NorCal is the home to lifting monsters.
The sun dawned bright at the Santa Clara County Fairgrounds as the final day of the Northern California Regional got under way. The floor of the arena was already bathed in sunlight as the athletes walked in to see the Snatch Ladder laid out before them. Squares of wood made into lifting platforms dotted the Arena in rows, a loaded barbell for each station.
The crowd was amped for Event 5. The first team women struggled with the 125- and 130-pound bars and it wasn’t until Kelly Clark of Lifeworx that the 140-pound bar was put overhead. CrossFit Moxie’s Katie Lindsey power snatched her way to the 145-pound bar, but could not drop under 150. With the cheers of the crowd ringing in her ears, Chelsea Ryan of CrossFit Cadence, marched her way to the 155-pound bar with a successful lift.
The crowd was on its feet when Games veteran Tammy Holmes, CrossFit Oakland’s big gun, made the 170-pound lift after going to both knees. But she would stop there.
Right on her heels was Meshelle Mifsud of Tamalpais CrossFit who ended with 185 — the very top of the ladder. She took the heaviest bar for a quick and explosive ride, snapping it from the ground to overhead. This was a big PR for Mifsud. Hawaii’s CrossFit 808 was the last team on the field as Brandy Richardson made her way through the maze of bars until she was stopped by the 175-pound bar.
Mifsud has an Olympic weighlifting background and her previous max snatch was 154 pounds. She went into the ladder with high hopes, but blew them all out of the water. “Unbelievable! I was expecting 165, just knew I had one chance and I had to give it my all, had to focus on technique,” she said afterward with a smile.
Coming into the third day, TJ’s Gym Mill Valley’s strongman, Danny Nichols predicted at least 295 pounds. “I am going to run the ladder,” he said.
Northstate CrossFit was the first to 205, but Ewa Beach quickly charged past to 215. Jeff Leonard, the monster from CrossFit Pleasanton and the 2009 NorCal Regional winner, was stalking the ladder like a hungry beast. He wanted the heavy bars and he was pumped. His whole team, big men all, made the lifts look easy. Leonard failed at the 245-pound bar, dropping it on his shoulders, but his two teammates soldiered on to 255.
Cadence, led by Matt Morales, was the next down the line. Morales nailed 235. “It felt awesome,” he said. He was the only member of Cadence to advance, but his chest was low on the setup and the bar fell in front of him and he would have to be happy with 235.
“The 245 bar is the widow maker, no one getting past it,” yelled MC TJ Belger as team after team fell there. But Chad Wilson was up next. Resembling a muscled bulldog, Tamalpais CrossFit’s Wilson, half of the world record team from Event 3, powered his way up the ladder with ease. Unable to drop under the bar, 255 would prove to be too much for him, however.
Jordan Atwell from Redding took the lead with smooth, beautiful form as he moved to 265 pounds. It fell to him, and he looked over at 275. Up it went and the crowd jumped and screamed. “It was the coolest thing ever,” he said.
Two more bars to go, but 285 was too much and the top bars remained unlifted.
Danny Nichols stepped up to the 275-pound bar and made it look easy. It looked like he was going to run the ladder, as promised. Right behind him was Gary Baron from RCF Honey Badgers. Baron made 265, a huge lift for his size, but failed at 275. He missed 235 pounds three times. It “got mental out there,” he lamented.
Nichols was on the 295 platform, the top of the ladder. Only two other CrossFitters have stood there with the bar overhead. He took his grip and pulled. He smiled and doubled it. Two 295 pound snatches in the time cap.
1. TJ’s Gym Mill Valley (1,140 WR tie)
2. CrossFit 808 (1,125)
3. Rocklin CrossFit Honey Badgers (1,080)
1. CrossFit 808 (13 pts)
2. Rocklin CrossFit Honey Badgers (19 pts)
3. TJ’s Gym Mill Valley (23 pts)
Much anticipation surrounded the women’s snatch ladder. Sarah Hopping, the former world-class track and field athlete from LaLanne Fitness, recently snatched 185 in training, but double-unders are hit or miss for her.
The 125-pound bar proved to be the Waterloo for many of the individual women until Miranda Oldroyd stepped up. After a PR of 150, she did her best Rocky impression with a quick fists upraised circle of the platform. She ended the event in 3rd place.
Games veteran Elyse Umeda struggled with 135, but moved on to the 140-pound bar, attempting it twice before going to the double-unders. Chyna Cho of CrossFit One World ended on the 145-pound bar and went for double-unders. She attempted earlier bars more than once without going to the jump rope, saying she “had to make a decision whether it was a technical error or a fatigue error,“ whenever she missed a lift. “Much harder than in practice,” she commented.
The final three women — Hopping, Hester, and LaBaw had the field to themselves as they moved down the line of barbells. LaBaw repeatedly went to her knees to make the lift while Hopping looked calm and confident, each lift going up in an easy power snatch.
Hester gave a brief grin after each lift, happy but focused on the next bar. Hester went all the way through the 155-pound bar, greatly improving her chances for a ticket to Carson with her 2nd place finish in the event.
La Baw had earlier said, “I just want to PR, that’s all I can say.”
Her previous best was 143 pounds under gym conditions and she made the 145-pound lift, the sun bearing down, the noise of the crowd and the fatiguing double-unders. “I wonder if Coach B will be proud of that lift, it was so ugly,” she laughed afterwards.
Hopping, the former national level hammer thrower and favorite in this event, had early double-under troubles, barely making the 125 lift, a warm up weight for her, in the 50-second time cap. She relaxed and the double-unders started working for her as she proceeded down the line. Bar after bar fell to her until she stood in front of a world record 180 pounds. “Good lift,” the judged shouted as she stood tall with the bar for a new world record.
But Hopping was not done. She nailed her double-unders in front of the 185-pound bar, the top of the ladder, in one attempt and then paused and looked at the crowd as silence enveloped the Arena. Her first attempt with the max weight went to her shoulder level and the second to her hips. She dropped the bar and smiled at the crowd, happy with a world record at 180 pounds and a 1st place finish in the event.
“People have been coming up to me all weekend, telling me to finish [the ladder],” Hopping said. “I wanted to live up to everyone’s hopes. It’s not about besting anyone, just doing my best.”
1. Sarah Hopping (180.00)
2. Candace Hamilton Hester (155.14)
3T. Jenny LaBaw (150.11)
3T. Miranda Oldroyd (150.11)
1. Jenny LaBaw (17 pts)
2. Candace Hamilton Hester (23 pts)
3. Annie Sakamoto (28 pts)
NorCal is the home to lifting monsters, but would the combination of a technical movement such as the snatch and a neuromuscular one such as double-unders prove too much for them? Athletes’ strategies ranged from Zen-like calm to “attack and be aggressive,” in the case of Gabe Subry.
“Dirty Dirty,” chanted the MC as Erik “Dirty “Alvarez put bar after bar over his head.
The lightweight from Hawaii failed at 215, far more than his own bodyweight of 150 pounds.
The low 200s were the dying ground for the first group of individual men and name placards kept piling up at the 205 and 225 platforms. The big men yet to come licked their chops in the wings. After the heavy cleans of Event 2 and the 100-pound dumbbell snatches of Event 3, most of the stronger competitors were in the lead.
Buddy Hitchcock, the 22-year-old from CrossFit Excel, was the first to move past the 235-pound bar as he stepped onto the last row of platforms, where he would stay at 255. Hitchcock was really sore from yesterday but he had been training his technical lifts a lot this past year. The former track athlete’s effort was good for 3rd place.
Subry and Shaun Eagen would not go past the 245-pound bar, opting for double-unders instead of another attempt. CrossFit Games veteran Blair Morrison failed at the 215, frustration evident on his face.
Neal Maddox and Jason Khalipa, as they had all weekend, were a competition unto themselves. Going back and forth all weekend, they were the last two on the field as they moved up the snatch ladder. The crowd was almost quiet in its respect for their setups at each bar.
The 255-pound fell to each athlete, but 265 stymied Khalipa. Maddox grinned as he moved – 265, 275, and onto the 285-pound bar. With Khalipa cheering him on, and the crowd on its feet, Maddox took his time setting up, but it was to no avail. Maddox was unfazed, however, smiling as he notched another 1st place finish. After, he said that he “knew Jason’s ass [was] on his tail and only heard Jason, not the crowd.”
The 275-pound lift tied his PR.
1. Neal Maddox (275.00)
2. Jason Khalipa (265.17)
3. Buddy Hitchcock (255.00)
1. Neal Maddox (7pts)
2. Jason Khalipa (8pts)
3. Gabe Subry (38 pts)