“You have to train really hard, and you have a lot of bad days ... It takes heart and dedication." ~Natalie McClain
“I needed to use everything that I had left. I needed to block out pain and just throw my body into the fire, not care what was happening, just get the reps done, don’t stop moving, think about the next rep, go faster and get on the bar,” Zach Forrest said.
Event 7 is in the books and we know who will represent the South West at the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games. The latest batch of athletes features plenty of familiar faces, as well as a number of athletes who, after teetering on the cusp last season, will finally make their way west.
Headed to Carson this July are Matt Chan, Matt Hathcock and Zach Forrest for the men; Tiffany Hendrickson, Natalie McLain and Emmalee Moore for the women; and Hack's Pack UTE, Front Range CrossFit and Ute All-Stars for the teams.
Sarah Butler will be one to keep an eye on in the future. She may not be headed to the Games, but she ends her 2012 Regional experience on top with the best score of Event 7. Competing in Heat 2, Butler didn't skip a beat as she powered through her climbs and cleans, finishing with a time of 5:11.
Heat 3 had all the makings for a spectacular event. No one was going to touch Tiffany Hendrickson for the top spot, but with Natalie McLain and Becky Conzelman tied with 33 points apiece, and Emmalee Moore in striking distance, there was plenty of room for opportunity.
McLain and Moore took advantage of the opportunity presented.
“You have to train really hard, and you have a lot of bad days," said McLain, who pointed out that it takes more than just diet and training to be a champion. "You have your good days, too, but it’s hard to stay motivated. It takes heart and dedication."
McLain and Moore will make their first trip to the CrossFit Games this year after finishing the 2013 Regional in second and third, respectively.
Asked how she felt about making it to the Games, Moore said, "Wonderful."
"I’ve been trying this for three or four years, and it finally worked in my favor," she adds. "All the stars aligned, I guess.”
In addition to her Games bid, Moore has a lot to celebrate. She's set to tie the knot on Tuesday, and her berth at the CrossFit Games has thrown a wrench into her honeymoon plans. She's not complaining, though.
"I was gonna have a big cheat week, but that’s gonna be postponed," Moore said. "We are set up with Max Effort to go do a workout on the morning of my wedding. I talked to them about getting everybody in to do a workout. I’m up for it. It’ll be fun.”
For Hendrickson, the first-place finish is the end of one journey and the beginning of another.
"I feel exhaustion and pure happiness," Hendrickson said. "It's surreal — something I've worked towards for a really long time."
Matt Hathcock would not be denied a third time.
After finishing in fourth place at the past two Regional events, Hathcock shook the proverbial monkey off his back in the final event of the day to earn his spot at the Games.
Hathcock entered the final event one point ahead of Chris Spealler. He would take no chances. Out of breath after his last set of rope climbs, Hathcock willed his way ahead of Matt Chan, Zach Forrest, Spealler and Danny Nichols to finish on top with a time of 4:22.
"Last year, my head wasn't in the game," Hathcock said. "I was programming for myself and this year I changed that. Spencer Arnold has been coaching me since October and I lost some weight."
"Seems to have helped quite a bit," he added.
Spealler struggled to complete his last set of squat cleans, which allowed others to move ahead in the event and Forrest to jump up in the standings. Spealler will not make his eighth consecutive appearance at the Games this year.
“It’s bittersweet. I’m happy I qualified for the Games, but Chris is like a brother to me. CrossFit is community based and the experience comes from the other people you share the competition with," Forrest said. "While I’m extremely happy — I’ve worked really hard to get to the Games — it will not be the same without Spealler. It won’t be.”
The final event of the day required contributions from each team member. The number of squat cleans increased for every male/female pair. This meant teams had to weigh the strengths and weaknesses of its members and plan the event accordingly.
With the top spot in the South West locked down, Hack's Pack UTE could have easily set it on cruise control and coasted to an easy victory. But to Hack's Pack UTE, there is no letting up — a point they hammered home in the final event.
Hitting the ropes with reckless abandon, Hack’s Pack was relentless in their approach. One after another, Michael Cazayoux, Taylor Richards-Lindsay, Adrian Conway, Erin Bennion, Tommy Hackenbruck and Mary Lampas chipped away at the event and the field at large. When the dust settled, Hack's Pack UTE had their seventh first-place finish of the 2013 Regional and a new event record.
"We are really happy with the record," Conway said of their 13:12 time. "We knew that all six of our athletes were well-rounded and would do great."
Whereas the all-around skill of Hack's Pack UTE was on full display, the other Ute CrossFit Sugarhouse team was not as fortunate.
Michael Baker was the first on the floor for Ute All-Stars, and his performance nearly knocked them out of contention for a shot at the Games.
Baker struggled mightily with the squat cleans, and by the time he crossed the finish line, the Ute All-Stars were at a sizable disadvantage. Fortunately, the team had enough of a point differential to hold off CrossFit The Club and they are headed to the Games.
Looking back on their performance, the Ute All-Stars know there is room for improvement.
“Well, we’re going to start working on squat cleans a lot more I think," Alli Cerruti said. "You know, we came out strong on Friday. We came out really strong, and that helped us a lot and we maintained through Saturday, and we did well this morning. This afternoon was probably our biggest hiccup, but we just go back to the gym, and we just keep working and working and getting better and better.”
Still, the South West's third-place team sees the experience as another step in their development. They remain confident in their abilities.
"We’ll come together,” Cerruti said. "We’re young. We’ve got growing pains just like every other team does, but we don’t give up. That’s why we’re here and we deserve it.”
Finishing fourth in Event 7 and second overall for the Regional is Front Range CrossFit. Citing their training and execution, Chris Dozios is pleased with where his team is at as they head to the Games.
“We’re very excited to be going," said Dozois, who went team despite leading the pack in this year's Open competition. "Every year, the Team Division gets more and more competitive. When we first started — this gym has gone every year since 2009 — and in 2009 most people who could qualify Individual went Individual. And now teams are full of people who could compete as individuals, so it’s just getting more and more difficult to make it to the Games.”
Hackenbruck echoed Dozois' thoughts about the increased level of talent.
“The six of us are good enough to compete individually, not necessarily that everyone would make it to the Games, but everyone here has a shot. So that’s the way we train. It’s just more fun for each one of us to be on this super-team.”