Turning Heads in Utah: Michaela North

March 6, 2012

Aimee Berencsi

Her 147-pound max snatch helped her get 96 reps on 12.2, but it didn't come easy.


You may have not heard of Michaela North before, but she is turning heads in Utah and throughout the South West, as she was the first woman to submit more than 90 reps for workout 12.2.

Michaela North, a 24-year-old collegiate athlete, got 96 total reps on the second Open workout and has only been doing CrossFit for seven months. She says her sites are set on Regionals.

North attended Weber State University on a full-ride scholarship in track and field. She earned All-Conference honors every year competing in the 100-meter hurdles, long jump and heptathlon. She graduated in 2010 with a degree in marketing and started a career right away with a local advertising agency. However, after a few months away from competition, she realized she missed it and needed to find something new.

In July 2011, a friend took her to a free Saturday class at Wasatch CrossFit in Layton, Utah where she met owners, Damon and Pricilla Stewart. “I fell in love with CrossFit right away.  I think it’s the perfect thing for any post collegiate athlete,” she says.

North enjoyed it so much, she quit her job, got her L-1 certificate, and is now a personal trainer and nutrition coach at Wasatch CrossFit. “Wasatch has such an amazing community,” she says. “It was really easy to get in and make friends so quickly.”  

North dove right into competition joining co-owner, Pricilla Stewart, for her first team competition in late July and then her first individual competition in September. At the Fitness Elevated Competition, North finished 6th and realized some of her biggest weaknesses. “I had a hard time with a lot of the skill elements,” she explains. “I hadn’t really worked on double-unders, muscle-ups, and toes-to-bar. I just hadn’t practiced enough. But after I ran my first marathon, I got in the gym a lot more, and this past January I finally got muscle-ups and feel much more comfortable on the pull-up bar.”

Heading into the Open, North wasn’t really sure what to expect, but figured her track and marathon background would help her. “The hurdles and long jump are explosive events, so I am comfortable with anything that requires power,” she says. “Having done marathons, I feel like I know how to push my body to the limit and endure through longer, more monotonous things and can focus on pushing through the pain.”

However, she gives most of the credit for getting ready for the Open to her coaches. She works with Damien Stewart on her programming, with a focus on gymnastics and is working with Dave Chiu on her Olympic lifting. “Since I started working with Dave, I have improved my snatch by 27 pounds. Literally, in less than a month I went from 125 pounds, where I had no form or technique, to 147 pounds working with Dave.”  

Having that 147-pound max snatch helped her get her 96 reps in the second Open workout but it didn’t come easy. After finishing the first 90 reps with two minutes to go, she missed her first to attempts at 120 pounds. “After I missed my first two attempts, I had to stop and refocus,” she recalls. “Fundamentals came in here. The real competition started for me after 90 reps. I really had to focus and think about everything I learned to get those last six reps.”

Now, with two Open workouts under her belt, North feels like she knows what it takes to be a top-level athlete and wants to focus on getting her team to Regionals and on to the Games. “I definitely want to compete as an individual at some point, but I am new to this and just not quite sure I am ready this year,” she says. “Damien, Priscilla, and my husband are all competing on the team so it’s been a lot of fun working out with them in the team atmosphere. I feel like I can do team and get a feel for what the competition is all about this year and then go individual some day, I would love that.”  

North, sitting in 18th place in the South West Region after 12.2, sums up her CrossFit experience saying, “I’m excited. I feel like I put one toe in the water and then just decided to dive all in. It’s been a blast so far and I have learned so much.”