May 31, 2014
NorCal Update: Day 1
By Hilary Achauer, Matt Nichols, Laura Lee Cole and Whitney Wyatt
In the final weekend of regional competition, CrossFit fans around the world were on the lookout for another upset.
In the final weekend of regional competition, CrossFit fans around the world were on the lookout for another upset.

In the final weekend of regional competition, CrossFit fans around the world were on the lookout for another upset.

In the final weekend of regional competition, CrossFit fans around the world were on the lookout for another upset.

Would any NorCal athletes follow a trend set by experienced Games athletes Sam Briggs, Lindsey Valenzuela, Stacie Tovar and Graham Holmberg and fail to qualify for the Games?

At the end of Day 1, the men’s Leaderboard looked very much like last year’s top three, with notable exception: Garret Fisher, who is in seventh place. He has two more days to move his way up.

Holding on to the third-place spot is 36-year-old Neal Maddox. “I need to reserve as much energy and game it as best as I can,” Maddox said, “because there's a weekend of work I still have to do.”

On the women’s side, the story was similar. Alessandra Pichelli and Margaux Alvarez, two of last year’s qualifiers, are in first and second, respectively. Former gymnast Courtney Walker is the only new face on the women’s leaderboard; she’s two points behind Alvarez in third place.

This is Walker’s second regional competition—last year she finished in 13th.

“It’s a long weekend ahead,” Walker said. “You shouldn’t worry about where you stand ‘til the end.”


Events 1 and 3

Watching Event 1 from the stands, Mike Burgener, USA Weightlifting senior international coach, was impressed.

“That fires my ass up,” Burgener said after watching Neal Maddox hang snatch 295 lb. for an Event 1 record. “I’ve never seen anybody at this level move that fast, be that strong and mobile. Outstanding, just outstanding!” he said. 

The stage was set for Maddox’s record performance in the second to last heat, when Ben Alderman made his final lift of 290 lb., beating the previous event record of 285 lb. Opening with 255 lb., Alderman made his second lift of 270 lb., and then finished off with 290 lb., looking surprised as he stood up with the bar.

“I told myself to stick to the plan,” Alderman said. “My plan was 255 lb., 270 lb., 290 lb. I told Jason (Khalipa) and Garrett (Fisher) out there. And they said no you’re not. And I said yes I am. And that was my plan. So I just stuck to the plan.”

In the final heat, Maddox waited until the clock started before telling the judge his opening weight: 255 lb., 10 pounds over Jason Khalipa’s opening weight of 245 lb.

Maddox went up to 275 lb. for his second lift, and Khalipa made a conservative jump, moving up to 255 lb. Both men made the lift. Then it was time for the third and final lift. Maddox’s judge flipped his cards over to reveal the last lift: 295 lb.

He made the lift and won the event, beating Alderman’s score by 5 lb.

“Whatever the highest score was, I was going to up the highest score,” Maddox said after the event. “I was going to game it, meaning, if 280 lb. was the score then I'd go 285 lb. I know I can lift over 300 lb. I've done it in training, but I've had weeks to practice.”

With the snatch out of the way, the men moved on to the handstand walk.

All the men in the final heat successfully walked the first length, with Marcus Filly finishing first in 35 seconds, the rest of the men on his heels.

Spenser Scott was the first to begin his return trip across the floor. He was fast enough to start a third trip, winning the event by accumulating 305 feet. Right behind Scott was Jason Khalipa. The 210 lb. man showed no sign of struggling with this difficult gymnastics movement, coming in second in Event 2 with a score of 300 feet.

Maddox was excited with his handstand walk of 225 feet, which earned him 12th place.

“The handstand walk was the one I wanted to get through,” Maddox said. “That was the one that made me the most nervous,” he said.

Event 1 Results
1. Neal Maddox (295 lb.)
2. Ben Alderman (290 lb.)
3T. Jason Khalipa (265 lb.)
3T. Garret Fisher (265 lb.)

Event 2 Results
1. Spenser Scott (305 feet)
2. Jason Khalipa (300 feet)
3. Marcus Filly (280 feet)

Event 3

Maddox had a very good day.

The Games veteran won two out of the three events on Day 1, putting him in third place overall (he finished 12th on Event 2).

“I told myself right at the beginning (of Event 3), I need to win this event,” Maddox said. “I just go hard, stay focused—anything can happen."

In the final heat of Nasty Girls V2, Gabe Subry took an early lead, getting to the muscle-ups first, just ahead of Maddox. Khalipa, who took a measured pace on his pistols, was one of the last athletes to the muscle-ups in the first round.

Subry, Spenser Scott and Maddox traded off the lead until the last round. Maddox made up so much time on his pistols he was all alone as he made his way to the rings for the last 7 muscle-ups. From this point on, nobody could touch Maddox. He was finished with his muscle-ups before any of the other athletes put their hands on the rings, and won with event with a time of 7:38.

“My whole thing was to feel my rhythm, feel myself. I just wanted to go at my pace,” Maddox said. “All those guys were running. I knew if I ran, I was going to raise my rate, so I just kicked it and let them burn themselves out.”

Khalipa, who made up time on the hang power cleans, finished behind Maddox in second. Showing that consistency is more important than first-place finishes, Khalipa ended the day in the first place spot, even though he has yet to win an event.

Subry, who entered Event 3 in seventh place, took third on Nasty Girls V2.

“It was one of the better ones for me,” Subry said. “I’d done it a couple of times in training and it was pretty much just mash the pistols. The muscle-ups and hang cleans weren’t really that big of an issue,” he said.

Fisher, who stood on the podium at last year’s NorCal Regional, took a hit on Event 3, finishing in 19th place.

Alderman is in second place overall at the end of Day 1, just one point ahead of Maddox. “I had a rough year this year,” Alderman said.

“I had an appendectomy eight days before the first (Open) workout. The incision was still fresh when I did it,” he said. “I worked out once a week for four weeks, but I’m happy to be here. I’m ready, it feels good.”  

Event 3 Results
1. Neal Maddox (7:38)
2. Jason Khalipa (7:57)
3. Gabe Subry (8:25)

Overall Standings
1. Jason Khalipa (7)
2. Ben Alderman (13)
3. Neal Maddox (14)
4. Gabe Subry (16)
5. Marcus Filly (22)
6. Wes Piatt (24)
7. Garret Fisher (27)
8. David Ivanov (27)
9. Johnny Medina III (30)
10. Mauricio Leal (36)


Events 1 and 2

This year is Brooke Ence’s first regional competition as an individual, and it was an impressive debut.

Ence, who was the demonstration athlete for the Open workouts, took first in Event 1, finishing with a hang snatch of 185 lb.

Up until the last heat, the heaviest lifts were made by Casey Hutnick and Courtney Walker, who both snatched 165 lb., tying them for fourth place with Whitney Heuser. Crowd favorites Cheryl Brost and Annie Sakamoto opened at 145 lb. and 140 lb., respectively, but missed their final lifts at 160 lb.

In the final heat, Ence opened with 165 lb. She said she’s been practicing with that opening weight, going up by 10 lb. each time, for weeks.

Then Ence got nervous, and for a moment she wavered, thinking of starting with 160 lb. to be safe.

“Then I thought, 'No way,’” she said.

“I knew I was going to play (my strategy) off of how I felt in the warm-up today. And it felt really solid,” she added. “The technique felt really good. The mechanics were feeling really awesome.”

Last year’s Games qualifiers, Alessandra Pichelli and Margeaux Alvarez, both opened with 160 lb., but Alvarez missed her first lift. Pichelli missed her second attempt at 170 lb., but made the weight on her third attempt, tying Alvarez for second place in the event.

Ence made her second lift of 175 lb. and then easily threw 185 lb. overhead, standing for a minute with the bar over her head, a triumphant smile on her face.

In all, 13 women would snatch 160 lb. or more in Event 1.

The winner of Event 3 was Cheryl Brost, who competed in the second heat. The 43-year-old took first place in the event by walking 255 feet. Third place went to Lisa Warren, from the second heat, who covered 214 feet.

In the final heat, only three women crossed the entire length of the floor during their first attempts: Walker, Ence and Picchelli.

After a quick rest, Walker, a former UCLA gymnast, was the first to her hands for a second round, completing another 110 feet, giving her a second place finish for the event.

Event 1 Results
1. Brooke Ence (185 lb.)
2T. Alessandra Pichelli (170 lb.)
2T. Margaux Alvarez (170 lb.)

Event 2 Results
1. Cheryl Brost (255 feet)
2. Courtney Walker (230 feet)
3. Lisa Warren (215 feet)

Event 3

On December 4, 2005, the original Nasty Girls video was released, featuring Eva Twardokens, Nicole Carroll and Annie Sakamoto. It became one of the most well-known videos in CrossFit history.

In the final heat of Event 3, Nasty Girls V2, Sakamoto returned to do an updated version of the workout in front of a packed stadium, finishing 10th with a time of 9:57.

“It was really cool, just to be with the women I was with, to be with that caliber of women,” Sakamoto said. “And I would say that even doing it originally with Eva and Nicole, I felt I was in amazing company then. And to look at where the sport has come, and to be able to be doing this workout with Margaux and Jenny and Alessandra and all these talented girls. It was really special.”

The winner of Event 3 was Jenny LaBaw, a two-time Games athlete who was forced to sit out the 2013 season after an injury.

LaBaw was the first woman to finish the first 50 one-legged squats, followed closely by Pichelli and Brost, but their hopes of catching her faded as she increased her lead with fast, efficient hang power cleans.

Alvarez passed Pichelli and Brost on the second round, making an effort to catch LaBaw, who completed her second set of muscle-ups unbroken, and holding her lead through the third round and winning with a time of 7:50.

“This was the workout I was looking forward to,” LaBaw said.

Though she’s been dealing with a nagging neck injury, she’s looking forward to Day 2. “I am looking forward to it all. Definitely. Tomorrow’s aren’t my strongest events, but that’s OK. It’s just so fun to be in this atmosphere with these girls. It’s an honor.”

First-place overall Pichelli, who, like Khalipa has yet to win an event, said her plan for the rest of the weekend is to stay the course.

“I want to keep doing what I know I can do,” she said. “I'm not a specialist, so I don't expect to win anything. I just want to be consistent.”

Event 3 Results
1. Jenny LaBaw (7:50)
2. Margaux Alvarez (8:40)
3. Charis Chan (9:01)

Overall Results
1. Alessandra Pichelli (10)
2. Margaux Alvarez (16)
3. Courtney Walker (18)
4. Brooke Ence (22)
5. Chyna Cho (22)
6. Cheryl Brost (24)
7. Whitney Heuser (25)
8. Lisa Warren (31)
9. Annie Sakamoto (37)
10. Charis Chan (38)