July 6, 2012
North Central Masters
By Alex Tubbs

There will be 10 athletes representing the North Central Region at this year's CrossFit Games.

Masters athletes have been training since the end of the Open with the Games competition at the forefront of their minds. Only the top 20 in each age group worldwide were allotted spots. With many Games veterans returning to Carson, Calif., including the Women’s 55-59 champion, a total of 10 athletes will be representing the North Central Region at this year’s CrossFit Games.

Women 45-49

Stacy O’Reilly, Amy Ruggeberg and Ingrid Hurley are the three women who qualified from North Central in the 45-49 age division. O’Reilly finished 19th in the Open. “After the first workout, which included box jumping the height of a telephone book, ring pulls instead of pull-ups and other massive modifications, I finally realized how large and out of shape I had let myself become,” she says of her introduction to CrossFit. “Fast forward 18 months, I have lost 30 pounds, my strength and health improved greatly, and I can keep up with my 5-year-old, no sweat.”

After punching a ticket to the Games, she has certainly come a long way .

Ruggeberg is a mother of two who are also CrossFitters. “We all got started in CrossFit about two and half years ago,” Ruggeberg says. “My daughter is also here competing on the QCCF team. I think the whole experience of going to the Games is going to be amazing. Meeting and competing against other athletes from all over the world is priceless. Sharing the experience with my kids is something we will never forget. It's going to be awesome.”

Hurley has endured some tough competition throughout her training. “We do not have many women my age at our box,” she says. “I usually pushed myself against my boys and other 20- and 30-year-old guys. Gets kind of humbling, but always had a drive to be better.”

She will also be celebrating her 46th birthday on Sunday of the Games weekend, and she says her present to herself would be to finish in the top eight.  

Women 50-54

Barb Landreth is returning to the Games to try and improve her fifth place finish from last year. Landreth had been a bicyclist, fitness instructor and a personal trainer prior to starting CrossFit. She was very excited to see the stationary bike show up in the final Masters workout in 2011. She finished first in the event.

Landreth has been battling injuries throughout the year. “During the Open this year, I tore the labrum in my left shoulder doing the 100-pound snatch on WOD 2,” she says. “I was able to finish the Open and still qualify for the Games again this year.”

Landreth also tore her labrum in her hip during heavy back squats. “The limiting factor for people my age in this sport seems to be the strength of your joints. My glutes and quads could do a 200-pound back squat, but the cartilage in my joints could not take it.”

Women 55-59

Three women will be representing the North Central in the 55-59 age division. It will be a fierce competition as there are three athletes making a return trip including last year’s champion, Shelley Noyce.

CrossFit Springfield athlete and coach Cindi Little, who finished 18th in the Open, is making a return trip to the Games this year. Little has raised six children and has coached everything from CrossFit to the “Little Jays” dance team. This year she hopes to improve on her 12th place finish from last year.

Rhonda Pierce is back for her third CrossFit Games. In 2010 she finished 13th and she took eighth in 2011. “I thought I was at my strongest last year,” she says.

Pierce started CrossFit six years ago. “I am still getting stronger. My goal is to have more women, especially senior women, out doing this,” she says. “CrossFit can be done by anybody, no matter the ability or age.”

Diana Davidson from CrossFit St. Louis finished fourth place in the Open. Even though she’s a Masters athlete, she still likes to throwdown with the RX crowd. “I used to think that my age was a barrier, but when I smoke the 20-year-olds in a WOD, I can’t use that excuse anymore,” she says. “I know that the ‘youngins’ do amazing, incredible challenges and they are incredibly awesome to watch, but I do feel that a little more attention needs to go into the fact that the over 50 crew is probably spending a lot more time trying to prepare for all our challenges. Not only does it take us 45 minutes to warm-up, but we are usually in more need of ice packs, hot baths, rubs, chiropractors, ART and just about anything that keeps these old joints moving sweetly.”

Last year’s champion, Noyce is back to defend her title in the 55-59 age group. “When I signed up for the 2011 Open – because my children, aka coaches, made me – I really just wanted to not embarrass myself,” she says. “Qualifying to go to the 2011 Games by finishing the Open in first place seemed unreal. I was ecstatic. However, after going to the North Central Regional to watch my first CrossFit competition live and see my children compete, I became very nervous for California.”

Obviously she was able to calm her nerves when it came time to compete.  

This year, Noyce has been battling an injury she sustained in November. “I was competing in a USTA tennis match and came down awkwardly on my right foot.  I kind of heard a snap, but hoped that I had just turned my ankle,” she says. “Not wanting to retire from the match, I hobbled around for a few more games, but finally came to my senses. The next day, when I decided that I should maybe have it X-rayed, I was pretty shocked to be told that it was broke ... I had walked into the emergency by myself and left in a boot and on crutches.”

A third place finish in the Open set Noyce up for another shot at the title.

Masters Men 55-59

Greg ‘The Major’ Major is making his first trip to the CrossFit Games. The Bulldog CrossFit owner finished 15th in the Open. Major has played semi-pro football, won the Chicagoland Natural Bodybuilding title in 1992, and in 1998 set the record for the Northshore Inline Marathon, (26.2 miles), in his age group, (1:06:24), which still stands today.

 After a seventh place finish in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, Denny Hawkins is back for his second year. Hawkins is a cardiovascular surgery nurse with seven years mobile intensive care on an ambulance and nine years as a flight nurse on a helicopter. His life revolves around being calm under pressure, so it’s no wonder he is able to compete at a high level.

Hawkins is making his return to Carson coming off of a first place finish in the Open.  “I made it into the top 20, but it's a whole new ball game once the Games start. You never know if it will hit your strong or weak points,” he says.