May 26, 2014
Magna The Great
By Priscilla Tallman
CrossFit Magna is making a run for the CrossFit Games at the South West Regional.
CrossFit Magna is making a run for the CrossFit Games at the South West Regional.

CrossFit Magna is making a run for the CrossFit Games at the South West Regional.

Photos / Ali Adib

What do you call a 90-member affiliate smack dab in the middle of several flagship CrossFit affiliates?


Or in Latin, magna.

Located in Scottsdale, Arizona, CrossFit Magna opened its doors in March of 2011. Using the tag line “a little gym with big dreams,” Magna has stuck to the vision of forging elite fitness from Day 1.

“I’ve never given up on that. I give people what they need, not what they want. We do CrossFit,” said Brian Kunitzer, owner and competitor at CrossFit Magna.

His unwavering dedication to CrossFit has paid off, not only for the average member who walks through the doors, but also for his competitive athletes—a practice that has earned him the reputation of being a “competition-focused” gym.

“Everyone is in the same program,” he said. “We scale or modify if necessary, but everyone gets the same program. Our competitors train with everyone else.”

Kunitzer credits consistency as the main factor in the competitive team’s success this year.

In 2013, the team from CrossFit Magna earned 20th place at the South West Regional. Team members are hoping to make some noise in 2014, after a fifth-place finish in the Open. Team Magna is entering the regional with three new women: Kendall Erickson, Rachel Ogle and Blake Green.

The Women

Although they are new to the team this year, all of the women have been training with Magna for at least two years. Seeing the team qualify last year and training alongside the women from last season, Erickson, Green, Katie Kunitzer (an alternate in 2013) and Ogle were chomping at the bit to get a spot on this year’s roster.

A spectator in 2013, Erickson was dedicated to working harder in the gym to earn a spot on the team.

“Seeing them qualify—I wanted to be on the team,” said Erickson, who finished the Open in 106th place.

Erickson, a former gymnast, works as a physical therapist when not training at Magna.

“We have different goals now. Being in the wings last year just made us want those spots even more this year,” Katie said.

Katie traveled and trained with the team as an alternate last year and finished the 2014 Open in 48th place in the South West.

Married to Brian Kunitzer, who is also on the team, Katie is a high school guidance counselor and mother.

Rachel Ogle—an attorney—and Blake Green—a nursing student—round out the women’s roster.

The Men

“We train hard. None of us are full-time athletes. We all have regular lives outside of CrossFit,” Brian said. “With hectic and demanding work schedules, Billy Wood—an orthopedic surgery student—Ryan Paschke—a K9 cop—and Manu Robertson—an education supervisor—have to get in the gym and maximize their training time when they can.”

“This year, we are hoping everybody gets a chance to do a little of everything,” Wood said.

Wood finished the Open in 19th place in the region. The 29-year-old is one of the biggest members of the team at 6-foot-2 and 235 lb. He also happens to be engaged to fellow teammate Ogle.

He and Brian both qualified as individuals but will bring their strength and speed to the team for regionals in Sandy, Utah at the end of May.

Paschke and Robertson round out the men’s roster. The athletes finished this year’s Open in 159th and 161st, respectively. They finished the Open in 159th and 161st, respectively.

With eight athletes on the roster, and only six able to check in come regional time, no decisions have been made yet.

“I think we made the decision too early last year (to name the alternate),” Brian said. “All eight athletes will travel to Sandy, Utah for regionals and the alternates for both men and women will be named once the (events) are released.”

Growing Up

“Great,” yes. “Little,” not for long.

“We won’t be able to call ourselves a ‘little’ gym anymore” Brian joked, referencing the gym’s motto.

With an 11,000-square-foot expansion planned for this summer, Magna is about to bring CrossFit to a lot more people. That shouldn’t affect much in terms of their team, Brian said. In fact, he hopes to make room for more competitive athletes in his new space to potentially field a second competition team in the future.

“The plan is for the eight of us to stick together,” he said. “We kind of all grew up together so to speak.”  

Little or big, Magna is sure to continue in greatness.