April 22, 2012
Homework to CrossFit: Karli Kirk
By Eddie Malone

"Two years ago, I would never have imagined being able to squat 235, do handstand push-ups, or pull-ups like there's no tomorrow."

One might expect a teenager to be anxious about competing at the CrossFit South Central Regional, but Karli Kirk is taking it all in stride. Clearly, the 17-year-old member of CrossFit Seven’s affiliate team, which qualified for Regionals with a 19th place finish in the Open, shed any self-consciousness long ago.   

“I don’t usually think about being different at all,” she says. “Sometimes I have to remember that the adults have had many years of athletic training, but it is more inspiring to see what long-term training amounts to than it is intimidating.”

Still, when Kirk followed her mother to CrossFit Seven two years ago, she couldn’t imagine the progress she would make as an athlete.

“Two years ago, I would never have imagined being able to squat 235, do handstand push-ups, or pull-ups like there’s no tomorrow,” she says. “If I was to improve as much this year, Iceland Annie would have some new competition!”

Kirk came close to qualifying for San Antonio as an individual. At six-feet tall, she did extremely well on the first Open Workout, with 104 burpees. On Workouts 12.4 and 12.5, she finished in the top 100 in the South Central Region. Ultimately, her efforts landed her in 71st place, none too shabby for a teenager in her second CrossFit Open. 

“The Open was great this year. I tried to be more strategic with these WODs, but I performed better if I treated it like a normal WOD and just gave it my all,” she says. “I definitely hit a wall on the 150 wall balls, but was able to pull through and get a muscle-up. My favorite WOD was 12.3 with the box jumps, push press and toes-to-bar. I felt really good that day, and the movements were well-suited to my strengths.”

As happy as she was with her own performances, Kirk was even happier to see CrossFit Seven, based in Fort Worth, had qualified for San Antonio. 

“It was awesome to see the team scoreboard during the Open, and see that my score had advanced the team’s standing,” she says. “I am so happy to be on the team, and I really can’t wait to compete with, as far as I’m concerned, the best team in South Central.”

With the competition a couple weeks away, life has gotten hectic for this student-athlete. She trains with the team on Saturday mornings and by herself the rest of the week, mixing CrossFit workouts with strength training, while also devoting time to the Olympic lifts.  

“For me, it is just like being on a high school team. Training is high on my list of priorities,” she says. “I always workout before I start my homework, and sometimes will do a math or physics problem to time my rest in between lifts. I am a lot busier than most teenagers, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Kirk has no expectations for the Regional. She prefers not to look too far ahead when it comes to CrossFit. Instead, she reflects on the changes it has brought to her life. She feels indebted to CrossFit Seven, especially members Ryan Shupe and Summer Rogers, who “have done a lot for me inside and outside of CrossFit.”

Kirk credits CrossFit Seven with giving her the “physical and mental ability” to tackle other things. Before CrossFit, she’d never played organized sports. Last summer, she learned how to swim and joined her high school swim team in the fall. After the Regional, she plans on trying her hand at jiu-jitsu, as well as hang gliding. 

CrossFit also played a role in her career goals. “I actually became interested in West Point after hearing about it at CrossFit,” Kirk says. “I am applying to West Point because I think it will be an incredible experience that I will not be able to find anywhere else. I think I would fit in that atmosphere well, and that I have the potential to be a great officer someday.”

Kirk would appear to be an excellent candidate for an institution that prioritizes academics, leadership and physical fitness. Before she gets there, she’ll be an athlete to watch on the CrossFit scene.