April 27, 2012
Hernandez, Phillips Dominate Diane
By Shelby Levy

"This is the real deal."

After months of training and shedding blood, sweat, and tears, it is finally time for the South East’s athletes to show what they’ve got and see whether they have what it takes to make it to the CrossFit Games.

Crowds packed the South Florida Expo Center in beautiful West Palm Beach, Fla., to watch the athletes of the Dirty South set the bar during the first weekend of the CrossFit Games Regionals.

“Today is a big day for us. It is very exciting after months and months of preparation and planing by literally hundreds and hundreds of people,” says Dave Castro, CrossFit Games Director. “We are finally kicking off the most important day in this whole season, in my opinion – the day where the selection process begins to determine who’s going to go to California to vie for the fittest man alive and the fittest woman alive. I couldn’t be more pleased with what I am seeing on day one of this five-week cycle.”

The atmosphere was a combination of excitement and nerves as the competitors arrived at the venue. “I’ve got a smile on my face, but I’m nervous,” Cheryl Nasso of CrossFit Fort Pierce says. “Once I get through the first event, I am hoping it will go away.”

Joanne Parker, a 38-year-old mother of four is competing for CrossFit Mobile, a team on its first trip to Regionals. “(It is) a mix of emotions. You’re excited. You’re nervous. This is big,” she says.

One thing all of the athletes agreed on was this year’s venue, the South Florida Fairgrounds and Expo, which allows the fans to get up close to the action. “The venue is way better than last year. Way more personable,” says Jason Ingham of CrossFit Ragnarok who came in to Regionals having finished 5th in the Open, and stands in 31st after Workout 1.

Landon Brazell of CrossFit Embrace, who is making his second trip to Regionals, summed up the seriousness of the day, “This is the real deal.”

Will we see familiar names on the top of the Leaderboard or will we be introduced to new faces who emerge from the pack? The stage was set for Event 1, a deadlift and handstand push-up couplet, as the South East Regionals officially kicked-off.


Regional Event 1: Diane- 21-15-9 Deadlift (225 lbs)/ HSPU
1. Irving Hernandez (1:57)
2. AJ Moore (2:01)
3.  Matt Baird (2:01)
3. Brian Prochaska (2:07)

The men in the final heat moved through the workout in a blistering pace and had the crowd on its feet. Irving Hernandez of CrossFit Paragon finished 1st with a sub-2:00 time. Hernandez, who finished in 8th place at last year’s Regional, showed up with something to prove. He was neck-and-neck with Matt Baird of CrossFit

North Atlanta until the round of 15 handstand push-ups, where he knocked them out unbroken. “That is the one thing that I can do – handstand push-ups. I can do a few more things, but that was my workout,” he says. “You have to move. There was no way I was going to go down. You have to do them unbroken, so I did it.”

AJ Moore, of CrossFit Delray Beach, finished close behind Hernandez in 2nd place with an impressive 2:01. Matt Baird and Brian Prochaska of CrossFit Augusta tied for 3rd place at 2:07.

Dominick Maurici of Caution CrossFit, who set a 15-second PR on the workout,

finished 5th in the event, despite being no-repped at least six times on the handstand push-ups. “Deadlifts are my thing,” he says. “I was happy with my time, aiming for sub-2 though.”

Brandon Phillips of CrossFit Kennesaw, who finished 1st in the Open, ended up in a disappointing 25th place. “I did OK. It was definitely not a PR. I did some hand placement at the beginning that kind of cost me some shoulder endurance that cost me in the end. These next few workouts, they play to my favor. They are going to have to work hard to keep up with me on these next ones,” Phillips says, pointing out that he came from behind at last year’s Regionals to finish 3rd overall.

First time Regional competitor at only 20-years-old, Noah Ohlsen of Peak 360 CrossFit finished 1st in Heat 3 to the roar of the crowd. His time of 2:26 put him in 7th place overall and was a PR for him by an entire minute. “A lot of people say strict handstand push-ups are a lot faster, but I have a real fluid kip, almost like a butterfly kip,” he says. “I was able to keep that rhythm with the deadlifts. I just tried to keep going. They’re going to suck, but I just had to keep going.”


Regional Event 1: Deadlift (155 lbs)/ HSPU
1. Sarabeth Phillips (2:24)
2. Talayna Fortunato (2:26)
3. Cheryl Nasso (2:49)

The weekend looks like it is going to be a fight to the finish for the top three spaces on the Women’s Leaderboard if Event 1 is any indication. The top four women gave a rousing performance as they blew away the rest of the competitors to give one of the most exciting moments of the morning.

Sarabeth Phillips of CrossFit Tuscaloosa took 1st place in 2:24 with Talayna Fortunato of CrossFit Real Fitness just two seconds behind her. Phillips credits strict handstand push-ups for giving her the edge in this event. “It makes all the difference, and once I started failing out, I knew to go straight to the kip.

“I loved it. It was awesome. Right up my alley. I did what I planned on going out there and doing,” Phillips says.

Fortunato, who says she learned the importance of pacing after last year’s Regionals, says there was no such thing as pacing for Event 1. “That one is fast and furious,” she says.

Cheryl Nasso and Emily Bridgers of CrossFit Decatur were left to duke it out for 3rd place with Nasso taking it in the end. Bridgers says she ended up setting a 45-second PR on this workout and was happy finishing fourth. “I need to learn to kip,” Bridgers says, noting the handstand push-ups may have slowed her down.

Fan favorite Shana Alverson of CrossFit East Decatur dominated her heat ending up in 6th place with a time of 3:56. Alverson, who finished 3rd overall last year thanks to a 1st-place finish in the deadlift event, was excited to see deadlifts as part of Event 1, though she went unbroken on her round of 21 handstand push-ups. “It’s all in the kip, baby.”


Team Regional Event 1: Partner Deadlifts (455/ 315 lbs)/ HSPU
1. CrossFit Adrenaline (5:33)
2.  CrossFit Vida Brickell (5:38)
3.  CFNA Cockdiesel (5:56)

The energy was high as the teams took the floor for the first Regional event. Standards were tight as the judges handed out “no reps” for athletes who failed to lock out their hips at the top of the sometimes awkward partner deadlifts. “No reps” were also flying for failing to lock out at the top of the handstand push-ups.

In the heat of the moment, some competitors forgot to change their weights for the deadlifts. Females from CrossFit West Jax repped out multiple 455-pound deadlifts before they realized their mistake. “We got excited and ran up to the bar. We lifted it three times, looked at each other, assuming we weren’t locked out because we were getting ‘no-repped.’ We picked it up one more time and realized we didn’t change the weight,” Kelly Sheehy says.

CrossFit Adrenaline put itself on the map in its first Regionals appearance by finishing first in Event 1, coming out of nowhere in the final round of the female deadlifts to take the top spot. Team captain, Lindsay Bourdon, who finished 4th in the Open, says, “We didn’t know what to really expect. We came in here and gave it all we had. Our two strongest deadlifters were on the team and our two strongest handstand push-uppers were on the team. It was a good combo,” she says. “We are pumped just to be here.”

CrossFit Vida Brickell and CrossFit Hardcore were neck-and-neck most of the workout with CrossFit Vida Brickell finishing in 2nd. “The girls moved pretty quickly on the handstand push-ups, and I think that gave us an edge,” says Jessica Rodriquez, who is looking forward to another leg-burner with Event 2.

CrossFit Hardcore, who has been battling injuries, appeared to be the team to beat until the final round of the female handstand push-ups. “Fatigue kicked in. It’s just not our strong point,” Steve Walters says.

The team finished the workout in 9th place.

CFNA Cockdiesel rounded out the top three to finish 3rd, with CrossFit Atlanta and Gardens CrossFit nipping at its heels, tied for 4th.

On a side note, CrossFit Hyperformance will be participating in the Regional workouts although its scores will not be official as it is down one team member who stayed home to celebrate the birth of a new baby, who arrived yesterday.

Follow all of the South East Regional coverage --  videos, articles, event summaries, and photo galleries -- on the South East page.