March 18, 2014
Rookie Team Looks to Make Regional Debut
By James Toland

“Our team is comprised of a healthy mix of strength and speed. I truly believe we have the potential to qualify.”


Photos courtesy of Abi Reiland

Last year, Iowa teams dominated the North Central Regional. This season, a new group of Iowans is aiming to keep that streak alive.

CrossFit 8035 of Des Moines, Iowa opened its doors in March 2013, and its team is making an impact in the 2014 CrossFit Games Open. After starting the Open with a third-place finish on 14.1, 8035 is sitting in the 23rd-place spot after the first three workouts.  

Led by top performers Luke Reiland (currently 16th place in the individual division) and Amy Drefke (currently 47th place individually), 8035 has its sights set on a trip to the Navy Pier in May. 

This rookie team has a lot of work to do to lock in a debut trip to regionals, but they believe they have what it takes.

“Back in September, we took a team to the D-Town Throwdown at CrossFit Enhance in Decatur, Ill., and took first place,” said team member and two-time regional qualifier Reiland. “It was our first competition as a team and kicked off the real idea that we could do this in February.”

Taking One for the Team

Reiland said he believes in this group so much, he is putting aside his individual goals to lead the team this year. He finished 32nd at the North Central Regional in 2012 and 21st in 2013. Despite his improvement as an individual, he said he is excited to be a part of the team.

“We play well together,” he said. 

Reiland, a former college baseball player at Campbell University in North Carolina, is the owner, head trainer and self-described leader of the 8035 crew. He said his team has chemistry, physical strength and athleticism.

Heart and Soul

Drefke is a 33-year-old personal trainer and mother of two.

In high school, her soccer career was going great when she stepped in a hole while playing. Her ACL, MCL and cartilage were completely destroyed—and so were her hopes of playing with her team in the state championships.

Because of the injury, Drefke started her freshman year at Iowa State University in a full leg brace and on crutches. Putting on the pounds was easy since she wasn’t active, she said. 

Her solution was to train for a triathlon. But those plans were cut short by another accident. Drefke was biking between paths on a highway while training for her triathlon when a car hit her. The police estimated the man was driving faster than 60 mph.

“His rearview mirror broke off on my shoulder,” she said. “My helmet split completely in half. Farmers a mile away heard the accident and called 911 telling them to send life flight as they were sure I was dead.”

After several tests in the emergency room she was able to walk out of the hospital with only a hairline fracture in her shoulder and a lot of road rash.

“The surgeon was in tears telling me it was a miracle,” she said.

After a brief time as a marathon runner, she found CrossFit but was unlucky to be injured and unable to be competitive in the 2012 Open. She dropped a 155-lb. barbell when attempting an overhead squat, fracturing her neck.

“My ortho placed me in a neck brace with a very stern warning to not lift anything and no running,” she said. “I could walk—that was it. I decided a good attitude and solid nutrition would be my ticket out of that horrible brace. In six weeks, I was out of it and back in the CrossFit gym.”

Now healthy, happy and engaged to fellow 8035 teammate Bart Boyd, Drefke threw down 399 reps on 14.1, which was good enough for the third overall spot in North Central for Week 1.

“(Drefke) is a true motivator,” Reiland said. “She is fierce in the heat of competition, and calm and collective when it comes to teaching a newbie the fundamentals. It is rare to find coaches or people of that caliber.”

The Other Regional Veteran

Boyd qualified for regionals as an individual in 2012 but went team with CrossFit 515 of Grimes, Iowa, where he was a member at the time. When Reiland opened 8035 last March, Boyd jumped at the chance to start something special with him.

“Being a part of 8035 has brought the fun back to doing CrossFit,” Boyd said. “For a while there it started to feel like a job and I had lost that spark that I had gotten when I first started. I can definitely say that I’ve found my home with 8035 and can’t wait to see what’s in store for the gym and our team.”

Boyd, a 33-year-old financial manager at John Deere, said his strengths are in gymnastics movements and anything that requires shoulder strength. He is inspired and happy to compete and train with Drefke.

“She is always thinking of others and how she can help them,” he said. “You rarely see her without a smile on her face which always brightens your day.”

California Dreamer Brings Knowledge

No stranger to the CrossFit methodology, Joshua “J.D.” Alex has been around CrossFit for almost four years. A full-time trainer at 8035, Alex spent two years on the rowing crew at Iowa State University. In 2010, he got his start with CrossFit while working as a manager and trainer with wide receivers for the Iowa State football team.  

“Coach C.O. (Clayton Oyster) handed me a book full of workouts named after girls,” Alex said. “I had no idea what they were. Then, I just started checking them off the list every day and I was hooked.”

Eager to find out more and gain experience in CrossFit, Alex reached out to affiliates around the country to study his new passion.

“Shortly after that I started contacting people at other gyms looking to go learn from the best and I found the best at OCCF (Orange Coast CrossFit),” Alex said. “Joe Garcia dared me to come out so I did.”

The trip introduced Alex to a whole new level of CrossFit, as he was able to spend time training and learning from CrossFit Games athlete Kenneth Leverich and Southern California athlete Ryan Fischer. He also met Fittest Woman on Earth Sam Briggs and Lindsey Valenzuela.

After returning to Des Moines, Alex said he was going around town, handing out resumes last April when the 8035 coaches hired him on the spot.

“I’ll be the first to tell you: I'm not the strongest, I'm not the fastest, I'm totally not the most seasoned in this sport. But I refuse to be out-worked,” he said. “I love being a part of this team and of this entire gym. I think I try and bring a sense of relief to the team. It's almost impossible for me to be serious about anything. I do my best to make everyone laugh and just enjoy the ride.”

The Final Pieces

Rounding out the team are newcomers Kayla Olson and Rachel Pirkl.

Olson, a 26-year-old graduate student at Des Moines University splits her time between working at Whole Foods, teaching yoga and CrossFit training when she’s not pursuing a master’s degree in anatomy. 

Though she’s only been doing CrossFit since 8035 opened its doors a year ago, Olson brings a variety of skills to the team. She ran track and cross-country in high school, participated in half and full marathons and dabbled around with rugby, rock climbing and judo in her time as an undergraduate student at the University of Northern Iowa.

Olson will be the first to admit she loves body-weight movements and cardio.

“Throw a run or 50 burpees in the middle of a (workout), and I am good to go,” she said. “I am also very competitive with mostly myself.”

Olson has pushed herself to get better in just a year’s time and said she’s been surprised by her own results.

“In the past year, I have done things I never would have thought I could do, including strict pull-ups, handstand push-ups and Olympic lifting,” she said. “Within the last six months, I competed in two competitions.”

Because of her improvements, Olson was added to the CrossFit 8035 competitive squad. 

“I was not expecting to be competing on our team, and I actually found out the night before doing 14.1,” she said. “A balance of excitement and nerves plays around in my gut before each (workout), knowing my score affects the whole team. But being surrounded by encouraging teammates can give you quite the adrenaline rush when you need it.”

Despite only 10 months of CrossFit training, Pirkl, a 27-year-old business analyst at Berkley Technology Services, also has a solid athletic resume.

“When I started CrossFit, I was a previous high school and college athlete looking for a change to the boredom of my workout routine,” she said. “I played basketball, volleyball and ran track in high school. Then in college I played volleyball at Wartburg College.”

Pirkl said she is excited to see what the next two weeks will throw at her.

“As the newest team member to the sport of CrossFit, I'm always looking for things to learn, work on and help show others,” she said. “I still struggle with many movements myself so I love any opportunity I get to learn and help others overcome their own hurdles.”

Reiland’s team might have just the right blend to accomplish their goal of competing at regionals this year.  

“Our team is comprised of a healthy mix of strength and speed,” Reiland said. “I truly believe we have the potential to qualify.”