During each Games season there is always some chatter about which regions are the toughest. This is usually mixed in with a lot of regional pride and posturing, and the inevitable discussions about whether some regions deserve the number of Games spots they have, etc.
One interesting way to evaluate the strength of a region is to look at which regions produced the most top Masters athletes.
The Masters Divisions provide unique insight into how CrossFit has spread within a region. Attracting committed athletes 40 years old or older, and developing them into top competitors is not an easy task. This takes time and a culture committed to lifelong athletic pursuits. The regions with the most overall competitors don’t necessarily have the most Masters athletes, and the regions with the most Masters athletes don’t necessarily have the most competitive Masters athletes.
The top-five regions based on the number of Masters athletes participating in the Open are the North East, Europe, South East, Mid Atlantic and North Central. The three largest Super Regions are the Atlantic, South and East.
By contrast, the top-five regions based on the number of Masters athletes in the top 20 worldwide in the 2016 Open are the South East, Northern California, North East, Southern California, and Australia. The three Super Regions with the most top-20 Masters are California, Atlantic, and South.
If the abilities of the Masters athletes in each region were similarly distributed, we would expect each region to have roughly the same percentage of athletes in the top 20 that they do overall. However, NorCal had a lot more top-20 finishers than their size would have predicted. This was also true for SoCal, North West, Canada West and Australia.
Conversely, the Europe Region had far fewer top-20 finishers than expected, as did South Central, Mid Atlantic, and North Central.
These numbers imply that the distribution of abilities among Masters is likely different between the different regions. In regions where CrossFit is a relatively new phenomenon, we might expect a lower concentration of top Masters athletes. We know it takes a little longer for athletes over 40 to develop their skills compared to 20-30 year olds, but there are a lot of other possible underlying causes affecting these demographic dynamics as well.