April 20, 2017
Online Qualifier: Who to Watch
By Tommy Marquez
Tommy Marquez identifies athletes to watch.
Tommy Marquez identifies athletes to watch.

With the announcement of this year’s Age Group Online Qualifier (formerly the Masters Online Qualifier), we’ve upped the ante in terms of what athletes—old and young—will need to accomplish to make their CrossFit Games dreams a reality.

The inclusion of the Teenage Divisions and the new Masters 35-39 Division add exciting new elements to a stage of competition that has showcased a vastly improving masters demographic each year since its inception.

There is a lot to cover in four days with 3,200 athletes tackling the four workouts. To help make your Leaderboard addiction more fruitful, I’ve selected one thing I’ll be keeping my eye on in each division.

Teenage Girls 14-15: Nina Ladvenicova on Event 1

Nina Ladvenicova won Open Workout 17.2 by a wide margin. The crux of that workout was the large chunks of bar muscle-ups programmed midway through that tested athletes’ ability to complete a complex gymnastics movement under fatigue. Event 1 of the Qualifier also presents a big chunk of muscle-ups—on the rings this time. My guess is that the transition to the rings won’t be a problem.

Teenage Boys 14-15: Dallin Pepper on Event 3

Event 3 is going to be an all-out sprint for those at the top, and that includes Dallin Pepper. Pepper won two events worldwide in the Open: 17.3, which had a ton of chest-to-bar pull-ups, and 17.5, which was the fastest workout of the Open and really tested athletes’ red line.

That’s what makes Event 3 a prime workout for Pepper. It’s a fast workout that features manageable sets of chest-to-bar pull-ups, and I can see Pepper finishing this one faster than Pat Sherwood finishes a pint of ice cream.

Teenage Girls 16-17: Haley Adams & Kaela Stephano on Event 2

Haley Adams and Kaela Stephano established themselves as the two main contenders for the top spot coming off the Open. Event 2 is actually a repeat of 16.2, except this time in this age division, they’ll get to do the same weights prescribed to the individuals last year.

The final clean bar in this workout is 205 lb. Stephano has a clean north of 205 lb., and Adams has the gas tank to get to the final bar, which sets the stage for what could be an awesome performance from both of them in Event 2. It would be great to see one of them finish the workout.

Teenage Boys 16-17: Angelo DiCicco on Event 2

Similar to Adams and Stephano, DiCicco has a great shot at winning this workout. One year ago in 16.2, DiCicco had his best finish of the Open. This year, the weights are buffed considerably, and the final bar weighs in at 315 lb., 80 lb. more than last year.

DiCicco has cleaned 315 lb. before, but doing so under immense fatigue and after 125 toes-to-bars would be insane. If history is any indication, though, it wouldn’t be wise to bet against anyone from CrossFit Mayhem.

Masters Men 35-39: Guido Trinidad on Event 3

One of my favorite competition memories working for CrossFit’s media team came in 2012 when I was working at the South East, aka the “Dirty South” Regional. I watched Guido Trinidad dismantle Event 4, which was a disgusting workout that had a ton of pull-ups, squat variations and shoulder-to-overheads. I watched this workout bury people every week, and Trinidad won the workout in 15:56, a time that would only get beaten by Rich Froning. Trinidad would go on to qualify for the Games that year.

Event 3 of the Qualifier challenges athletes with a couplet of pull-ups and shoulder-to-overheads, and it’s a great opportunity for Trinidad to move himself up into the top 20 to qualify for the CrossFit Games.

Masters Women 35-39: Valerie Voboril in Event 4

Just a few years ago Valerie Voboril was standing on the podium at the CrossFit Games as an individual. Voboril’s focus has shifted slightly since then, but she now has a shot at making it back to the Games as a master.

Voboril is currently 24th overall, but she’ll need to move up four spots during the Qualifier. The deficit handstand push-ups in Event 4 will pose the biggest challenge for many but could be where Voboril makes up ground. She finished fourth in Push Pull at the 2014 Games, which featured strict deficit handstand push-ups, and she won Regional Event 4, which had heavy doses of handstand push-ups and front squats similar to the Qualifier’s Event 4.

Masters Men 40-44: Robbie Perovich in Event 1

Welcome to the Masters Division, Robbie Perovich. The former Games team athlete with the CrossFit Fraser Valley Centaurs has made a solid first impression after the Open. Perovich sits in first, 21 points ahead of second, and 23 points ahead of three-time reigning champ in his division, Sean Ramirez. His worst finish of the Open came in 17.1, where 150 dumbbell snatches kicked off the competition season in style. In Event 1 he’ll get 100 more snatches with the same dumbbell weight. A strong performance in Event 1 would send a firm message to the rest of the field that a "four-peat" for Ramirez will be hard to come by.

Masters Women 40-44: Janet Black in Event 2

I always love a good rematch, and Janet Black getting to retest Event 2 (16.2 from last year) is one of the things I’m looking forward to most this weekend. Black won 16.2 in her age division last year and was able to get two cleans in on the 205-lb. barbell. It was one of my favorite Open performances last year, and it was a highlight of my Week 2 report card. Call me optimistic, but I’m hoping that she’ll be able to improve on her score and maybe even give herself a shot at finishing. The 2015 champ might be one of only a couple of 40+ women on the planet who are capable of finishing this workout.

Masters Men 45-49: Pete Mongeau in Event 1

The Grundlers may be having a brotherly battle at the top of the 45-49 Division after the Open, but I’m excited to see Pete Mongeau, third overall, smoke Event 1.

Mongeau’s best performances in the Open came in the first two weeks, where dumbbell work and gymnastics reigned supreme. Event 2 feels like a mash-up of those two weeks with the workout being bookended by large quantities of, well, dumbbell work and gymnastics.

Mongeau also has some extra motivation this year. He’s dedicated his 2017 season to his father, Robert, who is battling Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. My grandfather fought a similar battle, and I can’t help but feel for Mongeau and his family, and wish them all the best. Here’s hoping your dad gets to watch you compete in Madison!

Masters Women 45-49: Nathalie Connors in Event 4

In 2015, Nathalie Connors missed qualifying for the CrossFit Games by just 1 point. I’m sure there are a million ways you could slice this but a measly 7 seconds in Event 4–a fast triplet of box jumps, deadlifts and handstand push-ups–separated her from a return trip to Carson. This year Connors, fifth after the Open, has another shot in a similar workout in Event 4 of the Qualifier. The time domains for both workouts should be in the sub-5 range, which is fitting. Swap the box jumps for front squats and tweak the rep scheme slightly, and Connors can seize redemption by blasting this one into the stratosphere.

Masters Men 50-54: Top-3 Men in Event 1

Marcel Stoeckli, Jeff Dempsey and Ron Ortiz were separated by just 3 points for the top spot in their division after the Open. I'm hoping the tightly grouped competition carries over into the Online Qualifier and subsequently the Games. I'm excited to see how they perform in Event 1. In my opinion, Event 1 most resembles a Games-level workout, and it could be a big points separator if the high volume of muscle-ups proves tricky.

Masters Women 50-54: Amy Mandelbaum in Event 2

Outside of one workout, Amy Mandelbaum had one of the most consistent performances of the Open in her division. She finished four of five Open workouts inside the top 10. Her one blemish was a 38th place in 17.3, which had an increasingly heavy barbell and a ton of gymnastics. That's precisely what she’ll get in Event 2. At 5-foot-2 and 130 lb., she may find the final two barbells to be a challenge. It's possible cleans are a better lift for her, though, and she could get revenge on the heavy barbells during the Qualifier.

Masters Men 55-59: Stephen Skocik in Event 3

If you look at Stephen Skocik’s athletic background, it's certainly impressive. A national track-and-field champion in the 5k and 10k points to some elite level endurance. The one thing I want to see him do, though, is sprint.

The top finisher in the Open will have the chance to test his red line in Event 3. The time domain for this workout is very Fran-ish, and I wouldn't be surprised if it were even faster in some divisions. If Skocik can torch this workout and hold onto a top spot in the Qualifier, it would certainly put the rest of the division on notice.

Masters Women 55-59: Lynne Knapman

This one is a fairly easy choice because I have a soft spot for athletic streaks and historical relevance. Lynne Knapman is the only masters athlete to have qualified for every single CrossFit Games.

The masters competition started in 2010, and Knapman has been a fixture at the Games every year since. The resilient Australian sits in seventh after the Open and is in a good spot for the Qualifier. She's looking to make history and qualify for her eighth straight CrossFit Games.

Masters Men 60+: Allen Bridges on Event 4

I think it's really cool that the concept of men in their sixties kicking upside down and doing 40 handstand push-ups isn't a shocking or surprising one. Toss in some heavy deadlifts and some squatting and I think this could be a good workout for Allen Bridges.

Bridges won 17.4, which also had a ton of deadlifts and squatting. This time, however, there is no escaping handstand push-ups, and I'm hoping that he can make quick work of the barbell and have more time to knock out reps on the wall.

Masters Women 60+: Everyone on Event 1

This may be the least specific in terms of athletes, but I'm only really focused on one movement: the muscle-up. I'm really looking forward to seeing who wins Event 1 in this division, because for the first time, 60+ women will be required to do muscle-ups. This has potential to be one of the landmark programming shifts that will force adaptation and growth in the Women's 60+ Division in the coming years.

Get the details for all of the Qualifier events here.