July 7, 2012
North East Masters: Men
By Keka Schermerhorn

There will be nine men representing the Masters from the North East Region at this year's Games.

The 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games Open was heavy and technically demanding. For Masters athletes, a top-20 performance in their division was the only thing standing between them and a trip to this year’s Games.

Here is a look at how the nine male athletes who qualified for the Games are preparing.

Hank Berger

Hank Berger is a proud CrossFit dad. His son, Ian, and daughter, Nikki, competed at this year’s Regional, and he was there to support them every step of the way. His children get to return the favor later this month. Berger will compete in the Masters 55-60 division.

The O-Side CrossFit affiliate owner creates the programming for his box, but has been using CrossFit Milford’s programming to get ready for the Games. His son is his training partner and coach. Berger trains five days a week, with doubles and triples being a constant.

“I feel very comfortable with all the CrossFit, Olympic lifting and strongman movements. However my weakness is double-unders and I have yet to master them,” Berger says. “I would like to concentrate more on gaining some weight and increasing my lifting capacities, as that seems to be the direction CrossFit is going.”

This could be Berger’s first and last chance at the Games, as a recent shoulder injury might require surgery.

“CrossFit has helped me to not only learn to overcome perceived obstacles in a WOD, but also to utilize those traits in running my business and dealing with others’ problems and becoming a more effective leader,” Berger says. “I am really grateful to be part of this and compete against the most fit 55+ men in the world.”

Jacinto Bonilla

Games veteran Jacinto Bonilla will once again be the oldest competitor in the 60-plus division. The 72-year-old is a decade older than the second-oldest competitor in the division.

“There are a lot of young 60-somethings this year,” Bonilla says. “If I was still in my 60s, I would be right in there with all those guys, but that’s a lot of years to give up.”

Bonilla trains five days on, with the weekends off. He follows affiliate owner Keith Wittenstein’s programming at CrossFit Virtuosity. Snatches are a point of constriction for Bonilla, who recently has switched to split snatches with some improvement.

“It takes me about an hour to get warmed-up,” Bonilla says. “I have a lot of pain in my shoulder and the doctor recommended surgery, but at this point in my life I don’t want that. I work on a lot of mobility and that’s how I plan to keep my range of motion.”

A proponent of clean eating since the late 60s, Bonilla has always been in shape. He has been weightlifting, boxing and playing basketball since his mid-teens.

“The Open this year was tough and I almost didn’t make it,” he says. “If there is no 65+ division next year, I’m pretty sure I won’t make it back to the Games. Even with my bad shoulder, there is still a lot of stuff that I can do, so I’ll hope for no heavy snatches and do my best.”

Stephen Browne

Stephen Browne is hard at work honing in his skills for his first trip to the Games. Browne will compete in the 60-plus division.

“I am focusing on skills at this time as my strength and endurance are where they should be at this time,” Browne says. “My programming starts with Kevin Yurchak (CrossFit West Essex affiliate owner), with help from three other coaches. (They) have discussed my strengths and weaknesses, and have formulated a game plan to help me prepare.”

Browne trains five days a week, with three or four of those being doubles. He mainly trains by himself unless the daily workout coincides with his programming, in which case he will jump in and train with the 6 a.m. class.

“Failure would be the only thing I would dread during the Games,” Browne says. “I expect to be ready for everything and anything that is asked of me.”

Brian Curley

In 2010, Brian Curley won the Masters competition in his age division. This year will be his third trip to the Games. Competing in the 50-54 division, the CrossFit New England athlete is readying himself for the unpredictable.

Curley trains five times a week, with an occasional double thrown in. He has been paying extra attention to high-skill gymnastics movements and Olympic lifting technique.

“Ben Bergeron, who owns CrossFit New England, has been doing my programming since I started CrossFit,” Curley says. “I have also been working with Eva Claire Synkowski on Oly lifting. Both are outstanding trainers and even better human beings.”

The well-rounded athlete is looking forward to the challenges the weekend will bring.

“I am not sure what to predict for the Games,” Curley says. “But I am sure we'll see something heavy this year, along with a fast met-con or two.”

Scott DeTore

Last year’s Games champion in the Masters 45-49 age group is headed back to Carson, Calif. Scott DeTore, a former collegiate wrestler, is readying himself differently this time.

“This year I train with others,” DeTore says. “Last year I made the mistake of training alone.”

He is also putting more emphasis on strength and skills. As co-owner and coach at CrossFit Kryptonite in New York, DeTore does his own programming. For his Olympic lifts, he follows the programming of Greg Everett's Catalyst Athletics.

DeTore trains five days a week and shies away from multiple workouts in a day, but gladly does multiple short AMRAPs in an hour, or short and heavy rounds for time.

“I am anticipating another good time, just as we had last year,” he says.

Jerry Fireman

Headed to the Games for the first time, Jerry Fireman was simply trying to stay in shape when he started CrossFit. He will compete in the 60-plus division.

Fireman trains mainly at CrossFit New England, but also trains at home. He has been working out five days a week, with three or four of those being doubles. He follows Bergeron’s programming and has been paying equal attention to strength, endurance and skills.

“My training is primarily targeting moves that occurred in the 2011 Masters competition and 2011-12 Opens,” Fireman says. “So I am hoping that 2012 Masters events follow suit.”

Steve Lobotsky

Steve Lobotsky didn’t think he was going to compete at this year’s Games. A quick recovery from a shoulder surgery in October to repair a tear allowed him to do well during the Open, earning him a third trip to the Games in as many years.

Lobotsky trains five days a week with two or three of those days being doubles. He is a co-owner and coach at Hudson Valley CrossFit. He has been doing a combination of Outlaw CrossFit programming and that of his son, Greg.

His constantly is working on strength, skill and endurance. Lobotsky will compete in the 55-60 division.

“I usually do well on chippers and struggle when it's heavy,” he says. “Snatches are not where they should be. Things recovered fairly well (from surgery) but I’m still having tendonitis issues in both shoulders.”

Gerard Mason

CrossFit Lindy has two athletes competing at the CrossFit Games this year, affiliate owner Daniel Tyminski and Gerard ‘Gerry’ Mason.

Having started CrossFit a mere six months ago, Mason credits his guru, Tyminski, for being able to qualify for the 60-plus division.

Mason works out seven days a week, but insists he is only competing for the sheer pleasure of competition. He is concentrating on met-cons and skills only to prepare for the Games.

“I am only doing double workouts three days a week and following the primary rules of old age: avoid injury, avoid death,” Mason says.

Peter Nathan

Peter Nathan is ready for his third trip to the CrossFit Games. The Gunx CrossFit affiliate owner is competing in the 60-plus division.

“I do all my own programming, but I do look at other sites for Oly programming and conditioning workouts,” Nathan says. “I usually train alone because I teach most of the day and my free time is when no one else is training.”

Nathan trains five days a week, and depending on his energy level, as many as four of those days are doubles. His emphasis has been on increasing strength in the basic lifts: back squat, press, deadlift, bench press, as well as weighted pull-ups and dips.

“I am disappointed that the Masters don't get to swim,” Nathan says. “I'd like a day at the beach.”