May 5, 2012
Regional Report: Tight Battle for Last Spot in Mid Atlantic
By Jen Wielgus, Jeremy Brown, Kym Escobar, and Stephanie Vincent

Athletes will have to fight hard for the coveted 3rd spot for men, women and teams to the CrossFit Games.

One day to go before the top men, women and teams will start packing their bags for the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games. 


Sweat cascading down his face and torso, an exhausted Steve Pinkerton walked – or more like lurched – over to Ben Smith after the final men’s heat and just said, “Damn.”

Pinkerton won the race for second place in Heat 4 of men’s Event 2 on Saturday afternoon, and he finished more than 2 minutes after Smith.

The whole Mid Atlantic Regional has been a race for 2nd place.

Smith, the defending regional champ, completed the marathon of back, front and overhead squats, pull-ups and shoulder to overheads in 16:35. And while that wasn’t a world record, it was good enough to keep Smith head and shoulders above the field heading into the final day of competition.

“He’s amazing,” says Pinkerton, who at 6-foot-5 actually dwarfs the 5-foot-11 Smith – and pretty much everybody else in stature.

Pinkerton and another big guy, CrossFit Explode’s Brian Quinlan, currently trail right behind Smith and 2011 CrossFit Games competitor Nate Schrader in the men’s standings. Quinlan vaulted into 3rd place overall Saturday after strong finishes on both Events 3 and 4. Pinkerton is now fourth overall.

“There’s a big difference between, if I go to the Games, there’s a separation between a Top 3 athlete and someone like me,” said Pinkerton. “And this just shows you what an elite CrossFitter is. I’m not an elite CrossFitter. The workouts favor me more than they do Ben, and he’s still beating me.”

Mike Abgarian of CrossFit 610 finished 2nd in Event 4 with a time of 18:38. His smooth butterfly pull-ups set him apart. “I know I’m never going to win a back squat or shoulder-to-overhead competition.”

Pinkerton’s 18:42 tied him for 3rd with Capital CrossFit’s Ryan Troupe, a relative unknown who was the only competitor in the first heat to finish the event.

Abgarian, Troupe and Pinkerton, Quinlan all turned in faster times than the top guy in the South Central Region on Event 4 (Matt Brisebois, 19:42).

Troupe’s finish was particularly impressive considering he’s only been doing CrossFit for seven months. He said he surprised himself with his performance, which took him from 37th overall to 27th, and used it as a huge confidence booster.

“I’m nobody,” Troupe said. “But this makes me feel like I belong here with these guys. Give me another year, and I feel like I can be there in the top 5.”

Schrader, who placed 14th in the CrossFit Games last year, finished 7th in Event 4 with a time of 19:37. And he indirectly helped another competitor, fellow North Carolinian Jordan Finlayson, finish the event under the 22-minute time cap. Prior to Regionals, Schrader did some programming for Finlayson and taught him how to control his tempo and physical output so he can finish strong in all his competitive events.

Tempo was a big factor on Event 4. Only 12 men finished under the time cap, and Finlayson was the 12th.

“That was my goal … hit an aerobic pace early, not going all out at the beginning,” Finlayson said. “I treated it like a 5K race.”

The way Pinkerton sees it, there’s only one spot in the CrossFit Games up for grabs here in the Mid Atlantic. If all goes according to expectations, two of the three bids will go to Smith and Schrader.

With so many superb athletes fighting for that last spot, Sunday will be one riveting day of competition. Heading into Event 5, the snatch ladder, Pinkerton likes his chances.

“It doesn’t matter what [places] one and two do, it’s three and four,” Pinkerton said. “First or second, if they stay healthy, they’ll wrap it up. It’s that third spot. Now, they’re going to have to come chase me. I’m not great at snatching, but I’m better at snatching than I am at this workout [Event 4]. So now the ball is in my court.”


During Event 2, the pain on the faces of the Mid Atlantic women was evident. This event was a long one that clearly tested wills and endurance of the athletes. Both the first and second heats ended with no women finishing under the 22-minute time cap. However they produced three top five finishes by reps completed. Marcie Wells of CrossFit Coastal in 4th and Ashleigh Woods of CrossFit WV and Melissa Jamerino of CrossFit Local tied for 5th.

The last heat brought out the Mid Atlantic stars. The event started with Michelle Benedict of CrossFit Fort Bragg pulling ahead of the favorites, but her lead didn't last long. Christy Phillips took the lead in the front squats and never let go. Benedict said she lost her lead when she threw up during the front squats, but says "it feels great to compete with those girls." Right on Phillip's heals for most of the workout was Michelle Crawford, but in the home stretch of the event, Jones surpassed her. Event 4’s top three finishers were Phillips (20:06), Jones (20:34), and Crawford (21:02).

At the end of Day 2 the women’s Leaderboard remains almost unchanged. Games veterans Phillips and Kittelberger remain in 2nd and 3rd overall followed by Crawford in 4th and Wagner in 5th. Jones holds steady in 1st place. "It feels good, but anything can happen."

However, after four events she hasn't placed less that 3rd on any single event. If she keeps it up Jones will take the top spot on the podium tomorrow.


Event 4 in the team competition is all about CrossFit Invoke. The team that entered Regionals in 18th place, competing in Heat 2, set a new world record of 25:49, 24 seconds ahead of CrossFit Central Dallas. Hacks Pack UTE tied their time later in the day in the South West Regional. CrossFit Wilmington was second with a time of 26:20 and CrossFit Greensboro finished third at 27:02.

In Heat 3, lead changes abounded. The Outlaw CrossFit ladies finished the back squats first, but were off the lead by the time they headed back to the barbell for the front squats. They were overtaken by CrossFit Explode and CrossFit Greensboro who started the front squats together four minutes and 50 seconds into the event. Going into the overhead squats, it was CrossFit Wilmington and CrossFit Explode who were tied, with CrossFit Greensboro just 22 seconds off their pace.

The team version of this event hinged on two things: the women and the transitions. Teams that left their male athletes less than 5 minutes to attack their workout finished low in the standings. In contrast, the men on the highest finishing teams had more than 9 minutes on the clock. The CrossFit Invoke women finished at 14:03, giving teammates Brandon Garner and Jason Garrard almost 11 minutes to work with. They were the only team to get into the last round of pull-ups, cranking out 26 before the buzzer. The Wilmington, Explode and Greensboro men had just under 10 minutes, but none made it to the last round of pull-ups.

CrossFit Wilmington, represented by Amanda Welliver, Melissa Hoff, Cody Lambert, and Tanner Martin, was pumped coming off the floor and couldn’t believe they beat in-state rival CrossFit Greensboro. In prepping for this event, they focused on keeping a steady pace and nailing the transitions. Welliver and Hoff steadily pulled the team into first position as their male teammates took over. Lambert and Martin took it from there, gradually adding seconds to their lead over CrossFit Greensboro. They are all focused on placing higher than their 9th place finish at Regionals in 2011. “We’ll work hard tomorrow to move into to the top 3 overall,” said Martin.

CrossFit Greensboro, in the lead after four events, is on its first trip to Regionals. The team knew squats would be their strong point on this workout for two reasons. Not only could they all do the weights, but also they would all be together during that portion of the event, giving them a built-in cheering section. “The key is to stick to your own plan and not worry about the others. Losing your concentration can set you off your game,” said Shuford, who placed 26th at last year’s Regionals. She said “there is not a lot of separation in points to get the top spot for the Games. We are going to focus on setting some PRs on the snatches tomorrow to keep them in the running for a podium finish.”

In Heat 2, a Virginia team battle was waged between CrossFit Fairfax and CrossFit Oldtown for 2nd place for the entire 25 minutes, with Fairfax pulling out the win by 15 seconds with a time of 27:58.

In Heat 1, Team CrossFit Oyster Point from Newport News, Va., and CrossFit Vitality from Concord, N.C., tied for first in 28:45 and CrossFit 215 from Philadelphia, Pa., pulled out a 3rd place finish in 28:50.

There is no change in the overall top three at the end of Day 2. CrossFit Greensboro holds onto 1st with 11 points. CrossFit Explode has 16 points and RAW Training is holding on to 3rd with 21 points. But CrossFit Wilmington is and nipping at their heels 5 points behind them and having just come off a big win in their Event 4 heat.