May 31, 2012
Returning to the Games: Aja Barto
By Amy Duchene

"I think that coming into the weekend just mentally prepared for all the workouts helped me."

Since his 3rd place finish at the South Central Regional, Aja Barto has been busier than ever. While training for the CrossFit Games has its own share of duties, Barto has also been working hard for the June 4th opening of his new affiliate, Behemoth CrossFit in Houston, Texas. 

“I think the name is really fitting,” said Barto with a chuckle. At 6’5”, 225 pounds, his powerful presence stunned and excited the crowd as he smashed through the Snatch Ladder at the 2012 South Central Regional. As the only individual male competitor at the Regional (and in the world at the time of this writing) to reach 295 pounds, his triumph set the tone that would propel him to a spot on the podium at the end of the weekend. 
While Barto started out the weekend of Regionals from a difficult position, finishing 19th in Diane, he set his mind to work and charged his way up the rankings by staying focused. “I think that coming into the weekend just mentally prepared for all the workouts helped me,” he says. “The first one definitely challenged me, and I didn’t do as well as I wanted, so I knew I had some ground to cover. With the other workouts coming up, though, I knew there were some that I could truly excel at and I knew those were the ones that I had to win. I gave it my best effort and put my best foot forward.”
Following Event 1, Barto found himself among top competitors like Bryan Diaz, Jason Hoggan and Paul Smith as they battled to impress. While the competition seemed fierce from the stands, Barto insists he was calm and collected. 
“What I love about CrossFit is that it’s you against the workout. I don’t think about it as who is faster than who, but as who can do the work faster,” Barto says. “Once you have that mindset, it’s easier to take your attention off of the other guys and stay focused on your task, your game plan, or your strategy. While that strategy may change, what you don’t want to do is get caught up in where the other guys are at, I was aware of their positions, but I didn’t let me take me off course and I think that’s what ultimately made the difference for me.”
Overall, Barto enjoyed the Regional experience and couldn’t be more thrilled about heading to California. There is, however, one element he missed about this year’s event. “I think that this year was such a testament to the growth of CrossFit. I thought that the event was great and that Alamo CrossFit and all of the staff did such a great job, and the guys were more competitive than ever,” he explains. “The venue was nice and I loved spending time in San Antonio, but I was a little bummed that they moved us inside. I think one thing that our Region has always been known for is the conditions in which we compete, you know, that heat. And this year I missed that. I thought it made our Region unique and that it was something to be proud of.”  
On the heels of his second trip to the Games, Barto feels focused and more prepared than ever, but equally determined. 
“I think it was Dave Castro who said there are three types of competitors at the Games. First are the guys who are just happy to be there. Then you have the others who feel that if the right things come out of the hopper, they believe they’ll place well. Finally, you have the guys who believe that they have what it takes to win. That no matter what comes up, they believe in their abilities and they’re there to win the Games,” he says. “I’m definitely that last type. I believe in myself, I’m confident in my training and I’m not going for any other reason but to win.”