Bridgers, Fortunato, Brooks, Ohlsen, Evans and Mayer will represent the South East region at the CrossFit Games.
Noah Ohlsen finally made good on the promise he made to CrossFit Games Director, Dave Castro, while working as a volunteer at the 2011 South East Regional. Ohlsen told Castro that he would one day make it to the CrossFit Games.
Three years later, Ohlsen will be heading to his first Games after a strong performance at this year’s Regional. With 28 points separating him from second place, Ohlsen had a great run this weekend finishing in the top five on six out of seven events.
For the first time in three years, Talayna Fortunato will not stand at the top of the South East Regional podium. Instead, the fourth- and fifth-place finisher at the 2012 and 2013 South East Regional, Emily Bridgers, will not just get to stand on the podium, but she’ll get to take the place at the top.
After taking 7th on the hang squat snatch with a 165-lb. lift, Bridgers accepted nothing other than first or second place. With four event wins, Bridgers accumulated just 15 points over seven events to finish the weekend 9 points ahead of Fortunato.
Last year, it was the 100s. This year, it is the 50s. Event 6 was a chipper consisting of a 50-calorie row, 50 box jumps, 50 deadlifts, 50 wall balls, 50 ring dips, and then a return back through the movements (or as far as possible within the 21-minute time cap). Consistency and a steady pace was the winning strategy for the athletes to chip away at each station.
Returning to the row, side-by-side, it was a race to the finish between Noah Ohlsen, Jeff Evans, and the clock. As the clock counted down to the 21-minute time cap, Ohlsen and Evans neared 50-calories on the row and the elusive event finish.
At the time cap, Ohlsen had 44 calories to Evan’s 41. The event win came down to three calories.
"That was definitely tough,” Ohlsen said. “I didn't want to hit it too hard at the beginning and then pick it up at the end. Towards the end, someone passed me so I knew I had to pick it up in the row. I just gave it all I had on that row."
Ohlsen headed into the final event of the day with a comfortable 18-point lead over second-ranked Evans.
"Tore up,” is how Jeff Evan’s felt after the 50s.
“That was a brutal workout,” Evans said. "I needed first or second, point-wise, just to stay in front of Julian [Serna] and Travis [Mayer]. I needed to get in front of them for the points, and I did. Definitely a mental workout on the second half."
The 50s were brutal to Julian Serna. Watching from the sidelines as the first heat of men began the event, Serna looked calm and focused. “This is going to hurt,” Serna said. “I’m just going to try and go hard, but keep my pace consistent.”
Twenty one minutes later, Serna was still working on the second set of 50 deadlifts which would put him in 43rd on the event, and take away his dreams of qualifying for the Games this year.
The 50s also shifted the standings for Travis Mayer, who entered the final day of competition in second-place overall. With an eighth place finish on Event 6, he slipped to third place overall entering the final event.
“Today my goal is to be consistent and stick to what I've done,” said Mayer before the start of Event 6. "I love chippers. They are one of my favorites. Every movement in it is probably one of my favorites, except maybe the ring dips. That's not what I’m excited about. It's always an exciting feeling, but I got to keep my fingers crossed because it's not over until it's over."
Event 6 Results
1. Noah Ohlsen (21:06)
2. Jeff Evans (21:09)
3. Josh Miller (21:10)
The final event of the South East Regional was a sprint of 64 pull-ups and eight 205-lb. overhead squats. The men made short work of the pull-ups, but a few suffered with fatigued shoulders on the overhead squats. Brian Rottman dropped his last rep on the overhead squat, costing him precious seconds.
“After the 50s, your grip is just shot,” said Rottman. “After those pull-ups, the shoulder stability and lats are just gone, and I couldn’t stay locked out with that last rep.” Daniel Petro had the best time of the day with 1:47, ending his regional on a high note. He finished 19th overall.
"The weekend has been a tough weekend for me with the workouts so to be able to end with something fun like that, win my heat, and get a little happiness in the weekend was fun,” Petro said.
In the final heat, fans were on their feet as Elijah Muhammad and Noah Ohlsen went rep-for-rep on the overhead squats. Muhammad crossed the finish line by only one second ahead of Ohlsen to take second place on the event. "It's been a blast,” said Muhammad. “I had a shot to make it to the Games and stumbled on that strict handstand push-up workout, but I just leave it on the floor, and go out there, and get the last one done."
"I'm going to keep training the same way to come back here next year, and try to get it then,” Muhammad said.
Muhammad finished fourth place overall, just three points shy of third place.
Travis Mayer’s time of 2:33 secured his third-place spot on the podium, sending him back to the Games for a second year in a row.
"Everything felt good, and I was on pace to my testing time but wasn't expecting to get that many no reps," Mayer said. "Regionals is always fun... so until next year."
Jeff Evans’ time of 2:27 kept him in second place overall at the end of the day.
“I'm just proud of how I did considering the weights were a little lighter, and I'm a stronger athlete,” Evans said. “Where a little lighter makes a little more advantage for the smaller guys who are kind of strong.”
“I followed all my game plans,” he said. “I'm going to the Games now!”
“Amazing!” said Ohlsen after the leaderboard was set and his first-place finish was secured.
“There's really no word (for it). I pictured this moment a hundred times but to actually be here and be able to climb onto not just the podium, but the top of the podium, is amazing. A dream come true!”
Event 7 Results
1. Daniel Petro (1:47)
2. Elijah Muhammad (1:54)
3. Noah Ohlsen (1:55)
1. Noah Ohlsen (32)
2. Jeff Evans (60)
3. Travis Mayer (65)
4. Elijah Muhammad (68)
5. Ryan Sunshine (76)
6. Guido Trinidad (78)
7. Hudson Fricke (90)
8. Aaron Hanna (93)
9. Marquan Jones (96)
10. Julian Serna (98)
Event 6—the 50s—was a grueling and frustrating workout for most of the women of the South East. It was slow going as they begrudgingly worked their way through the movements, with the 50 ring dips bringing some of them to a stop.
Emily Bridgers had a huge smile on her face as she warmed up in the athlete area.
“I’m not worried about the ring dips. I am just going to make sure I keep moving,” Bridgers said.
And that is exactly what she did, dominating her competition, and making it through her 47th box jump on the return trip back. She took first place in the workout. Laura Brannen finished first in her heat with a time of 23:11. This was a ninth-place finish for the athlete dubbed the “rabbit.”
"I was thinking- survive,” Brannen said. “Just get through it. I've been sick so I was just trying to get through it.”
In the final heat, Taylor Stallings was focused as she made her way down the floor. She finished the event in second place with a time of 22:08. Lauren Brooks wasn’t far behind, finishing third in 22:19.
"It was definitely a motor thing,” Brooks said. “I felt like my motor was giving out on me a little bit, but mind over matter. I was just thinking, ‘Don't slow down. Don't slow down.’”
Looking towards the final event of the competition, Brooks said she knows she needs to be smart about the pull-ups.
"It's not an unbroken set for me. No way, especially right now,” Brooks said. “I'm probably going to go until I feel my forearms come down and jump back up. It's not that complicated. People make it way too complicated. It's just CrossFit. We're just here to have fun."
Talayna Fortunato fell behind on the ring dips, taking fifth place in the workout with a time of 22:48.
Event 6 Results
1. Emily Bridgers (21:54)
2. Taylar Stallings (22:08)
3. Lauren Brooks (22:19)
The sound of barbells hitting the floor over and over again became the background sound during Event 7, the 64 pull-up and eight 135-lb. overhead squat sprint. In the early heats, many women struggled with the 135-lb. barbell.
"I have a lot of weaknesses to work on still, and I feel like they were highlighted this weekend, which is good, and it's bad,” said Elise Trexler. “You never want them to be highlighted at regionals, but better now then later. I know what I need to work on for next year." The final women’s heat had fans on their feet as they wondered who would win the event--Talayna Fortunato or Emily Bridgers?
Fortunato blew through the pull-ups with Bridgers right behind her. Fortunato went unbroken on the overhead squats, coming across the finish line in 2:00. Bridgers followed six seconds later.
“I feel good,” said Fortunato after the event. “I'm excited. It was fun. We're done.”
“[This weekend] was a good challenge,” Fortunato added. “Some of the workouts, like the strict handstand push-ups and ring dips, have been really big goats for me, and I worked a lot on them this year just to be able to do half of what people shorter than me can do. I was really excited to get through that and do well.”
On the finish mat, Bridgers looked ecstatic. After two heartbreaking misses, Bridgers had finally sealed her berth to the CrossFit Games.
"Oh my God! It's amazing,” said Bridgers, with a huge smile on her face. “Just to make it [to the Games] is an honor, but to come in first... It was a goal for sure, and I followed through with it, and I couldn't be more happy."
With Bridgers’ second place finish on Event 7, she took the top spot on the leaderboard, nine points ahead of Fortunato.
"It's been a long journey,” said Bridgers. "I wanted to make sure to make all my overhead squats and get through my pull-ups however I could. I knew Talayna would probably be faster than me on those, and I was just going to block that out and finish it off."
Taylar Stallings tied Lauren Brooks for third as they both raced across the finish line at 2:55. Brooks finished third overall and will be making her first trip to the Games.
"Right now, I don't know what to do with myself. I'm really excited but I'm sort of in disbelief,” said Brooks. “I'm sure it'll sink in later, and I'll start freaking out and training."
Event 7 Results
1. Talayna Fortunato (2:00)
2. Emily Bridgers (2:06)
3T. Lauren Brooks (2:55)
3T. Taylar Stallings (2:55)
1. Emily Bridgers (15)
2. Talayna Fortunato (24)
3. Lauren Brooks (38)
4. Hannah Richards (61)
5. Taylar Stallings (68)
6. Lauren Truszkowski (72)
7. Sonya McMillan (89)
8. Sarabeth Phillips (95)
9. Shana Alverson (95)
10. Jessica Carillon (100)
View the South East Regional in Photos