March 16, 2012
Never Say Never: Jessica Stephen
By Lindsay Schrock

Jessica Stephen finished in 31st place at the 2010 CrossFit Games. After missing out in 2011 with her team by one spot, she's back in 2012 with the intent going to the Home Depot Center to compete. 

Jessica Stephen (formerly Sharratt) is no stranger to the CrossFit Games scene. A three-year CrossFit competition veteran, Stephen has slowly earned a spot amongst household names in the South Central, and currently sits 8th in the Region after Workout 12.3. 

Stephen first came to CrossFit in 2008 after seeing the incredible results her friend Carey Kepler – 2009’s 3rd Fittest Woman in the World – was experiencing with the program. “I hated it but loved it at the same time. [It was] horrible when you did it, but after you feel like you’ve accomplished something you’ve never done before,” Stephen says.

Six months later she received her CrossFit Level 1 Certificate, left her corporate job and has been coaching and competing ever since.

Stephen first entered the CrossFit Games arena as part of the CrossFit Central team in 2009. After earning 11th at that year’s South Central Regional, she and a team of young, eager competitors (that included 2011 CrossFit Games individual competitor Andy Lewis) stood up to the competition and brought home 2nd place in the world. This team finish, along with individual competitors Carey Kepler taking 3rd and Jeremy Thiel taking 16th, put CrossFit Central on the map as a top contender amongst CrossFit gyms worldwide.

With the hunger to compete instilled in her, Stephen came back stronger than ever in the 2010 South Central Texas Sectional, placing 2nd overall and earning an easy spot in that year’s Regional competition in Fort Worth, Texas. 

Stephen opted to compete as an individual, and it was this year that Stephen truly unlocked her potential as a CrossFit athlete. “The very last work out was 10 muscle-ups, 20 handstand push-ups, 30 squat cleans and a sprint, and I was [in the] last heat and every single girl was dying,” she recalls. “That was the first year I even had muscle-ups and handstand push-ups, so I was like ‘Oh God, am I going to be able to do it after three workouts before.’ But I ended up killing the workout. I finally realized that I am an athlete. I finally felt like I could hang with the big dogs and that’s what got me that spot to the Games.

Unfortunately, this newfound confidence discovered at the 2010 South Central Regional waivered in California when she faced stronger competition. “I think I messed myself up mentally being in the athlete area looking around and seeing Kristan Clever and Annie [Thorisdottir] and Carey [Kepler] and Lindsey [Smith],” she says. “I just didn’t feel like I deserved to be there. The first workout was muscle-ups, but jumping into the rings … I only made it through 7 muscle-ups and the rest of the 10 minutes, I sat there and struggled. So it was really frustrating and kind of got me down for the rest of the competition, which I will never let happen again,” Stephen says.

Despite the first day’s struggle, she ended her first CrossFit Games competition as an individual in 31st place, and came home with a stronger sense of herself as an athlete.   

Stephen refers to the 2010 CrossFit Games season as a “crazy personal year. I got engaged, did the whole wedding planning thing,” she says. “So I still competed, but I kind of changed up my training program. I worked out more on my own last year. Definitely wasn’t as fun, but I had different goals in mind. [I] wasn’t even really going to compete at all in the Open or Regionals, but once it came around I couldn’t not be a part of it so I ended up competing in the Open last year, placed 11th and then hopped on the team at Regionals and we took 4th, which was heartbreaking because only the top three went to the Games so we literally missed the Games by one spot.”

Despite the disappointing finish at the 2011 South Central Regional, Stephen says “it was good for CrossFit Central, kind of eye opening in that this sport is growing and growing and there are great teams out there,” she admits. “If team is what we all want to do then [this] year we need to really focus on it and make it a priority. That’s been a big change this year.”

Going into 2012, Stephen is sitting well so far, after weighing her past Game’s experiences and personal goals; she has decided to again pursue the team competition with CrossFit Central. “Right now, team is definitely the way I want to go,” she says. “I get more out of team because it’s not just about me anymore, it’s about my team and my company that we’re representing. I like the strategy that goes into team. It becomes more of a game than just a hard workout.”

As for the Stephen’s future in the sport, she’s still keeping us guessing. “Never say never,” she says. “I might go individual again.”