April 29, 2012
Snatch Ladder Separates the Elite
By Mike Warkentin

The Snatch Ladder surprises many competitors in Canada West.

The Canada West Regional is doing its job.

At the beginning of Day 3, the field had been narrowed significantly, and over a dozen individuals and several teams had been eliminated after failing to meet minimum rep requirements. More importantly, there were very few names on the list of athletes and teams with a legitimate shot at only six 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games spots. 
And that’s the point. Getting to Regionals is a huge accomplishment. Finishing all the events at the Regional is harder still. Qualifying for the Games is a goal that’s attainable only by the most elite in the sport. 
On Day 3, the bottleneck narrowed even more. Workout 5, the snatch/double-under ladder, brought only 33 men, 22 women and 17 teams to the floor. After the morning event, only 18 individuals and 12 teams moved on to the final test.
And after the final workout, Canada West will have its four individual and two team representatives for the Games.
The large men’s heat was broken up into two groups to allow the top men extra time to warm up before their wait in the athlete’s chute. When the final group of about 10 started entering the ladder, 205 lb. was the early dividing mark, with very few athletes getting past the bar. Many of the best competitors — Jeremy Meredith, D.J. Wickham and others — were actually warming up with 225, and it was going up with ease.
Double-unders were a non-issue for all top athletes, and some, like Ray Krumme, pulled strategic deadlifts on bars they knew they couldn’t snatch, then hammered out doubles in hopes of winning a tiebreaker.
Tyson Takasaki had come close to his PR of 242 when he ran the event in training in Winnipeg, and he blew past 225 and 235 before taking a single attempt at 245 and then turning to doubles. He logged 37, but only needed one to beat 4th-place D.J. Wickham, a great lifter who chased 245 out front for about six feet before giving up on the bar with no time left for doubles.
As expected, Jeremy Meredith and Lucas Parker ran the bars with efficiency and were the only two lifters working above 245. Parker is 182 pounds and Meredith is 215, but it was the smaller athlete who finished on top to win both the event and any strength-to-weight calculations going on in the crowd. Parker hit 265 and 10 un-needed doubles, while Meredith, working one bar behind Parker, snatched 255 and pitched in 17 doubles because he was unsure if any but Parker had made the lift.
Overall, Parker (9 points) and Meredith (11 points) have a stranglehold on the Games spots. Steve Howell is 3rd with 26 points, and he knows it’s going to take something special to make the jump into 2nd.
“The points spread is getting a little further every time … I’m looking forward to the next workout, though,” he says.
Howell finished very strong in 2011 and will be looking to do the same thing here, but with the field narrowed to only 18 athletes. He’ll need to perform and hope for one of the top athletes to falter if he’s to take one of the Games spots.
A good number of Canada West women have snatch PRs more than 135, but few were able to get deep into the run of bars ranging from 105 to 185 pounds. Perhaps due fatigue from Day 2 or the double-under buy-in, most women were unable to lift more than 135. 
The first athlete through the first tier of bars was Alicia Connors, the fifth-to-last woman out of the chute. She locked out 135 with authority but went no further. Janine Walinski and Heather Gillespie followed immediately after, and while both got 140, neither was able to get 145 nor add any double-unders to break the tie.
And then there was Angie Pye. The top-ranked athlete found herself all alone on the competition floor, still lifting bars as the others returned to the warm-up area to watch her. Pye hit 140 and 145 with confidence and aggressively dug in for 150. Canada West’s top athlete hit 150—her PR—to cheers in a lift that was pure gravy on the Leaderboard.
In the final Workout 5 standings, Pye was 1st (150), and Walinski and Gillespie were tied for 2nd (140). Alicia Connors was 3rd with 135.21 but didn’t need the double-unders, as she was the only woman to make the lift.
Gillespie expected to do better in the event but was still good enough for 2nd.
“My warm-up didn’t feel good, and none of those felt good,” said Gillespie, whose PR is 150.
For her part, she actually likes lifting after double-unders.
“I like it. It’s almost like it primes you. You have to be that much more focused on the lift,” she says. 
Gillespie battled an illness during the Open and didn’t expect to be able to compete at Regionals. Her status was up in the air up until about a month ago when she felt good enough to commit to the Canada West event. Gillespie was 19th at the Canada Regional in 2010, and she was 3rd in 2011 at the Canada West Regional. This year, she’s once again clawed her way back to third and is within striking distance of a Games spot.
“It would be awesome,” she said of qualifying. “I’ve been watching it from outside the lines for five years.
Overall, Gillespie sits 3rd with 20 points, and Emily Beers is 2nd with 18. Pye, as expected, is on top with only 11 points, and it’s shaping up to be a tough race to decide who will accompany her to California. Walinksi, only a point behind Gillespie, also has a very good shot at the second spot.
In the past, Pye has been very strong in longer workouts with mixed elements, and she’ll be looking to lock things down completely in the day’s last event. Beers, Gillepsie and Walinski will be in a three-way battle for the other spot, and you can never count out the powerful Alicia Connors who seems to get stronger as others fatigue. 
CrossFit is about all-around athletes, and while you can hide a few specialists from some team events not requiring participation by all members, Workout 5 forced all teammates to enter the snatch ladder. Some teams had almost all their athletes bail out on the first few bars, while some of the stronger squads sent several good lifters deep into the ladder.
The women went first, and Ang Desjarlais, a police officer from CrossFit Regina, set the early standard with 145. Valarie Perry from Synergy Strength also got well into the second tier of bars, but it was Rachel Siemens of Team Taranis who stole the show.
Siemens competed on the Taranis team that finished 3rd at the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games, and the former contortionist can lift. She easily power-snatched the first tier of bars and then started working on tier 2. With a previous PR of 154, Siemens boosted 155, 160 and 165 before finally capping out and missing 170.
“That ladder didn’t really fatigue me. The Open WOD did,” she says, referring to the 7 minutes of snatches in Open Event 12.2. 
And how about a series of PRs at the best possible time to keep Taranis in the hunt for a return trip to the Games?
“Hell, yeah!” she said. “That was sick!”
The men moved through the bars like packs of mountain gorillas, and the most efficient teams cycled the lifts quickly to get as many athletes through as possible.
Synergy Strength, with all members packed into red singlets, sent two big men on to 225, though only one could make the lift. Leading all men was Nolan Crossman of CrossFit Regina, whose pre-competition PR was just over 236. He managed to lock out 245 and was happy to help his team to a 6th place finish and a spot in the final event.
“It wasn’t the cleanest, but I’ll take it,” he said. “It popped up pretty good, and once I got my feet underneath me, it felt pretty good.” 
Once the women’s and men’s loads were totaled, CrossFit Fraser Valley Centaurs were in 1st with 1040 lb. Synergy Strength was 2nd with 990 lb. Siemens and Team Taranis pulled 980 lb. and were tied for 3rd with Reebok CrossFit 306.
Overall, the Centaurs are in 1st with 15 points, Team Taranis is 2nd with 21, and Synergy Strength is 3rd (via tiebreaker) with 21.
The two teams in 2nd and 3rd have a five-point lead over fourth-place CrossFit B.C., and with gymnastics elements coming up in the final workout, the two spots at the Games are far from secured. 

The volunteer team is busy preparing the competition floor for the final event, a long grinder combining heavy lifting with gymnastics, wall-balls farmer carries and burpee box jumps. Any remaining weaknesses are sure to be exposed when the rings show up.