“It was all in the numbers — 20 reps on the wall balls, then 10 seconds off ... you do what you can. I looked over at the other girls and they were just flying, and I knew I had to do the gut check so I did as best as I could.” ~Candice Ruiz on Event 4
For the second day, the weather was stormy outside the Freeman Coliseum. Inside, the top athletes dreamed of sunny Southern California and a ticket to the CrossFit Games.
In Event 4, a new incarnation of the 100s workout from 2011 required athletes to complete 100 reps each of wall balls, chest-to-bar pull-ups, pistols and dumbbell snatches. Event 5 promised a shorter workout that was no less intense: a repeat of the 2011 Regional couplet of heavy deadlifts and high box jumps.
In the end, four male athletes conquered the 100s gauntlet.
In general, the men were faster than the women on the pull-ups, but slower on the pistols. In the first heat, Kirk Victorian set the pace early and couldn’t be caught, finishing with 69 reps on the snatch. In Heat 2, Landan Webster became the first to get through the entire workout (24:56). He caught Jacob Theriot on the snatches and never looked back.
In Heat 3, Paul Smith looked to be in trouble. Early in the pull-ups, he resorted to singles, which continued until he finished out the reps. He was surprisingly speedy and efficient on the pistols, and the 70-lb dumbbell gave him no issues. Smith chased the athletes in front of him, handling the weight with ease. Smith stepped on the finish mat at 24:37 and promptly collapsed.
The last heat became a two-man race. The athletes were neck and neck on the pull-ups, with Cody Spell emerging as the first to the pistols. But Chase Ingraham, aka Captain America, wasn’t far behind. Once Ingraham started the one-legged squats, it became clear that he was the new pacesetter. No one could catch him, though Jason Hoggan —who struggled on the pull-ups — did his best. A Games competitor last year, Hoggan sped through the pistols and worked tirelessly at the snatches, but was always behind Ingraham.
In second place before the event, Drew Bignall limped his way to the snatches, his left knee bandaged heavily. Courtney Wuistinger, the first-place finisher in the Open, got stuck on pistols and was considerably behind the pack. After the event, he was forced to withdraw from the competition because of a groin injury.
In the end, the hero was Ingraham who collapsed in exhaustion at the finish, earning the day’s best time at 24:10. To his credit, Hoggan was all heart as he powered through his final snatches, the time ticking away. Dramatically, he stepped on the mat just before time expired at 24:58.
After doing a practice run that didn’t turn out that well, Ingraham was shocked that he finished the workout.
“The time I practiced it, I got 28 snatches in 25 minutes. So that was a huge shock.”
Ingraham was methodical in his strategy.
“(I planned) to break up the wall balls in 10s and just rest a couple of minutes,” he said. “I was trying to get done in 4:30, but I was done under 4 ... I had hoped to get to the snatches at 18 minutes and I ended up getting there at 15. My pistols were actually the best they've ever been, so I just rode that out, and hoped it lasted and it actually held up pretty well.”
His push at the end was also well planned.
“Well I knew that I was a little ahead of pace, so I knew that people were probably working harder trying to catch me, so that if I had a push at the end I was hoping that they would run out of gas,” he said. “I just paced it out and tried to give myself about a minute-and-a-half to get the last 20 snatches, and then just do 20 unbroken if I could and I did. It worked out really well.”
Only nine women in all regions had completed Event 4 before South Central’s athletes took it on.
The wall balls — thrown to a 10-foot target — punished the shorter athletes who resorted to jumping to ensure the ball hit its mark. The chest-to-bar pull-ups were a soul crusher for the athletes in the first heat. Most chipped away, doing a few reps at a time before dropping off the bar. Randi Whitley was the best performer, accomplishing 43 dumbbell snatches by the end.
The women in Heat 2 fared better on the pull-up bar. At one point, there was a line of butterflying females on the bar, which looked nearly choreographed. Soon, however, athletes were looking at their hands, presumably ripped, and shaking them out.
Chely Galvan and Meagan Matthews established themselves as the front runners of the heat. They left the pistols at about the same time, and so began a rivalry to last the rest of the event. The two athletes would glance at one another as they worked at the dumbbell snatches. Galvan got the furthest in the event with a total of 46 snatches.
There was plenty of drama in the final heat. The head judge spent a lot of time scrutinizing Holly Mata’s ambiguous squat depth on the wall ball. There wasn’t much time between top athletes Nikki Isbell, Leah Shullenberger, Cassidy Lance and overall leader Jenn Jones, as they tackled the pistols. However, Jones reached the snatches first and it was a lead she wouldn’t relinquish.
Candice Ruiz made up ground on the snatches to overtake Isbell for the second-best time. Nobody could catch Jones. That said, Jones fell short of conquering the 100s behemoth. When time expired, she’d managed 93 reps on the snatch.
After the workout, Jones said it was important not to gas out at any of the movements.
“(The strategy was) more along the lines of knowing where that red line actually is and staying well away from it in all of the movements,” she said. “Wall balls — my first set was pretty big, but then I got to sets of 10. I was just kind of listening to my lungs and legs in the process knowing that pistols and the snatches were coming up … the pull-ups — just kind of staying with the rhythm, doing them until I got a little bit tired. Pistols just trying to stay moving … I knew the snatches were what was going to hurt the most. So I had to just stay mentally ready for those.”
Second-place finisher Ruiz was pleasantly surprised by her performance.
“I'm not very good at long, high-rep chippers or stuff like that, but I knew I had to do it in order to get up on the ladder,” she said. “I gave it everything I had and honestly, I hope that's enough."
She attributed her success to sticking with a strategy, with planned breaks of work and rest.
“It was all in the numbers — 20 reps on the wall balls, then 10 seconds off, then continue that way with the pull-ups … you do what you can. I looked over at the other girls and they were just flying, and I knew I had to do the gut check so I did as best as I could.”
The first couple of heats saw a number of athletes struggling in two areas: the pistols and the dumbbell snatch. With the former movement, athletes wobbled as they came up on their toes to squat below parallel. They lost their balance, lost the rep and one even fell to his backside a couple of times.
The dumbbell snatch slowed down the smaller athletes — especially the women. The intensity of the workout showed as athletes hobbled to the finishing mat with tight backs, then collapsed to the floor. Team CrossFit Kemah was the standout performer from these early heats with a time of 19:51.
The game faces were on as the top teams lined up. Not surprisingly, with a ticket to the Games on the line, the final heat was also the most intense. Several lead changes occurred, with #TeamDensity and CrossFit Dallas Central heading the charge. For all of the teams in this heat, the stumbles on the various movements were few and far between.
As the men completed their portion of the workout, they shouted encouragement at their female counterparts and came off the finishing mat, trying to will their teammates to go faster. In the end, a couple of teams overcame deficits to take the top spots. Team CrossFit Central helped their bid at a return to Carson, Calif., with a second-place time of 16:43, while Atomic CrossFit’s 16:32 was the best time of the day and solidified their place on the Leaderboard. The third-place finish was earned by overall leaders, CrossFit Dallas Central.
Atomic CrossFit’s Daniel Ward gave credit to their practice and preparation before the event.
“Last weekend during the first weekend of Regionals, we went through a practice run and we knew that we had a really competitive time once we finished,” he said. “So it was all about sticking to that kind of game plan and plugging in the pieces exactly where we thought they should be when it comes to the splits. Everything went as smoothly as it could have been, just like in practice."
His teammate, Beth Spearman, an 11th-place finisher in the Open, saluted their coach who sharply observed their abilities in practice and planned a strategy accordingly.
“We kind of knew where everybody needed to go, based on our strengths and weaknesses. Our Coach Jim Kelly did a fantastic job watching everybody do the movements individually, and then placing us where we needed to be in the lineup to maximize our efficiency for the workout so, he just did a great job of getting us prepared for that and like Daniel said, we just knew we had to stay within ourselves and stick to our game plan and it would work.”