The top five. It’s where every Regional competitor dreams of being at the end of Day 3.
They all dream of stepping onto the finish mat after Event 6, throwing their arms in the air in victory and having their names announced in front of thousands of people before being whisked away for drug testing, interviewed about how excited they are and fitted for their CrossFit Games gear.
This year at the Pacific Regional in Sydney, Australia, the five deserving women who got to experience the dream were Tia-Clair Toomey, Kara Saunders, Justine Beath, Courtney Haley and the youngest athlete in the field, 21-year-old Maddie Sturt, who qualified for her third consecutive CrossFit Games.
Just five athletes out of 40: They become our main focus, while the other 35 are cast away until next year. We often assume the other 35 leave disappointed, devastated, broken, only to return home to start the daunting journey of rebuilding themselves so they can become part of that final five next time.
But when you talk to the athletes—to the other 35—you’ll learn they each have a unique and worthwhile story to tell. And usually it has nothing to do with being part of the final five.
Katelin Marks is one of them. Just 10 months ago, Marks, who placed 17th overall this weekend, gave birth to her first child. This season for Marks became about something bigger than becoming one of the five. It has been about embracing motherhood, all the while finding the strength and energy to take care of herself. Going through this experience has made her tougher than she has ever been, she explained.
“Having a baby teaches you so so much about yourself and what your body is capable of,” said Marks, who admitted that just qualifying for Regionals this year was a major win for her.
“I’m so proud to be here today, and I want(ed) to show everyone, and especially my son, that anything is possible,” she said.
And then there’s Stephanie Ortiz—11th overall this weekend—a woman who knows too well what it feels like to fall short of the top five. Ortiz has found herself in the dreaded sixth-place position twice (2015 and 2017). In 2014, she finished eighth.
When Ortiz placed sixth in 2017, people in her life kept offering sympathy, assuming she was devastated, she explained.
“People kept telling me how unlucky I was, and I was absolutely appalled at that response. I was the sixth-fittest female in the Pacific Region. I was absolutely without a doubt so proud of my achievement,” she said.
Ortiz added: “Every female and male competing at this level should be. Are we all gunning for those five spots? Hell yeah, we are. And that’s what excites me.”
It’s what excites her, and it’s what drives her to train. But missing out by just a little bit time and time again has taught Ortiz something more important: grace.
“It has taught me how to be a gracious competitor,” she said.
Gracious and fearless.
“I am becoming more aware of how fortunate we are to do what we love and to have it show out on the floor. I have gone through every emotion out there. … I figure if I’ve gone through all of that, then there’s really nothing, no fear, holding me back,” she said.
2018 Games Qualifiers From the Pacific
1. Tia-Clair Toomey (582)
2. Kara Saunders (552)
3. Justine Beath (468)
4. Courtney Haley (434)
5. Madeline Sturt (434)
1. James Newbury (546)
2. Dean Linder-Leighton (446)
3. Khan Porter (412)
4. Royce Dunne (394)
5. Zeke Grove (384)
1. Reebok CrossFit Frankston (552)
2. Schwartzs CrossFit Melbourne (512)
3. CrossFit 121 (460)
4. CrossFit Athletic (450)
5. CrossFit East Tamaki (432)