June 7, 2013
Mid Atlantic Regional Report: New Blood
By Stephanie Vincent

“I literally thought about getting beat last year every day from leaving here on Sunday to yesterday to today ... I’m gonna do everything I can to make it a different outcome this year." ~Steve Pinkerton

This morning, the 2013 Mid Atlantic Regional started at the Prince Georges Learning Complex in Landover, Md. Although no one knows who will finish the weekend on the podium, one thing is certain: at least two rookies will qualify for the CrossFit Games.

Only two men and two women in the Individual competition are veteran CrossFit Games competitors. Ben Smith, Nate Schrader, Christy Phillips and Gretchen Kittelberger will contend with many competitors who have yet to walk into the stadium in Carson, Calif.

Three veteran Games competitors are missing, including Brian Quinlan (third in 2012), Jenn Jones (first in 2012) and Tanya Wagner (2009 CrossFit Games champion, fifth in 2012). Quinlan decided to switch competitions, and join CrossFit Explode. Jones moved to the South Central Region earlier this year, to the relief of the competitors in the Mid Atlantic. Jones crushed the Mid Atlantic in 2012, and she went on to crush the South Central region in 2013. Earlier this week, Wagner withdrew from the competition, as she is expecting a baby.

Steve Pinkerton and Michelle Crawford came achingly close to qualification in 2012, and they appear determined to not miss their chance in 2013.

“I literally thought about getting beat last year every day from leaving here on Sunday to yesterday to today. There’s not a second that goes by that I don’t run it through my head and I’m gonna do everything I can to make it a different outcome this year,” Pinkerton says.

But with only one Event down and six to go, there are countless competitors who could come out of the woodwork this weekend. 


In the second heat, former Division 1 swimmer Kyle Ruth finished Jackie in just 5:15. Ruth set the time to beat for the later heats.

In the final heat, two Smiths took the floor. Four-time CrossFit Games competitor, 23-year-old Ben Smith, was joined by his younger brother, 20-year-old Alec Smith.

When asked about competing for the first time Alec said, “I’m nervous, but good (and) ready!”

Once the rowers started to whirl, Steve Pinkerton drew the crowd’s attention. With a close-shaved head and long beard, he looked rowed the erg like a Viking looking for the shoreline.

His beard may have helped power him through the row and thrusters--he was the first through both--but it didn’t help on the pull-ups. As he worked through the 30 reps, he started to slow. He dropped off after 20 reps.

“I’ve never came off the bar on Jackie. Ever. And it never even crossed my mind. I have no idea,” Pinkerton said after the event. “I think I was doing my pull-ups too tall. It was chest-to-bar to get my stupid beard over there you know?”

Even with the slowdown, Pinkerton stayed ahead of Ben Smith. Pinkerton was the first off the rig, and stepped on the finish mat at 5:16, just one second behind the time to beat set by Kyle Ruth. Ben Smith stepped on the mat at 5:17.

Ben’s brother, Alec, crossed the line at 5:48 for 27th. 


In the final heat, the top 12 women got off to a fast start on the rower. Techniques varied, but Alicia McKenzie’s slow, methodical, but powerful strokes paid off. She was the first off the rower.

At the barbell, McKenzie’s lead faded as the rest of the pack popped off the rower ready to face the 50 empty bar thrusters. With fatigued legs and burning throats, the top women separated themselves by their speed through the thrusters. Everyone took all 50 unbroken, but Christy Phillips was the fastest of them all.

Phillips was the first to move on to the pull-ups, just slightly ahead of Michelle Crawford and Alea Helmick.  

On the rig, Helmick pulled ahead. She ran to the finish mat in 6:26, Crawford followed in 6:27 and Phillips ran in two seconds later (6:29).

“I’m ecstatic. I didn’t come in with expectations,” Helmick said.

Helmick,  a collegiate track and field athlete, started CrossFit right after the 2012 Open.

“I never did Jackie until they announced it for Regionals. I practiced it twice. This was my third time and I PR’d by, like, 20 seconds each time,” Helmick said.

After taking fourth at the 2012 Mid Atlantic Regional, Crawford has returned hungry for the Games. In Jackie, she gained momentum with transition as planned.

“I was actually off the row last which was my plan -- I’m a very poor rower -- and when I did it in practice, when I would row fast, I wouldn’t be able to do unbroken thrusters. So my plan was row slow, unbroken thruster, unbroken pull-up and so I’m happy with it,” Crawford said.


Top teams from the Open sometimes have mixed performances on the first day of Regionals, with individually qualifying athletes sometimes choosing to go team and others opting to compete individually. However, in the first event this year, the top teams clearly claimed their spots on the Leaderboard. Four out of the top five scores on team Jackie came from the last heat of teams.  

In the earlier heats the pull-ups set the teams apart. Those who could butterfly pull-up took the wins. In Heat 2, CFWC Snatches & Jerks’ Jenny Butler was one of few ladies in her heat using butterfly style pull-ups. She did a superset of them, followed by a few kipping without coming off the bar.  

“I’m really short so my thing was go slow on the row like a 4:15 or so and go unbroken on everything else,” Butler said.

Her male counterpart, Kenny Woods, seemed to be the lone man on the rower for what in CrossFit time is an eternity, almost 30 seconds.

“She gave me a really good lead. My row went just as planned, thrusters also,” Woods said.

CFWC Snatches and Jerks performance earned them a win in the heat and a tie for fourth overall in Event 1.  

In the final heat, former individual competitor Emily Pale pulled ahead of the pack by doing her 50 thrusters unbroken. She was first to the pull-up bar where she stayed in constant motion, easily doing all 30 pull-ups. Her teammate, Ty Fischer, took the lead and ran with it through the row onto the barbell. But Bruce Barger from R.A.W. Training, aimed to catch him. Although both athletes did the set unbroken, Barger’s thrusters were noticeably faster than Fischer’s.  

After the event, CrossFit Explode Teammate and 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Competitor Brain Quinlan, told Fischer he wished he could have seen Barger doing thrusters behind him. Fischer had no idea Barger was gaining on him.

“You’re not allowed to look the other way,” Quinlan explained.

Barger and Fischer started the pull-ups at exactly the same time.  R.A.W. would prevail, although only by a second, as Barger hit the finishing mat first for the best team Jackie in the region.

“We came in with a game plan to pace the row and go pretty fast for the last 500 and we did that. We’re pretty happy with it,” Barger said.