June 2, 2013
North Central Regional Report: The Cherry on Their Sunday
By Nicole Scott Smith

“I wanted to drop it so bad, but the people in the crowd were waving at me and cheering so loud I had to keep going ..." ~Grace Dresher

In the midst of gloomy Chicago weather, a sea of energetic athletes and spectators alike gathered for Day 3 of the North Central Regional.

With the glass walls set up for handstand push-ups, every vantage point in Navy Pier’s Festival Hall could enjoy the view. And with the fittest men, women and teams from the 11-state region putting on the show, the view was pretty amazing.

Athletes said good morning to double-unders, handstand push-up and toes-to-bars with axle work being the cherry on their Sunday. 


Since 2011, the top three women in North Central have been Deborah Cordner Carson, Stacie Tovar and Elisabeth Akinwale. With only three points separating first-placed Cordner Carson and a one-point buffer between Tovar and Akinwale, the anticipation was high.

Last year’s Regional winner, Akinwale entered Day 3 with four first-place finishes and two event records.

In Heat 3, 4-foot-11 Megan John set the top time of the day for Event 6 in 10:11. The new axle bars felt slippery to John, who struggled with cleaning it up.

“I practiced with an old, rusty axle bar,” John said. “I have small hands and my grip was blown out from the chest-to-bar pull-ups yesterday.”

In the final woman’s heat, Kelley Jackson ripped through the handstand push-ups at a blistering pace, heading to the toes-to-bars ahead of the pack.

Akinwale faced a struggle with the handstand push-ups.  

“So my lockout during the handstand push-ups, they weren’t really liking,” Akinwale said. “I felt like I was in a very exaggerated position that wasn’t very natural for me. I lost my momentum a little bit — trying to do what they were asking me to do. That was a little tough and slowed my rhythm down a lot.”

Her shoulders taped after Event 4, Tovar fell behind as Jackson took to the toes-to-bars. Big sets on the gymnastics movement were required to separate the competition. When Akinwale dropped off the bar and was 10 reps into the next movement, Cordner Carson and Jackson were close behind.

Tovar kept a furious pace on the shoulder-to-overheads and caught the trio before the lunges. Akinwale took off on the lunges — elbows high in front rack and gaze straight ahead, finally dropping for a rest at 45 feet. Akinwale took first in Heat 4 with a time of 10:13.

Behind Akinwale, it was anyone’s game with Grace Dresher pulling ahead. Dresher finished 10th in the Open in North Central and has had four ACL surgeries.

“I was told I would never be able to perform in sports again. But CrossFit and the functional movements have helped me build the strength around my knee. Now, I don’t have any problems,” Dresher said.

The third-place finish moved Dresher into eighth overall going into the final event.

“I wanted to drop it so bad, but the people in the crowd were waving at me and cheering so loud I had to keep going … I have actually practiced this workout fast in my own gym at 10 minutes flat,” Dresher said.

Tovar and Cordner Carson knocked bars in the lunge causing both ladies to lose precious seconds and Christina Merlo pulled ahead for a fourth-place finish.

“Oh man, the lunges,” Merlo said. “Physically, they weren’t as taxing, but mentally, you could see where the finish line was and you knew, “Oh my gosh, you have so much farther to go.’ But I finished today a couple minutes faster than I did in practice.”

Event 6
1. Megan John (10:11)
2. Elisabeth Akinwale (10:13)
3. Grace Dresher (10:46)


Justin Allen left Navy Pier in first place after Day 2.

“There’s just two more left and I have to hang on to it,” the Oklahoma native said.

Kyle Kasperbauer missed his first double-under at the beginning of the final heat.

“With double-unders, you have to be prepared to screw up,” Kasperbauer said. “You know it’s going to happen. It wasn’t even my rope. I forgot mine at home, so I just borrowed somebody’s.”

The men progressed to handstand push-ups, sliding in a pack under the wall.

Establishing a strong footing, Kasperbauer displayed the skills that earned him a spot on the Games podium in 2012, staying 10 reps ahead as he progressed to the shoulder-to-overhead.

Alex Nettey and Allen joined him on the mat. Kasperbauer looked over at his opponents and rolled his bar up the mat, signaling his progression.

As he finished the shoulder-to-overhead, Kasperbauer took several steps back, accessed the placement of the other athletes and with three strides, walked forward and cleaned the axle. Dropping to one knee, he lunged the bar to the halfway mark.

Jared Stevens picked up the bar next and lunged it off the mat. Nettey never looked back as he, Stevens and Duke Burk raced to the finishing mats.

“I only wanted to drop the bar once, but I had to cut my rest short when I did drop it because I saw Alex,” Burk said. “I knew I wanted to catch him. Seeing him right there really kicked me in the butt. So I had to pick it right back up and I knew I couldn’t drop it.”

Burk did drop the bar at the finish. He leapt over it onto the mat, beating Nettey by one second.

“I did the entire workout a couple of days after it was announced. I did it in about 10:40. My goal today was a sub-10. I got it around 9:50,” Nettey said.

Stevens finished one second after Nettey.

“I knew the lunges would be good for me,” Stevens said. “I grew up running round the hills of Idaho.”

Event 6
1. Kyle Kasperbauer (9:29)
2. Duke Burk (9:51)
3. Alex Nettey (9:52)


QCCF-Live Uncommon was sitting in first place before Event 6.

“We’re feeling strong — flat out strong,” Sinan Gocmen said of his team before the Event.

CrossFit 515’s Bobby Noyce couldn’t establish a rhythm for his double-unders. This put the pair at a disadvantage going into the handstand push-ups.

CrossFit Kilo plowed through the toes-to-bars and was first to grip the fat bars for the shoulder-to-overheads. With partners holding their bar in front rack, there was no time to rest.

QCCF-Live Uncommon, CrossFit ICE-STL and CrossFit Omaha were close behind the leader, but when Noyce cleaned the 160-lb. axle off the floor and did a set of 30, CrossFit 515 closed the gap.

“We knew that unless you are CrossFit New England, the workout would come down to shoulder-to-overhead,” Noyce said. “Shoulder-to-overhead is my favorite movement, so it didn’t scare us as much.”

QCCF-Live Uncommon had reps taken away during the shoulder-to-overheads. and CrossFit STL-ICE lost the change off of Antoinette Dody’s bar after she broke set. The errors cost the teams time and allowed CrossFit 515 and CrossFit Kilo to start the weighted lunges first. CrossFit Omaha fell off their game plan on the shoulder-to-overheads.

“It definitely didn’t go as planned. In practice, we did it in five sets. Here, it was only eight reps at a time,” Addi Kahrs said.

Kahrs and teammate Bryce Teager were able to recover and quickly caught up with CrossFit Kilo. Macy Mitchell and Kara Wallace-Racz of CrossFit Springfield had quietly recovered from the lost reps incurred in the handstand push-ups and dropped to their knees for the lunges.

“We realized we had a lot of time to make up and knew it could be done in the push presses and lunges,” Mitchell said.

CrossFit Springfield went to the Games in 2011 and are looking for a return trip to California in 2013, but with the point spread, it’s not likely this year.

CrossFit 515 lunged their way to victory in 9:52.

“It’s a burner. My legs are on fire,” Noyce said. “As long as we don’t shoot ourselves in the foot, we feel like we are in a good position.”

When CrossFit Omaha dropped the bar, Kilo saw an opening for second and tore into it. CrossFit Omaha finished one second behind for third in the heat.

“That one right there,” CrossFit Kilo’s Armand McCormick said of his teammate Kate Roeber. “She got me through. She was fucking being tough, she was being really tough and I loved it!”

Event 6
1. CrossFit 515 (9:52)
2. CrossFit Carbon (9:56)
3. CrossFit Green Bay (10:17)