May 13, 2013
Going Individual: Mel Ockerby
By Keka Schermerhorn

“Now that I know what I’m capable of and what it takes to compete as an individual, I want to test it. I want to see what I'm capable of and how far can I push myself physically and mentally.”

Photos by: Chris Greer

A 2:38 Fran or 28 unbroken handstand push-ups during competition is something the average CrossFit athlete can only aspire for. Mel Ockerby is not an average athlete.

She competed at the 2011 North East Regional, and after mostly strong finishes, suffered a huge setback on the fourth event when she severely tore her hands.

Ockerby’s co-worker and workout partner, Denise Thomas, remembers watching her during that workout.

 “She tore her hands so bad during the 100s workout that she physically couldn't hold onto her kettlebell,” Thomas says. “It was so painful to watch, as that (event) was in her wheelhouse. It eliminated any chance of her making the Games. My heart broke for her.”

Despite finishing Regionals in fourth place, just out of Games contention, Ockerby joined the CrossFit New England team on their trip to Carson, Calif., on their quest for the Affiliate Cup.

Her performance on Fran during the last workout of the Games, The Girls, solidified the team’s claim to the 2011 Affiliate Cup.

During the 2012 Games season, Ockerby chose to compete as part of the CFNE team from the get-go, as they aimed for a repeat championship. What they got instead was a disappointing 12th-place finish.

“We had a strength athlete, an endurance athlete and a gymnast both on the women’s and men's side of the team,” Ockerby says. “Having specialists the previous two years had played in our favor, but the events for teams last year favored the more well-rounded teams. Every member had to be good or great at everything and anything. We crushed the (workouts) that required team strategy, communication and playing to athletes strengths. When it came to single modalities, like the 400-meter run or the two-rep max front squat, that's where we struggled.”

For the 2013 season, Ockerby’s affiliation is with Reebok CrossFit One. She is once again competing as an individual

 “Going individual and making the move to Reebok was pure coincidence,” Ockerby says, who is now a coach and social media director at the affiliate. “After my hands tore during the 100s (Event) at the 2011 Regional, I knew I'd be going individual again. I wanted to test myself. I made the decision to compete individually around September of 2012 and made the move to Reebok in December.”

Leaving CrossFit New England was a difficult choice for Ockerby, but she hasn’t regretted it.

 “They are my family and lifelong friends, and I miss them. But the team of Denise (Thomas), Austin (Malleolo), Lindsey (Johnson), Joe (Masely) and Jared (Davis) are a great group and the community at Reebok has been very welcoming,” she says. “They have allowed me to step outside my comfort zone. The move has given me the opportunity to travel and develop coaches like I do with (CrossFit HQ) Seminar Staff, which I love.”

Ockerby finished the Open in seventh place in the North East and took first place on Open Workout 13.5. The former gymnast put her butterfly pull-up skills to good use, recording 166 reps for the final workout of the Open.

“Mel approached the (workouts) with the same mindset that she does all her workouts. She went hard, and did her best — it’s just another workout,” Thomas says. “She has her head screwed on and knows where she needs to be right now. She's relaxed and enjoying it.”

Malleolo says he thinks competing as an individual is the right choice for Ockerby this season.

“She is hungry and confident that she will end up in Cali at the big show. She is a complete competitor,” Malleolo says. “She has a kill switch that she turns on when she competes that sets her apart, and her high-skill gymnastics is a game changer for her. She makes handstand push-ups and muscle-ups look easy.”

Although Ockerby misses her training partners and the camaraderie of training with a team, she has been working hard on her weaknesses — deadlifts and front squats — and spending the rest of the time on “straight-up CrossFit.”

“She is an outstanding athlete who has the potential, determination and all the athletic components to take a top spot at Regionals,” Thomas says. “She is a seasoned Games competitor and has a very strong mental game.”

Ockerby is excited for what the rest of the season will bring. 

“I had a blast two years ago competing at the 2011 Regionals and I surprised myself when I placed fourth,” Ockerby says. “Now that I know what I’m capable of and what it takes to compete as an individual, I want to test it. I want to see what I'm capable of and how far can I push myself physically and mentally.”