"I'm really proud to have stayed in so far," Penner said.
The first three workouts of the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games Open called for double-unders, chest-to-bar pull-ups and heavy deadlifts. The fourth finished with muscle-ups.
Some athletes complained the weights were too heavy and the skills too advanced for the worldwide Open. Meanwhile, 14-year-old Anya Penner was busy doing work.
In her first Open, the 90-lb. eighth grader has put up a score each week so far, at times lifting barbells weighing more than she does.
“I'm really proud to have stayed in so far,” Penner said. “I like to push myself and see what happens when I try new weights and movements.”
Four years ago, Penner joined the CrossFit Kids class at Practice CrossFit in Troy, Ohio. Today, she throws down with athletes three times her age at her parents’ affiliate, AKP CrossFit in Fairborn, Ohio.
“I mostly do the adult classes because we don't have many teens,” she said. “I don't like to work out alone. It's more fun to work out with my adult friends.”
Last year, Penner competed in the Teen Gauntlet at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, winning the first event of her California debut—a mash-up of burpees, burpee pull-ups and burpee muscle-ups. She also met her CrossFit hero, two-time CrossFit Games champion Annie Thorisdottir.
“She told me to keep competing and pushing myself to do my best,” Penner recalled. “She said not to worry about winning, but focus on doing it for myself and pushing to see what I can do.”
Penner took Thorisdottir’s words to heart, chalking up with the rest of her crew at AKP CrossFit for Open Workout 14.1, though the 55-lb. barbell in the couplet of double-unders and snatches was equal to her one-rep max.
She snatched the weight 60 times, for a total of 209 reps.
“I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it because the snatch is a hard movement for me,” she said. “So I was happy to get so many.”
In 14.2, Penner added 10 lb. to the bar and put it overhead again, squatting the weight 12 times with 10 chest-to-bar pull-ups thrown in. The next week, she put up 71 reps on 14.3, performing the first set of 95-lb. deadlifts unbroken, though she weighed 5 lb. less than the bar. She finished with 16 deadlifts at 155 lb.
“It felt really heavy, but I was able to do eight sets of two,” she said.
Penner’s heart fell when she read the announcement of the fourth Open workout. While most athletes feared defeat at the rings, at just 4-foot-10, Penner’s foe was the 14-lb. medicine ball.
“For the Gauntlet, we only used 10 lb., so it felt heavy,” she said. “And I am very short, so it was hard for me to hit the target.”
But Penner faced her doubts.
She chipped through the toes-to-bars in sporadic sets of one to five reps with enough time to toss the ball seven times for a total of 117 reps.
“It felt like forever,” she said. “I thought my hands would tear off. I didn’t really think except for telling myself to keep going.”
With four out of five Open workouts in the books, Penner has nearly met her goal of completing the entire Open as prescribed. But her aspirations don’t end there.
In June, she will compete in the USA Weightlifting 2014 National Youth Championships in Daytona Beach, Fla., and she hopes to help physically challenged CrossFit athletes as a physical therapist someday.
But more important than the weight on her bar or her score on the Leaderboard is the example she’s setting for athletes both young and old.
“I’ve learned that you don’t have to win to have fun,” she said. “Many people set new PRs during the Open because they try things they have not done before. It’s a chance to try their best and see what they can do.”