May 16, 2013
Outside The Box: First-Timers Head to Regionals
By Jeremy Ridego

“Like everyone else, I want to get to the podium, and though I have a lot to learn, I am just as hungry as the veterans.”

Photo courtesy of Leigh Photography
Photo courtesy of Jason Lydon

Top photo courtesy of Kali Bedard and Jason Lydon

There are a number of first-time South East Regional competitors who will attempt to qualify for the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games this weekend.

On the men’s side, newcomer Joel Dizona, 22, from CrossFit Valdosta, has been strict with his rest days, while continuing to focus on gymnastics work and Olympic lifting techniques. 

“Everyday I try to chase the ‘big dogs’ because there is no better way to prepare for competition,” he says.

Dizona says he is especially looking forward to going head-to-head with some of the best athletes in the region on Event 1 — Jackie.

“Because Jackie is a sprint the entire way, there is not much time to waste,” he says.

He also feels confident about Event 7 (rope climbs, sprints and squat cleans) on Day 3, but says the 50 handstand push-ups in Event 6 will be “what separates the men from the boys.” 

Dizona says just being at the competition is not his only goal. He wants to finish high on the Leaderboard and enjoy the experience of competing at Regionals for the first time.

“Everything looks tough, but I am ready to leave everything on the convention center floor,” he says.

Former Division I hockey player, Gerry Raymond of Gardens CrossFit, spends much of his time during the week at work. In fact, he squeezes workouts in whenever possible in between his 60- to 70-hour work week.

“My training schedule is pretty hectic, but I have reaped the benefits of occasionally training with the Gardens CrossFit team (also competing at Regionals),” he says.

Before the Open, Raymond, 24, focused on volume and conditioning, with lighter weights. Now, his programing has shifted to high volume with much heavier weights.

Raymond says his years of competitive hockey have helped him with mental toughness, so he is looking forward to Event 4 — the 100s.

“It will be nasty and test not only physical strength, but the mental strength, as well.”

Though he does have some concern with the pistols due to a lingering knee injury, he says the 100s will be the workout where “only the most well-rounded CrossFitters will shine.”

Raymond says he likes the programming, especially the repeat of the deadlift/box jump event.

“Bringing up old workouts is cool to see how much better the athletes are getting.”  

Brian Rottman of Be CrossFit, who finished the Open ninth in the South East, has been following Ben Bergeron’s coaching.

“I have been working quite a bit on burpees, muscle-ups and rowing,” Rottman says.

Rottman, 24, also feels confidently about Event 2 — the overhead squat three-rep max. He says he’s been working with heavy loads overhead recently.

In the women’s competition, Olympic gold medalist and first-time Regionals athlete, Anna Tunnicliffe of Peak 360 CrossFit, says not much has changed in her training between the Open and Regionals. 

“We go heavy and hard while trying to get as strong as possible and efficient,” she says. “It is the constant struggle of CrossFit.”

Tunnicliffe, 30, does her strength training solo, but always works out with a class.

“CrossFit is about community and I am not different. I want to be a part of it,” she says.

This first-time Regional competitor won’t let nerves get the best of her.

“I have competed in two Olympic trials and two Olympics, so I know how to focus in competition and will do that while trying to have some fun,” she says.  

“The (Regional events) look tough, but I will be working with my coach to figure out the keys to attacking each of them.”

Powerhouse newcomer, Taylar Stallings of CrossFit Jaguar, has intensified her training following Open Workout 13.5 with increased volume and longer training days. 

“I train primarily on my own, but my main focus (has been) increased conditioning and gymnastics skills,” Stallings says.   

Like Tunnicliffe, Stallings, 27, reaps the benefits of a strong community. 

“The members at my box have been extremely supportive and have kept me motivated,” she says. 

In fact, they have shown up to train beside her, often pushing her, as a strength athlete, to test her conditioning. Stallings says this makes training more fun.

The one thing Stallings made sure to do prior to Regionals was to recently compete in her first, multi-day local competition. 

“Like everyone else, I want to get to the podium, and though I have a lot to learn, I am just as hungry as the veterans.”

Stallings is most looking forward to Event 5, the deadlift/box jump workout, because the deadlifts at 205 lb. are what she considers just “moderately heavy.” She does plan to focus more on gymnastics movements and hopes to make her chest to bar pull-ups more efficient for Event 4.

“The 100s chipper looks nasty,” she says. “(The events will) challenge me mentally and physically, but I have been working this entire year so it is time to see if the work will pay off.”