"I had a lot of nerves this morning ..."
CrossFitters returned to Navy Pier for Day 1 of the 2013 North Central Regional. Built in 1916 as a terminal for Great Lakes shipping and recreational spot for locals to escape the summer heat, Navy Pier has been home to theatres, museums, and universities and was training center for U.S. Naval aircraft carrier pilots, most notably the 41st President George H. W. Bush.
After a year hiatus from the venue, sunny skies and a cool breeze off of Lake Michigan welcomed back the region’s fittest athletes to compete for an invitation to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games.
Missing are many familiar names from regionals past. The 2013 Open season introduced new faces to the North Central region and the old guard is now standing at attention, ready to prove their fitness. New competitors felt the pressure as they took to the arena floor. Caveats for regional veterans — the unknown and unknowable of new opponents.
Familiar ground for all athletes was Event 1 — the classic CrossFit benchmark, Jackie. Both men and women used the same empty 45-lb. bar, allowing equal performance comparisons between the sexes.
The team competition and the familiar cadence of rowers got the ball rolling for the first event. North Central’s toughest teams quickly made their presence known. Only 19 out of the 30 teams completed the partner Jackie, where athletes chose one man and women to tackle the workload. With the female teammates leading the way, the men rowed fiercely to finish under the 15-minute time cap.
Jeremy Mhire, of CrossFit Springfield, pre-chalked his pull-up bar in the last heat and the other competitors followed his lead before the clock began. Sarah McCormick’s judge shot his arm up to mark the 250 remaining meters, and after the CrossFit Kilo athlete unstrapped from her rower, she hit the empty bar with no rest between stations, hitting the pull-ups at 5:39.
“My pull-ups were shit today,” McCormick said after the event. “But I knew if I could get Charlie (Donahue) in a good position, he has the pretty much fastest thrusters and pull-ups on Earth.”
CrossFit Bellator’s Bob Cole had an 11 thruster lead into the men’s portion of Jackie, but Kilo’s Donohue caught him and they hit the Rogue rig together. Donohue was one of four men in the Open in North Central to unlock a third round of chest-to-bar Fran.
“I knew that I needed to get to at least get to the pull up bar when he did (Bob Cole, Bellator) big time,” Donohue said. “That was the motivation. It’s fun having someone to chase.”
Kilo took the heat and top time for the teams in 12:23. CrossFit 515 silently stole second leaving Bellator in third place.
1. CrossFit Kilo (12:23)
2. CrossFit 515 (12:46)
3. CrossFit Bellator (12:48)
Struggling to reach the pull-up bar in Heat 3 was 4-foot-11 Megan John, who still managed a time of 7:47.
“I didn’t know I could move the box,” she said. “I should have asked my judge before we started. By the time I could get a good grip my forearms were shot. My coach said I had 3 minutes to be mad about it — now I’m just looking forward and hoping I PR on the overhead squat.”
All eyes were on Lanes 5, 6 and 7 in Heat 4 as North Central’s top three women strapped into the rower. Elisabeth Akinwale gave the rower wand two brisk jerks and settled into a steady pace that earned her an event record time of 5:59.
“I’ve done an unbroken Jackie three times,” Akinwale said. “I had a lot of nerves this morning and my tendency is to go hard out of the gate, so I worked with my coach on that.”
Akinwale had a perfect view of her competitors, standing behind Stacie Tovar and Deborah Cordner Carson in the heat. Tovar and Akinwale kept pace with one another in the thrusters, but Tovar hit the pull-up bar first. Once Tovar came off the bar, Akinwale closed the deal and secured the best regional Jackie time so far.
“I just knew if her thrusters were smooth and unbroken,” said her coach Rudy Neilson. “Nobody on Earth could do pull-ups faster.”
Cordner Carson finished in second place position 14 seconds later. Tovar had a 24-second PR, but collected several no-reps on thrusters and pull-ups, slowing the Omaha, Neb., native to third.
1. Elisabeth Akinwale (5:59 Event Record)
2. Deborah Cordner Carson (6:13)
3. Stacie Tovar (6:24)
Rowing a 1:41 split, Brandon Pastorek come of his 1,000-meter row and plowed through 12 thrusters before anyone else hit the bar in Heat 2. Last year’s second-place athlete, Philip Kniep, was close behind, but broke up his pull-ups into small sets at the end.
Pastorek’s 5:15 Jackie took Heat 2 and puts Pastorek in a tie for third overall after Event 1.
Kyle Kasperbauer took two weeks off after his third-place finish at the 2012 Games and started training for the 2013 season. His persistence paid off with a 5:07 Jackie — just 3 seconds off Event Record holder Jason Khalipa. His strategy? Just to focus on the level of competition and “do work,” he said. It not only gave him a 20-second PR, but first place overall.
Hitting the pull-up bar with Kasperbauer, but finishing 3 seconds behind was Jared Stevens.
“I thought I could catch Khalipa,” Stevens said. “I did Jackie a few weeks ago and had a 5:16.”
Justin Allen tore from behind and took the final Jackie with a time of 5:15. “It’s a 10-second PR! I’ll take it,” he said. Doing his work unbroken, he credit’s the atmosphere on the completion floor for his performance.
Michael Bodi was one of the first athletes off the rower, but dropped several times off the pull-up bar, taking second. Rookie Sam Dancer was third off the thrusters and didn’t instead on breaking up pull-ups. Dancer practiced the event five or six times unbroken at his box. For his coach and training partner Joshua Page, Jackie was a disappointment and the first workout he has done since last Wednesday, due to a torn levator scapulae muscle.
1. Kyle Kasperbauer (5:07)
2. Jared Stevens (5:10)
3T. Justin Allen (5:15)
3T. Brandon Pastorek (5:15)