“We are all happy and relaxed going into regionals and we’re having a lot of fun in the meantime,” McCoy said. “Whatever...

"We are all happy and relaxed going into regionals and we're having a lot of fun in the meantime," McCoy said. "Whatever happens, happens, and we are confident we will do our best."

Photos courtesy of Charles Mason.

This year, they won’t let paradise be lost.

In 2012, Paradiso CrossFit Venice took 29th in the Open, barely making it to the Southern California Regional, where they ended up in 23rd place and adopted a melancholy looking turtle as its mascot to make light of the situation.

In 2013, however, the affiliate’s team took a surprising fourth place at the SoCal Regional, missing a bid at the Games by just one spot. A month after regionals, SoCal’s third-place team, Brick Nation, was disqualified from the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, and Paradiso CrossFit Venice was invited to compete.

“We were unprepared,” said affiliate owner David Paradiso of their Games performance last year. “Most of our athletes had taken the entire month off from large-volume training. It was definitely less than ideal going into the Games.”

The team still managed to place 33rd of 43 teams at the Games.

“We knew going in to the Games that we weren’t going to win it, and we were just happy for the experience,” Paradiso said. “But we knew we could hang. We just wanted to perform well and that’s exactly what we did.”

And while in Carson, Calif., they noticed a common thread amongst Games teams.

“Half of the teams at the Games last year were repeat teams,” Paradiso said. “You could recognize the teams that had been there before. They have this kind of swagger that comes with being confident and comfortable in all that’s happening in that environment.”

The team is hoping to have a swagger of its own in 2014. After the Games, the first thing they focused on was identifying weaknesses.

“The teams that did the best were also great at the things that are weaknesses for our athletes: heavy lifting for the guys, and high-volume gymnastics for the girls,” Paradiso said.

So, what’s their 2014 strategy to tackle those weaknesses?

“Imagine every single possible workout (the team) would not be good at, and do it,” Paradiso said.

Since the Games, the team has followed the Outlaw Way and they train together four times per week for three- to four-hour training sessions.

“Outlaw really forces you to be consistent with technique,” said team captain James McCoy. “And the weekly loading, while it tends to beat you up a bit, prepares (us) for the hard work necessary to do well in Open-style workouts.”

But their training isn’t limited to the Open workouts. Regionals and Games team competition programming has evolved to be more about teamwork rather than individual performance, so the team has also added team-based training to their regimen.

“We have worked a great deal on team-style workouts, as well,” McCoy said. “Working in short bursts for specific amounts of reps, relaying to the next athlete and overall communication on rep speed is something we have applied focus to.”

And communication, rather than individual ranking, is more important at the moment because of team concerns last season. McCoy wants the team to learn from their mistakes.

“Execution seemed to be an issue for us. Prior to regionals especially, we practiced the workouts prior to the competition ... the pressure during competition and our lack of communication held us back on the floor,” he said.

Nevertheless, good individual rankings in the Open are necessary in order to get a chance to test their new team-focused skills at regionals.

Five of their six top athletes are individually ranked within the top 200 in SoCal. Two of them are top 25 in the region—Lauren Gravatt in 22nd and Jesse Baz in 14th. The team’s ranking has stayed between eighth and ninth in SoCal so far.

Nearing the end of the Open, Paradiso said everyone on the team is “in good spirits, training hard and anxiously awaiting the next Open workout.”

And with that final workout, regionals are in sight for Paradiso and his crew.

“We are all happy and relaxed going into regionals and we’re having a lot of fun in the meantime,” McCoy said. “Whatever happens, happens, and we are confident we will do our best.”