Joel Dizona qualified for Regionals in his first year of CrossFit. He sits in seventh place in the South East heading into Day 3 of the Regional competition.
The term "dark horse" is used often in CrossFit. Each year, more athletes join the ranks of the CrossFit community, but not all of them qualify for Regionals in their first year, or find themselves in the last heat of the Men’s Individual competition. Joel Dizona, 22, is, as his fellow airmen describe him, a “quiet professional,” and his consistent performance at the South East Regional has him in seventh place going into Day 3.
Originally from Omaha, Neb., Dizona found CrossFit thanks to last year's third-place finisher at the Games, Kyle Kasperbauer. Dizona wrestled and played football in high school, but afterwards, focused mainly on lifting. He met Kasperbauer at a local gym where Kasperbauer was personal training and struck up a conversation.
“Kyle was always in the gym training somebody, and one day, he asked me if I wanted to work out with him,” Dizona says.
Even after first meeting Kasperbauer, Dizona did not make an immediate switch to CrossFit.
“I continued to lift prior to doing any cardio, then I would occasionally do a met-con after for some cardio work,” he says.
This only lasted a matter of days as he would soon find that he wanted CrossFit to be his primary method of training. But even that needed to wait because he began basic training for the Air Force.
What is most surprising about Dizona's success is that he has been CrossFitting less than a year. While he had a few successful outings during the Open, including a ninth-place finish on Open Workout 13.1, he qualified for Regionals in 31st.
“The Open was my second competition because I did the Pensacola Beach Brawl, so here I am at Regionals in my second true competition,” Dizona says.
His consistent performances this weekend have earned him seventh place heading into Events 7 and 8. A fourth-place finish on the brutal 100s workout, and a 10th-place finish on the deadlift/box jump couplet helped catapult Dizona up the Leaderboard.
“I feel great now, but I did not necessarily enjoy either of those workouts. In fact, I kind of hated Event 4,” Dizona says.
Dizona credits his coach, Trebor Marple at CrossFit Valdosta, as a source of inspiration for his newfound CrossFit success.
“Marple is an inspiration to so many people because in college, while training for a triathlon, he was struck by a truck and is now essentially a walking paraplegic,” Dizona says.
Marple has hardly any use of his legs, but he is there day in and day out working hard.
“Trebor’s goal is to someday have CrossFit competitions for those with handicaps, so everyone can be included in the spirit of the community and the competitive environment,” Dizona says.
Heading into Regionals, Dizona was stationed at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., where he met Marple and Coach Haven Burley.
“That kid is an absolute beast. I will be halfway through my first workout and Joel will be getting ready to start his second,” Burley says of Dizona.
Dizona focused primarily on Marple’s programming to prepare for Regionals but would also occasionally mix in components from Outlaw and Invictus, which have created a great balance between his Olympic lifting abilities and gymnastics skills.
Currently an Airman First Class serving with Security Forces 823 Base Defense Squadron, Dizona says he was taught “humility and simplicity are essential to a pure life.”
Throughout the morning of Day 3, Dizona kept to himself, moving through his treatment and warm-up routine either unaware or concerned with where he stood on the Leaderboard. If he continues to improve on each workout as he has shown throughout this weekend, who knows where this “quiet professional” might find himself by the end of the day.