Michelle Crawford: Becoming Unstoppable

April 3, 2012

Sean Catto

Within the pool of CrossFit Games Open athletes, we have seen amazing performances from relative unknowns who are brand new to CrossFit. Some have been flashes in the pan, others have come on strong and become top competitors. One athlete that looks like she has the making of the latter: Michelle Crawford.

In the summer of 2010 Crawford began her journey with CrossFit following a lifetime of athletic success. From an early exposure to Field Hockey while attending the University of Virginia, she achieved and reputation for amazing physical strength, speed, and stamina. It wasn’t long before her ability caught the attention of national-level scouts, and Crawford soon found herself representing the United States Women’s National Field Hockey Team in the World Cup and Pan American Games.

 “I was so pissed at myself. So pissed that I put myself in a position where I wasn’t prepared.” 

After an attempt at the 2000 Olympics, Crawford reluctantly retired her career in field hockey and committed to the fitness industry as an instructor and trainer. It would be during this time that a chance encounter would bring Crawford to the world of CrossFit. Crawford’s athletic prowess caught the attention of Eric Carpenter. Recognizing Crawford’s potential, he quickly offered to pay for her to go to a Level 1 Seminar, which she gratefully accepted. 

Following a maternity leave for the birth of her first daughter in the following year, Crawford was pleasantly surprised to find CrossFit came naturally for her. “I had killer met-con. All I did was metcon,” she says of her early days with CrossFit. “I didn’t really know Olympic lifting. I mean I knew it. We did some in college, but I never really worked on it.” 

However, the lack of Olympic lifting experience would prove to be catastrophic in the 2011 Mid Atlantic Regional. During the Thruster Ladder Event, the increasing progression of weight, combined with her inexperience, resulted in an early failure. “I was so pissed at myself,” she says. “So pissed that I put myself in a position where I wasn’t prepared.” She finished the Regional in 17th, a disappointment after her 4th-place performance in the region during the 2011 Open.

At CrossFit Eternal in Charlotte, Director of Programming and Training Josh Elmore maintains a distinguished reputation for his ability to tactically refine athletic potential. “He approached me after a Fix 4 the Day competition,” Crawford recalls, “and basically asked me if I wanted to take my skills to the next level. I wanted to, but it was gonna be hard with his box being so far away.”

Despite the geographic challenges, Crawford committed to Elmore’s training regimen. Months later she found herself an entirely different athlete – stronger, faster and more skilled. “Coaching Michelle has been a dream come true,” Elmore says. “When we got started it was clear that she was an amazing athlete who had gotten away with just being an amazing athlete for a long time. She has evolved at an uncanny rate and she has only started to tap her full potential.”

A series of 1st place victories in several local competitions have prompted her friends and teammates to refer to her by the epithet, “Genetic Michelle,” a jesting reference to science-fiction super humans. “You’d be hard-pressed to find someone that works as hard as she does,” Cane Stoat, a friend, says. “Even though she’s probably the most quiet and humble girl at the box, she’s also the hungriest. The girl can’t be stopped.”

Her 2012 Open performance bore out this prediction. She finished two places higher in the Mid Atlantic than she did in the previous Open, jumping from 4th to 2nd. Predictably, she excelled at 12.1's burpees and 12.3's 18-minute AMRAP. She held her own, however, on the heaviest event, 12.2's snatch ladder, making it through 90 reps.

Heading into the 2012 Mid Atlantic Regional, Crawford is one of the top athletes to watch out for. She finished the Open ahead of the region's 2011 Games athletes, Gretchen Kittelberger and Christy Phillips. Crawford's 12th-place Open finish worldwide indicates that 2012 may be the year that she competes on the world stage.