"I never honestly believed that I could compete."
From the first week of the 2013 Open, an unknown name, Alea Helmick, appeared on the Mid Atlantic Women’s Leaderboard. Helmick has been CrossFitting less than a year and only seriously since this summer. After three weeks of Open competition, she is sitting in seventh place in the region, and tied for 108th worldwide, despite being a newbie to the sport.
Helmick was a Division I track and field athlete at Towson University. While in college, she held the 100-meter hurtle record. However, when she graduated in late 2009, her career as a teacher became her priority.
"I'd go to the gym here and there, but there was really no set routine,” she says. “I was a new teacher and it kind of consumed my life."
Helmick's husband, Gary, who's currently in 13th place in the Mid Atlantic, started CrossFitting in 2011, as a retired minor league baseball player looking for a new outlet.
In the beginning, she admits she thought CrossFit was a little crazy, until they attended the 2012 Mid Atlantic Regional as spectators.
At Regionals, Helmick remembers feeling admiration for the female competitors and an urge to be a part of the community. After the experience, she decided to try CrossFit herself.
The first workout she tried was Open Workout 12.1 — seven minutes of burpees. She completed 91 reps.
She continued to CrossFit a couple times a week, until her husband opened his affiliate, CrossFit Revamped, in Columbia, Md., this past summer. It was at that point she began training more frequently.
Since then, Helmick has been training six to seven times a week, following the gym’s programming with some individualized programming thrown in. Gary programs all of her workouts. Her training involves both strength and met-con on most days.
As the Open approached, those around Helmick told her they thought she could be competitive in 2013.
"I never honestly believed that I could compete," she says.
However, when Helmick and her husband attended the Arnold Classic just before the Open and saw Christy Phillips and Julie Foucher compete in person, she started to wonder.
"It was awesome to see them perform. They moved so well, but I felt like I had some common similarities with the way that I moved the barbell,” she recalls. “I felt a little bit more confident. I didn't feel intimidated anymore."
On Open Workout 13.1, she posted a score of 197 reps. She was sure others would post higher scores, but she finished second in the region.
"I was definitely shocked, it's something I didn't really expect."
Once she settled in to the fact that she had done exceptionally well, she decided she had something to prove in week two.
"I didn't want to be considered a one-hit wonder,” she says. “I didn't just want to be considered a strong athlete, but one that could kill a met-con, too."
Her fourth-place finish on 13.2 with a score of 362, put her in first place overall in the Mid Atlantic, sending the message she’s going to be competitive.
13.3 proved to be a little more of a challenge.
"Going into the workout, it had two of my goats,” she says. “It had double-unders, which I'm not very good at, and muscle-ups. It would be the second time I had ever done them in a (workout).”
Despite a 44th place on 13.3, Helmick is happy with her performance. Having only gotten her first muscle-up a couple months ago, she was able to get 10 in the workout for a score of 250.
"I am looking forward to the next couple of workouts. Now that I have gotten my goats out of the way,” she says. “Now that there is not something that will hold me back like the double-unders. My goal is to just give it my all, give my 100 percent, do all the workouts one time, make sure I don't leave anything behind."
Going into the Open, Gary’s goal was to qualify for Regionals. While Helmick didn’t share that goal initially, she now hopes they both qualify.
Helmick says she believes her mental capacity to give it her all, as well as her strength, are her best attributes as an athlete. She says Regionals will be a place for her to showcase both.
Helmick's strength is apparent in her personal records. She can deadlift 315 lb., clean 205 lb., snatch 150 lb. and squat 270 lb.
"I feel like Regionals is a little bit more up my alley because I have done a lot of
Regional workouts before, and I'm usually more successful with them because they are strength based," she says.
Helmick is excited at the prospect of qualifying to compete at the Mid Atlantic Regional, but is committed to staying levelheaded. Her main priority with CrossFit is to have fun and she wants to keep it that way.
"Going into (Regionals), I'd consider myself the underdog because I have never been there. I don't have any expectations. Going in without any expectations makes me more excited than going in with an expectation to win it all."