What a difference a year can make.
Ute CrossFit didn’t have the best team assembled. Neither did SPC CrossFit. Meanwhile, Diablo CrossFit was so startled by how well they were performing, some of its team members forgot to eat enough protein.
That was 2011. That year, Ute CrossFit finished in ninth place at the Games, SPC CrossFit placed fourth at Regionals and Diablo CrossFit missed the cut for the final day of the Games by one point.
What a difference a year can make.
This year, all three teams made the podium in the Affiliate Cup competition: Ute finished first, SPC second and Diablo third.
Hack’s Pack Ute
“The biggest difference was … (we had) the best available six people and went team with the goal of winning the Games,” team coach and member Tommy Hackenbruck says.
Last year the affiliate competed as Team Ute CrossFit.
The 30-year-old owns Ute CrossFit’s Sugarhouse location with his wife, Bobbie Jo, and placed second as an individual at the 2009 CrossFit Games.
The team spent the entire year training for the Games and focusing on weaknesses instead of just general physical preparedness, according to Hackenbruck.
As the coach, he made a checklist of what he felt were basic capacities and skills each team member needed to be successful at the Games.
“It was kind of a challenge to our athletes. It wasn’t mandatory for team members,” Hackenbruck says. “It was, ‘Here’s a checklist. If you can do most of them, but can’t do a few, you should focus on those.’”
He wanted to build a team comprising athletes who could compete as individuals. What he wanted to avoid were specialists.
“I did not want a team where we had one big, strong person who couldn’t do muscle-ups or a gymnast who wasn’t strong,” Hackenbruck says.
It wasn’t until January when SPC CrossFit athletes decided to form a team.
As luck would have it, the affiliate got two new members who were perfect for the task. So when all was said and done, only three of the athletes who competed on last year’s team remained.
SPC started training days focused on strength. That was followed by a met-con, which was roughly 10 minutes long, according to team captain Brett Sepi.
“After that we would do some kind of interval training: running, rowing, sprinting, double-unders,” he says. “On Sundays, we would do the longer team workouts.”
The team placed particular emphasis on what Sepi calls heavy met-cons: a workout combing a heavy lift with a gymnastics movement.
In addition to the weekly team workout, most team members worked out together at least four times per week.
“That helps seeing each other’s weaknesses and strengths,” Sepi says. “Other than that, we didn’t really do too much different — just got stronger and did heavier workouts.”
Because of rookie mistakes last year, Diablo CrossFit wanted to ensure it minimized errors that could cost reps and remember proper competition-day nutrition and recovery, according to the team’s coach Jeremy Jones.
In pre-Games training, the group spent time on a strength or skill component before met-cons, which usually were eight to 12 minutes long.
Once CrossFit announced all six team members would be required to compete at the Games, Diablo assembled a “best of the best” squad, Jones says.
Once at the Games, Diablo made sure everyone was eating and staying out of the sun.
Also at top of mind was remaining uninjured since all six team members had to participate in every workout, Jones says.
“The team that was going to do really well was the team that didn't get hurt,” Jones explains.
So when it came time for the Yoke Carry, Diablo decided no matter what happened, Eleni Frediani, who had a sprained ankle, would not do the carry.
Repeating a Win
This year’s Games saw the first repeat winners in the men’s individual competition with Rich Froning Jr. and women’s individual competition with Annie Thorisdottir. But with teams often changing rosters, a repeat Affiliate Cup winner could be more challenging.
None of last year’s Affiliate Cup podium finishers made the cut to compete in the final workout this year.
While Jones says it’s possible, he conceded it would be, “a lot harder to coordinate ... at that level.”
Last year’s Affiliate Cup winner CrossFit New England changed half of its team this year.
“I did not want to have to face them on Sunday,” Jones says with a laugh. “We were a little bit happy that they didn't make it.”
Sepi agrees teams are a different animal.
It would be difficult for a squad to repeat a win at the Games, but “definitely possible,” he says.
“You have to have six people at the top of their game all weekend,” Sepi says. “I think it’s a little harder and it all depends on the workouts.”
With the final team workout being winner-take-all in keeping with last year, it makes it much more difficult for the same group to win, according to Hackenbruck.
“You can be a very dominant team and have a big lead, but take second in that workout and not win,” he says.
“Five of us are on board for next year,” Hackenbruck says. “I’d love to take the same exact six-person team next year.”