing together,” Paul said.

When it comes to heats, they always choose the same one for the push.

“I always want to (workout) simultaneously with Anne,” Paul said. “When she is on her game she is really hard to beat.”

With only one workout left in the Open, will the Austads be able to push each other enough to hang on to their team’s qualifying position for regionals?

In less than a week, we will know.