Masters athletes inspire and prove age is a meaningless number.
After six events including Olympic lifts, running, sled pulls, deadlifts and more, CrossFit Games champions have been crowed in 10 divisions filled with men and women aged 40 to 68.
These athletes stand as proof that age is no excuse to take up permanent residence in a recliner and punish six packs while wearing stretchy pants and complaining about aches and pains. Older athletes are not only equipped for the challenges of daily life, but can also perform at levels that astound many who are far younger.
Over three days of competition, the masters inspired their peers and set an example for younger athletes who have goals of preserving their fitness well into the golden years.
With five events behind them, the Masters athletes took the field at 9 a.m. PT for one final challenge: a chipper featuring double-unders, rope climbs, axle front squats farmer carries and dumbbell snatches punctuated with 100-meter sprints.
Photo finishes came in several divisions, but Joy Bruening was one who missed the neck-and-neck action by handily winning the final event of the week. For most of the event, she battled Lynne Knapman and Elizabeth Terris. Bruening took the lead on the dumbbell snatches.
“The plan going in was just trying to get the double-unders unbroken—and I’m confident with the rope climbs—and run as quickly as possible,” she said after her first-place finish.
“I figured if I got behind on the snatches, I could catch up on the run,” she added. “I’m not a great runner, but I’ve got a little bit of speed.”
At 6-foot-2 and 51 years old, Bruening said she never would have imagined being at this level of competition. She finished third overall in her division.
“I’m feeling really good,” she said. “Just really good. I don’t think I could have given more than I gave. I’m happy—really happy.”
For 60-year-old Sharon Lapkoff, the chipper was an opportunity to change her usual strategy.
“My plan was to give it everything I had,” she said. “I had to just crank it out and put it all on the line.”
As an endurance athlete, Lapkoff noted it wasn’t a comfortable decision. It proved fruitful, however, as she won the event and her division.
“I’m thrilled, thrilled,” Lapkoff said with a big smile.
In the 40-44 Division, Becky Conzelman was on top through most of the event, but Marcie Wells took advantage of Conzelman’s no-rep on the last dumbbell snatch. Then it was a footrace between Conzelman and the taller Wells. Wells edged out Conzelman to finish first—Wells’ best placing in the competition.
The division also saw a leaderboard shake-up with Merrill Mullis moving into third, ousting Jolaine Bloom. The two women were separated by a point going into the event, but Bloom was unable to finish the chipper and took 12th place. Mullis took seventh on the event, putting her into third overall.
Former Games competitor Amanda Allen won the division on the strength of three first-place finishes.
In the 60-Plus Division, former champion Scott Olson had a lock on first place going into the final event. That didn't mean he was going to take it easy.
"I wanted to make a statement," the 61-year-old said. "I wanted to crush."
Olson took an early lead, staying ahead of the pack throughout most of the event.
"I took three second-place finishes (in the competition)," he said, "I wanted this win."
Olson finished more than a minute ahead of second-place Bruce Clark, who took seventh overall in the division.
For the rest of the weekend, Olson’s plans are simple.
"I haven't had a drink in weeks," he said. "I'm having a cold beer."
In the 50-54 Division, Craig Howard finished second in the event to win his class.
Howard finished the double-unders in the middle of the pack but steadily moved up as the event progressed. He was in third place after the front squats, and by the time he got to the snatches, he had pulled into second place.
“Going into the last event, I knew I had a chance to move up," he said. "But I knew other guys would have to stumble. I tried to go for the win in this event.”
In the 45-59 Division, Cliff Lewis was in fifth place going into the chipper but knew it was an event he had a shot to win.
“This is my kind of event,” he said. “I wish they would take away all the heavy stuff in the middle.”
Lewis and Ron Ortiz fought for the lead throughout most of the event, but the larger Ortiz finished his dumbbell snatches well ahead of Lewis.
“Close that shit out!” a fan from the sidelines shouted as Ortiz sprinted to the finish line to win the event and the division.
Lewis took second in the event, putting him in fourth place overall.
“Three years in fourth place—always a bridesmaid,” Lewis said.
The Texan said his strategy for the event was to be “fast as hell,” but the 170-lb. athlete struggled with the 70-lb. dumbbell snatches. However, he said his Games experience is “always great,” and he’s looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend with his three college-age sons.
The third spot was up for grabs in the 40-44 Division, and Brent Maier was determined to make it his. Entering the event in fifth place, he finished his front squats well ahead of the pack and was the first to the dumbbell carry, followed by Michael Moseley.
Maier’s body was shaking from the effort as he finished his farmer carry and started on the dumbbell snatches. Giving an agonized groan with every snatch, Maier held onto his lead. In a performance that was pure heart, Maier looked back on the final 100-meter run. Seeing no one behind him, he punched the air with both hands as he ran and released some guttural shouts and fist pumps. The 42-year-old finished third overall in his division, edging out Keith Chrisman and Erwin Van Beek.
Masters division winners won US$3,000, while $2,000 went to second-place finishers and $1,000 to third-place finishers.
Event winner: Sharon Lapkoff (7:34.0)
1. Sharon Lapkoff (585 points)
2. Donna Walters (570 points)
3. Mary Schwing (513 points)
Event winner: Marie Garceau (10:20.2)
1. Gabriele Schlicht (555 points)
2. Lisa Long (535 points)
3. Anita Eskelinen (466 points)
Event winner: Joy Bruening (8:37.2)
1. Colleen Fahey (535)
2. Elaine Polito (503 points)
3. Joy Bruening (485 points)
Event winner: Lisa Mikkelsen (9:27.0)
1. Lisa Mikkelsen (560 points)
2. Tracy Maceachern (496 points)
3. Kim Holway (482 points)
Event winner: Marcie Wells (7:22.0)
1. Amanda Allen (565 points)
2. Becky Conzelman (536 points)
3. Merrill Mullis (491 points)
Event winner: Scott Olson (7:18.8)
1. Scott Olson (585 points)
2. Garry Jones (525 points)
3. Gary Marshman (496 points)
Event winner: Hilmar Hardarson (8:06.8)
1. Hilmar Hardarson (523 points)
2. Denny Hawkins (514 points)
3. Jon Hults (474 points)
Event winner: Brian Edwards (9:26.3)
1. Craig Howard (507 points)*
2. Steve Parsoneault (507 points)
3. Brian Edwards (503 points)
*Howard wins tiebreaker with two first-place event finishes.
Event winner: Ron Ortiz 7:49.9
1. Ron Ortiz (530 points)
2. Gene LaMonica (508 points)
3. Mike Fournier (479 points)
Event winner: Brent Maier (7:25.3)
1. Michael Moseley (528 points)
2. John Lynch (491 points)
3. Brent Maier (481 points)
For complete standings and all scores from all divisions, visit the Leaderboard.