July 8, 2012
SoCal Masters
By Michelle Camerlingo, Jessica Suver, Daisy Alvarez and Madeline Mosier

This year, five women and six men will represent Southern California in the Masters competition.

Only the top 20 Masters athletes from each age group after the Open are allotted spots at the Games. This year, five women and six men will be representing the Southern California Region. Take a look at a few who fought hard through the Open and are just days away from the big show in Carson, Calif.

Women 50-54

Bonnie Lynn from CrossFit Synapse is heading to the Games feeling positive. “I am hoping they will program fun things like rope climbs and handstand walking,” she says.

This 50-year-old jack-of-all-trades has a diverse background in gymnastics, martial arts, and dance. She ventured into CrossFit after retiring from dance. It is her competitive spirit that gravitated her towards the sport.

Lynn is no stranger to competition. She earned a second place finish at recent unsanctioned CrossFit events such as the 2012 NorCal 40's and the 2012 OC Throwdown, in the Masters competition. Lynn also took eighth in the 2011 Reebok CrossFit Games in her age division.

“I would love to keep competing year after year,” she says. “You have to push your capabilities. My goal is to always keep my body moving.”

Lisa Switzer is hoping the third time is the charm. In preparation for the Games, Switzer is adhering to her paleo diet. After taking a five-month hiatus following the 2011 Games, Switzer is training hard. “I am working on my challenges, such as my overhead squats and my mobility issues,” she says.

Her health problems in the past have attributed to her determination to excel athletically. After a serious staph infection threatened her life, Switzer was forced to re-evaluate. The multiple surgeries left her eager to recover and flourish physically.

Switzer says she is hoping to see a lot of running and bodyweight movements at the Games. For the future, she plans on training year-round. “I am going to keep doing the best I can,” she says. “CrossFit is a great thing. I want to continue competing as long as I remain competitive.”

Men 55-59

Rick Rodriguez, 57, was introduced to CrossFit by his daughter in 2008.

“She asked me if I thought I was fit. I went to her box and we did Fran,” he recalls. “I lay on the ground for a while, went home and took four Advil. It blew my mind.”

After his training wheels came off, Rodriguez tested the waters at the Next Level Invitational, a local competition. He placed third, competing with men 10 years younger than him. “It got me pumped up,” he says. “It got me used to competition.”

Although the CrossFit La Verne athlete finished 11th in the Open, he says his biggest weakness is strength and has stuck to a clean diet and amped up his programming to get him ready for his first go at the Games.

“I am going to work really hard. I know there are a lot of studs in my age group and I’ll take what I can get,” Rodriguez says. “But I’m going for first place.”

Robby Lorber, 55, says, “I got to the Games on heart, not technique. I feel like I always am learning, always breaking bad habits,” he says. “My strength is that I wont quit.”

Lorber, an athlete at Bill Grundler’s box, CrossFit Inferno, in San Luis Obispo, Calif., has been CrossFitting for a little over two years.

His wife introduced him to CrossFit. “We were looking for something to do together. I’ve never been a gym rat,” he says. “But this has become a really great community.”

In the Open, Lorber ranked fifth to earn his spot at the Games. Since then, Lorber trains a minimum of three times a week and eats clean. He relies on Grundler’s programming and says it’s taken him far.

“This is monumental. When you get to my age, you feel like the glory days are over, so this is just wonderful,” he says. “I used to be a musician and now I joke with my friends that I had to become an athlete to sell out an arena.”

Women 55-59

Donna Walters, 59, from Monrovia Calif., comes from an athletic background beginning at a young age. Walters began swimming around the age of 10 and continued through high school where she also played softball and volleyball, as well as collegiate tennis.

Walters continued in her athletic pursuits. “From 2007 forward, I've competed in every distance run from 5k to 10k at the Camp Pendleton Mud Run to the Mt. Wilson Trail Race,” she explains. “I also have completed in multiple RAGNAR 200 mile relays across Southern California.”

Her CrossFit training began in 2006 with Team CrossFit Academy where Eric LeClair coaches her as she prepares for the Games. “Passing through the Open and now into the final six to seven weeks, we have adjusted my training to a very individualized approach,” she says. “With the help of James Fitzgerald, Eric designed a program that has taken me from a single session training day to single days, double days and triple days.”

While she has competed in many local events, this is Walters’ first trip to the Games. “I have competed in CrossFit Totals, CrossFit Football Totals, Olympic Weightlifting competitions, as well as many Hero-style fundraising efforts,” she says. “For fun, I have competed in the last two years of the CrossFit [Games] Open.”

In 2007, Walters experienced a torn hamstring during a race. The injury still affects her mobility and range of motion. Nonetheless, she is in the proper mindset as she heads to the Games. “I really feel focused and disciplined for this event. I am truly motivated to be representing my affiliate at this level,” she says. “It certainly feels like a job with the attention to detail that we have put into the training, recovery, mobility, nutrition and mental prep.”

Men 60-plus

Gary Collins, 61, is currently retired and resides in the Simi Valley area where he has lived since 1978.  

His son, a good friend of Andy and Cathy Rios – owners of CrossFit Simi Valley – introduced Collins to the sport three years ago.

“I retired with cracked vertebrae and herniated disks and was told that the disks would eventually fuse together and there's nothing I could do,” Collins says. “My son showed me CrossFit was an alternative that did not accept those conclusions.”

Collins, akin to team sports, played throughout his youth and into his 20s and 30s, but has never competed in a sport individually until now.

“I have never competed in CrossFit. This is a completely new experience for me, both physically and mentally,” he says. “I joined CrossFit because I didn't know what I could do. At 60 years of age, what are my limits? The Open and the Games are merely an extension of that.”

Collins prepares for the Games under the tutelage of his coach, Chris Espinosa. “He has competed and is an instructor here with an impressive background in nutrition,” Collins says. “He is walking me through this and is schooling me on what to expect. I trust him implicitly and it has settled me down completely.”

He looks forward to the experience of the Games. “I am going to enjoy this knowing I may never make it this far again and to represent my box in a way that they would approve,” Collins says.

Tim DeZarn, 60, has only been CrossFitting for six months.

He was told about CrossFit while raising money at the Santa Monica Stairs for a scholarship fund he created in memorium to his son, who was tragically killed in a car accident in 2007. While using the stairs for mental, emotional and physical rehabilitation – DeZarn had knee replacement surgery 10 years ago – he met a fellow stair climber who told him about the sport. His intrigue for CrossFit came at just the right time.

“I wanted a new challenge. I found that when you are in it, you are really in it,” DeZarn says. “You have to be so concentrated. It’s all about being in the moment, like jumping out of an airplane. For me, it’s a complete physical and mental distraction.”

While playing football in college, DeZarn blew out his knee, which he later had replaced. He and his coach, Danny Henry, work to keep him healthy. “He knows his stuff, he knows the body and he is adamant about rest days,” Henry says.

DeZarn is currently performing two workout sessions a day and incorporating extra cardio into his workouts. “For example, I will do a 5,000-meter row or ride the bike an extra 45 minutes to conclude,” he says.

The Games will be DeZarn’s first CrossFit competition. “I’m worried my knee will blow, my fruit-flies (his version of butterfly pull-ups) won’t be legal,” he says. “I can barely just get below parallel because of my knee and my elbow was crushed years ago so that arm won’t straighten all the way.

“Mentally I’m pretty freaked out. I’m scared that I’ll get totally embarrassed, but that’s all a part of learning,” he says.