March 2, 2012
North Carolina Gears Up for 2012
By Sean Catto

North Carolina is no stranger to the fitness community. From a colorful history of CrossFit elites, many of whom are familiar faces among the CrossFit Games community, they once again find themselves patiently awaiting the time of year when the world unites in a global tournament, the celebration of fitness – the CrossFit Games season.
Since the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, there have been big shifts in the North Carolina power balance. The loss of the state’s two most formidable athletes, AJ Moore and Spencer Hendel,has left a power vacuum for the male competitors of this year’s Games. Eager to take their place are an eclectic mix of firebreathers from around the state. 
Familiar faces like Nate Schrader are aiming to dominate this year’s competition. Given his commanding performance in the 2011 CrossFit Games, it’s not difficult to take him seriously when he says, “I’m definitely training to win Regionals and make it back to Games, where the goal will be to get on the podium.” Those who have seen the Army Special Forces veteran perform have to take this goal as a good bet. 
In pursuit of a Regionals win, he faces up-and-coming competition from all over North Carolina, including Preston Austin, of Huntersville’s CrossFit LKN. Austin, who excelled in last year’s Open, has devoted himself to an unforgiving training regimen. 

This year’s women’s division has likewise seen a drastic shift in power since 2011. As their training has become increasingly scrutinized, dedicated, and intense, the hunger for a shot at Regionals grows stronger. 
Michelle “Genetic” Crawford of CrossFit Eternal, in Charlotte, has become a recent household name for the CrossFit community of North Carolina. With a series of crushing victories at the Carolina Fitness Challenge and the Garage Games, she has her gaze fixed on becoming one of this year’s champions. “Prior to Regionals last year I only CrossFitted about two times a week, “ Crawford says. “This year I increased my overall volume and made significant gains in my strength and gymnastic skills.” And make no mistake, it shows. With two statewide 1st place finishes already on her belt, she has every reason to be confident. 
The path to the Games will not be won without a fight. Along her way she will face fierce competition from women like CrossFit Charlotte’s, Pamela Gagnon. Despite her struggle with heavier lifting from previous years’ competitions, Gagnon has honed her ability to move weight for the coming 2012 Open. “I used to fear heavy weight, but now I can move it much better. Last year I died on the overhead squat WOD, but I’m ready now.”
The Open's not just for firebreathers, however. Karen Candia, head coach of CrossFit Ocean Isle Beach, says she is proud to be hosting the Open at her new location. “I look forward to coaching and watching everyone push themselves beyond what they have ever done before. Everyone needs to sign up and come join in the Open workouts. I know I look forward to reaching some new goals.” 
While Candia admits her box might not boast “world class” firebreathers, the point of the Open is to include all members of the CrossFit community in sharing a unified, global celebration of fitness.
As the Open unfolds in the coming weeks there will be sure to be the spirit of competition unfurling with it. Familiar names will ripple throughout the Leaderboard, as well as new comers looking for their first shot to compete at the Home Depot Center. 
The battle for Regionals will be long and arduous, with every workout bringing athletes face to face with their suffering and determination.