July 3, 2012
South East Masters
By Shelby Levy

CrossFit Masters athletes put up an exceptional fight during the Open for one of 20 Games qualifying spots.

CrossFit Masters athletes put up an exceptional fight during the Open for a spot at the Games. Only the top 20 in each age group worldwide are allotted spots. The South East will be well represented this year with an impressive nine athletes competing. They are training hard for their chance to shine in California.

Men 45-49

Ron Ortiz, Bryan Shockley and Greg Smart will be representing the Dirty South in the men’s 45-49 division. Ortiz, 46, is a firefighter in West Palm Beach, Fla. He finished the Open in eighth place this year. Ortiz trains alongside Chase Daniels, the individual men’s first place finisher at this year’s South East Regional. According to Daniels, Ortiz is an “animal.” Having finished third in Masters at last year’s Games, Ortiz is one to watch this year.

Bryan Shockley, 47, of CrossFit Pulse, is also returning to the Master’s competition after a fifth place finish last year. A father of six, Shockley came in 13th in the Open. He has been nursing an ongoing knee injury. “I am being careful this year because my knee injury almost kept me out of the competition last year,” he says. “I think the winners of the Masters divisions will be the ones who can go hard, for a long period of time, and remain healthy.”

“My goal at the Games is to compete at the highest level that I can. It would be awesome to win, but I just want to be the best I can be. I want to just be able to go hard and do my best. I don't want to make any mental errors, and I want to be strong enough mentally to push past the pain,” Shockley says.

Greg Smart, 46, of CrossFit Threshold, says he just barely “squeaked” into the top 20 by finishing third in the final workout of the Open. This finish brought him to 18th place overall. “Truth be told, my reaction was something along the lines of ‘Fuck my life, now I have to train for real,’” he says.

Smart enjoys SEALFIT and hero workouts and doesn’t usually do much strength training or Olympic lifting.

“Since qualifying, it seems all of the coaches are working out together, and every day somebody gets to program something they're good at just to beat me,” he says. “It pushes me in areas that I would otherwise avoid and creates a bond between the coaches that I really enjoy and appreciate.”

His goal for California? Aside from doing well in the competition, he says he plans to get his picture taken with as many of the female athletes as possible.

Men 50-54

Two men from the South East will be competing in the 50-54 age bracket. Brian “Brig” Edwards, 50, is a former competitive cyclist. He has been CrossFitting in his garage for the past five years. After attending the Games last year as a spectator, Edwards returned home and worked on his weaknesses. He was excited to finish second in this year’s Open. Though he is struggling with some tendonitis in his elbow, he is looking forward to the Games. “I am going to enjoy the experience, and as usual, give everything that I have and just let the cards fall where they are going to fall. I just do not want to look back and think I had more to give in any one of the WODs,” he says.

Charlie Clendening, 54, of CrossFit Vero Beach, finished 16th in the Open and is returning to California for a second time. A former Marine, Clendening finished 10th at last year’s Games. His goal this year is to finish fifth. “I know we have some new and younger athletes in my division this year. I will be 55 in August, so I am the old guy, and although every year I get better, so does everyone else,” he says.

Clendening says he has been working on skills and including more mobility work in preparation for the Games. “I like to think we're called Masters because we're older and wiser,” he says. “Competing is a little trickier. You have to be more cautious of old injuries while recovering, and learning new skills takes a little longer than our younger athletes.”

Women 50-54

Kelli Dean and Diane McKinney are the only women from the South East to make it to the Masters competition and will compete in the women’s 50-54 age group. Dean, 50, of Lightning CrossFit, finished ninth in the Open and admits she is scared and has night sweats over the thought of competing at this level. Her husband, who is also her coach, introduced her to CrossFit two years ago after she gained 30 pounds and was looking to get back into shape.

“Sometimes I still feel relatively new to CrossFit because in the beginning I was such a reluctant convert that I don't think the first few months should even count,” she says. “I complained and cried a lot in the beginning. I hated lifting heavy weights and could hardly believe that any women would even want to do such a thing. Then my husband showed me videos of Laurie Carver (of Northwest CrossFit Bellevue, age 52), and I was in absolute awe. She became my idol. If you would have told me two years ago that I would be competing with her, I would have bet my life against it. I just wanted to do a pull-up.”

Dean completed the Level 1 Seminar last year. She hopes to help other women achieve their fitness goals. “I am nervous but very excited to have this opportunity. I am just going to go for it, and do my best,” she says.

Diane McKinney, 53, of CrossFit North Fulton, started CrossFitting in April 2010 after a bone density test showed signs of osteoporosis. She decided she needed to add strength training to her routine. McKinney says that she has never been competitive in sports. She finished 19th in the Open. Despite a few injuries, McKinney is aiming high.

“I had high hopes for some really heavy duty training once I qualified for the Games since I still considered myself a newbie,” McKinney says. “But unfortunately, a few weeks after the Open, I pulled a hamstring, then a week later I shattered my big toe. So needless to say, training is not what it should have been … I will do the best I can do and be grateful that I am in California around such amazing athletes.”

Men 55-59

Charles Sullivan, 57, of CrossFit Vero Beach, is the only male from the South East competing in the 55-59 age bracket. He finished ninth in the Open this year. An attorney, marathon runner and triathlete, Sullivan has been focusing on doing more CrossFit and less biking and running. “There is another Masters competitor, Charlie Clendening, and many great athletes at our local gym [who] say simply showing up and trying to stay with the youngsters is great training,“ he says.

Sullivan finished ninth at last year’s Games.

“The hardest part is having to try and master so many different movements and not having the flexibility or speed I had when younger,” Sullivan says.

Men 60-plus

Rounding out the South East’s Masters is Jim Lanier, 60, of CrossFit West Jax, who is competing in the men’s 60+ age group after a ninth place finish in the Open. Lanier, an optometrist, says he credits his coach, Nick Hawkes, for helping strengthen his weaknesses and for pushing him in areas that need improvement.

“I have form weaknesses when the weight gets heavy. You get hurt when your form stinks, so I'm really trying to practice better form at all weights,” he says.

Lanier says he definitely wants to be on the podium at the end of the Games.

“There are some really great athletes in my age group; some who have been there a few times before, so I have my work cut out for me. I'm going to give it my best shot because I don't know if I'll have this chance again,” he says.

Lanier echoed a common sentiment among his peers.

“I really am proud that CrossFit includes the older athletes in the neighborhood box as well as in the Games format,” he says. “I think all those in the Masters categories realize that their prime athletic years may be in the rear view mirror, but I'd say those same people still enjoy the challenge of working hard and competing. Working hard should be rewarded no matter what endeavor you choose. Thanks to those at CrossFit HQ who realize that, too.”


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