Dallas looked a little like Carson, California, on Day 1 of the South Regional, as CrossFit Games athletes from across three regions made their first match at the regional competition.
Joining 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games champion Camille Leblanc-Bazinet are two-time Games athletes Margaux Alvarez, Amanda Goodman and Tiffany Hendrickson. Three-time Games athlete Jenn Jones is also out to prove she can keep her stake on the top spot even in the company of a champion.
“It doesn’t matter who is going to be there from an (athlete’s) perspective,” Jones said before the competition. “We all go out there and lay what we have on the line … (Leblanc-Bazinet) is just another one of the many great athletes that this sport has cultivated.”
Challenging the veterans are two fresh faces: former gymnast Alexis Johnson who finished the Open in 29th place worldwide, and 18-year-old Maddy Myers who’s a member of Team USA Weightlifting’s Junior World Championship team and Junior American record holder in the women’s 58-kg weight class. Myers took 32nd place worldwide in the Open.
On the men’s side, just three 2014 Games qualifiers return to compete in the regional triumvirate, making room for up-and-comer Travis Williams and former Ute CrossFit team member Adrian Conway.
In a trade of CrossFit Games legends, six-time Games athlete Matt Chan follows a near-fatal mountain biking accident in 2014 with an attempt to match Chris Spealler’s seven-time Games career. Spealler, however, kept his promise to retire when he signed off in 2014.
“There is a part of me that wishes I was still out there,” Spealler said in the days before the regional. “(But) the time I've had to spend with my family and dedicate toward other things has also been a good and needed change.”
To test the toughest athletes, the day began with the toughest test: a full day of Heroes.
Randy was first programmed in 2008 to honor Randy Simmons, a 27-year LAPD veteran and SWAT team member killed in the line of duty. His namesake event forced athletes to work at the fringe of the redline—go too fast and you’ll burn out, too slow and you’ll forget it’s a sprint.
At 75 lb., the barbell was light enough for most athletes to muscle snatch. But efficiency comes at a high price—namely oxygen—and no man performed the event unbroken. Still, 13 out of 48 athletes finished all 75 snatches in less than 3 minutes.
The winning time came out of the final heat, with the South Central’s Travis Williams’ sprint to the finish at 2:35.5, just 1.2 seconds short of the event record set at the Atlantic Regional by Dominick Maurici.
Williams’ victory was Jason Hoggan’s heartbreak.
Though they went nearly rep-for-rep the whole event, Hoggan seemed to have the edge, casually flipping the bar over a swift muscle snatch and turnover, while Williams opted for a shallow power snatch.
After leaping over the bar on the pair’s final rep, they began to run and the crowd gleefully anticipated a photo finish. But Hoggan’s judge called him back to the bar after just a few steps, demanding one more good rep.
"I lost my grip after that 24th rep and I tried to regroup, so I think I might have been leaning a little forward on the last rep and I didn't hear the no rep until I was over the bar,” Hoggan said. "It cost me a couple of spots, but I should be able to bounce back. These next couple of events are mine."
Second place went to 2013 Games athlete Roy Gamboa in the second heat with a time of 2:35.9, while Conway took third with a time of 2:37.
Event 1 Results
1. Travis Williams (2:35.5)
2. Roy Gamboa (2:35.9)
3. Adrian Conway (2:37.9)
4. Jason Hoggan (2:38.9)
5. Zach Forrest (2:42.1)
First appearing on CrossFit.com in 2009, Tommy V honors Senior Chief Petty Officer Thomas J. Valentine who died in a training accident that year. The couplet of thrusters and rope climbs features more rope climbs than have ever appeared in an individual regional or Games event at 27.
The volume forced men who could normally scale the 15-foot rope in one or two pulls to take two or three.
In Heat 4, Chan showed his colors as a rock climber with a chalk bag dangling from his shorts. He ascended the rope in two pulls, reaching with both hands to regrip after each step with his legs. The first to reach the final set of 9 thrusters at 6:36, he was on track to take the event.
But muscle failure is hard to predict and even harder to recover from. Showing his first sign of fatigue on his final four rope climbs, his pace slowed to a vertical crawl, ending in a no rep on his penultimate climb. While he rested, four other athletes hit the finish mat.
"It just all accumulates, it's just a lot of reps—27 reps no matter how you divide it up,” Chan said. “You can choose the right amount of rest and if it's still just too fast of a pace, then on that last rep it'll get ya."
Dusty Flores, sporting blue leggings with Minion characters down the leg, was the first to the rope after an unbroken set of 21 thrusters. But he was soon met by Hoggan, Jordan Cook and Williams, each finishing the set of 12 rope ascents just after the 3-minute mark.
Hoggan was the first to pick up the barbell again, tearing off his shirt and banking 6 reps before Williams picked up his. After unbroken thrusters by each, they met at the rope. But while Williams bent to tie his shoe and chalk up, Cook caught up, just 1 rope climb behind Hoggan.
At 6:14, Hoggan walked back to his bar for the final set of thrusters, Cook by his side. Cook recovered faster, finishing 5 of the 9 reps before Hoggan began. All eyes on Cook, he began his final ascents at 6:47. But fatigue set in and he was forced to pause for more than 5 seconds before his fifth rep.
Meanwhile, Gamboa absconded with the lead unnoticed.
While Cook had minimized rest time until his final 6 ascents, Gamboa had one strategy from the beginning.
"I just took two deep breaths and climbed, and two deeps breaths and climbed,” Gamboa said.
The strategy paid off with a 4.3-second advantage, and Gamboa made heads turn as he burst from the rig to take the event win in 8:21.5.
“I went through this (event) once before,” he said. “It was really about pacing myself, the easy part was the thrusters. It was a grip killer."
Event 2 Results
1. Roy Gamboa (8:21.5)
2. Jordan Cook (8:25.8)
3. Patrick Burke (8:34.1)
4. Adrian Conway (8:38.6)
5. Jason Hoggan (9:02.2)
1. Roy Gamboa (195 points)
2. Adrian Conway (175 points)
3. Travis Williams (173 points)
4. Jason Hoggan (165 points)
5. Jordan Cook (158 points)
6. Patrick Burke (151 points)
7. Chase Duke (130 points)
8. Nathaniel Olsen (116 points)
9. Jeff Germond (114 points)
10. Caleb Christian (110 points)
After Day 1, Roy Gamboa has set a pace to earn redemption for a narrow Games miss at the South Central Regional last year. With a second and first place in the first two events and 195 points to his name, he’s earned a 20-point berth between himself and Conway in second. Williams, Hoggan and Cook make up the third- through fifth-place qualifying spots with a 17-point spread between them. Just 7 points separate Cook from six-time Games athlete Patrick Burke, in sixth overall.
When the women took the floor for Randy, they showed us CrossFit is just as much about heart as fitness. Though Nega Ibarra finished the event in last place with a time of 5:37, it was she who earned the most support. As as she struggled to lock out the 55-lb. barbell during her final 10 reps, her competitors huddled around her to offer encouragement.
Three-time Games athlete Jasmine Dever finished all 75 reps unbroken. Holding the bar overhead as she advanced between sets, she won the third heat with a time of 2:44.7.
"It's more of a mental workout than anything,” Dever said. “The faster you push through it, the faster you get done."
When Leblanc-Bazinet stepped onto the floor, the South gave her an official welcome, screaming as they had for no other competitor’s name. With a 200-lb. snatch and a 2:04 Fran time, it seemed all but sure she’d win an event that required just as much weightlifting technique as engine.
But two lanes to her left Alvarez, who was the first to pick up her bar after the buzzer sounded, made her move quietly. At 1:39, Alvarez advanced her bar to the final set of 25 snatches, followed by Rachel Garibay and Jones. Leblanc-Bazinet followed almost 10 seconds after Alvarez.
Alvarez’s reps looked more labored than the champ’s with a deeper catch and a slower turnover. Still, the time she purchased with her initial sprint to the bar gave her all the room she needed, and she stopped the clock at 2:35.3 for first place in the event, 6.7 seconds before Leblanc-Bazinet followed suit for second place. Third place went to Dever from the third heat.
After her win, Alvarez blew a kiss to the crowd.
"I power snatched because it was the quickest way,” she said. “I feel great."
Event 1 Results
1. Margaux Alvarez 2:35.3
2. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet 2:42.2
3. Jasmine Dever 2:44.7
4. Jenn Jones 2:44.8
5. Rachel Garibay 2:47.6
CrossFit competition favors those who learn from their mistakes.
Last year, athletes who failed to practice legless rope climbs after the movement’s first appearance in the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games floundered at the rope. While Andrea Ager, an individual regional competitor since 2012, had no problem with the legless climbs that year, she went out too fast and took too little rest. In her final round of ascents, she failed just inches from the top in multiple attempts.
Today, Ager proved she won’t be fooled twice, taking her first event win with a time of 8:32 in Event 2’s couplet of 75-lb. thrusters and 15-foot rope climbs. The performance came out of the fourth heat.
Though Amanda Goodman was the first to the rope in Ager’s heat, Ager overtook Goodman with one-and-a-half pulls to every two of Goodman’s. She never let the lead go, even as she paused to tap the crossbeam a second time in her 12th ascent, wary of grazing the beam and a possible no rep.
The thrusters were merely an inconvenience for Ager, and she jumped straight into the set of 9 ascents with no rest between the barbell and the rope. After 6 ascents, she slowed her pace, deliberately resting for 5-7 seconds between each climb.
Returning to her barbell at 6:25, she broke her final 9 thrusters into two sets walking slowly to her rope and shaking her arms. With every second she rested, Anna Tunnicliffe’s event record time (8:24.9) drew closer. Ager seemed to be fighting her own urge to move faster. The crowd urged her on, hungry to see a record shattered.
Ager paused between the last two ascents. At the 8:10 mark, she dropped to the floor for an all-out sprint, crashing into the rails behind the finish mat at 8:32. Her time would hold through the final heat.
"I knew this was my workout,” Ager said after her win.
Event 2 Results
1. Andrea Ager (8:32.0)
2. Margaux Alvarez (9:33.4)
3. Natalie Newhart (9:42.9)
4. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (9:47.9)
5. Whitney Cappellucci (9:56.1)
1. Margaux Alvarez (195 points)
2. Camille Leblanc-Bazinet (180 points)
3. Andrea Ager (167 points)
4. Amanda Goodman (148 points)
5. Jenn Jones (146 points)
6. Gabrielle Andrews (144 points)
7. Whitney Cappellucci (143 points)
8. Randi Stevens (142 points)
9. Maddy Myers (132 points)
10. Natalie Newhart (131 points)
After two events, four Games athletes hold four of the five qualifying spots. Alvarez ends the day in the top podium spot with 195 points, with Leblanc-Bazinet 15 points behind.
“I’m glad it’s over,” Leblanc-Bazinet said after the day’s events.
Ager’s Event 2 win brought her from 10th place after the first event to third overall, a qualifying position with a two-spot safety net below. Goodman and Jones take up the final two qualifying places separated by just 2 points with totals of 146 and 144, respectively.
Still, hundreds of points remain to be claimed at the 2015 Reebok CrossFit Games South Regional, and tomorrow CrossFit Games hopefuls will have to prove they can handle high volume and heavy loads just as well as light barbells and ropes.