March 16, 2021
Who Aged Up in the Masters and Teenage Divisions?
By Chad Schroeder
As we get older, a couple of years’ difference is way more significant to your relative performance than in your 20s.
As we get older, a couple of years’ difference is way more significant to your relative performance than in your 20s.

Ever since the masters age divisions were created in 2011, there has been the annual review to see who “aged up” into a new division. And this is not just to see who the new competition in an age division will be; it is also a significant indicator of who will do well in the division.

A five-year age range for masters divisions initially does not seem that significant. For the individual division (18-34 years old) Games champions have been from 21 to 33 years old. The individual Games podium athletes have ranged from 20 to 34 years old with breakout age range totals of 30% (20-24), 48% (25-29), and 22% (30-34). However, once in the masters divisions, there is a demonstrable clustering of success from the younger athletes in a division for the Age Group Online Qualifier (AGOQ) and at the Games. As we get older, a couple of years’ difference is way more significant to your relative performance than in your 20s. Age is more than just a number for masters.  

Average Ages in Division

The average athlete in the top 200 in the AGOQ has been in their division for 1.4 years (i.e., the average age of the Masters 40-44 in the AGOQ has been 41.4 years old). As for the average age of the Games masters in each division, it is 1.3 years. For masters landing on the podium at the Games, the average time in their division is 1.1 years. And for Games masters champions, the average is 0.8 years in the division. Relative in-division age is massively important.

Later Years In-Division Athletes

The above phenomenon in the masters age divisions is no secret. There are a lot of instances where elite masters will actually take off from seriously competing when it is their last year in an age division since they know their odds are slim to qualify for the Games. They may use the year off competition to heal up some injuries and come back fresh to try to qualify for the Games as the newbie in the next age division. This happens quite frequently. 

Only a few masters athletes have shown they can still compete and make it back to the Games in the later years of an age division. The most notable is the CrossFit masters Iron Woman herself, Lynne Knapman, who competed in every Games that included masters divisions and qualified for the 2020 Games). Other resilient masters include Ron Ortiz, Mary Beth Prodromides, David Hippensteel, Laurie Meschishnick, Will Powell, etc. 

It is a truly notable and rare feat when a masters athlete wins their age division in their last year of eligibility. This has happened just three times: Stephanie Roy (39 at CFG17), Will Powell (54 at CFG14), and Susan Habbe (49 at CFG11). Last-year masters division champions correlate to just 3.2% of all of the masters champions. For reference, over the course of Games competition history, half the masters champions were in the first year of their age division. Last-year masters in their age division account for just 6.0% of all Games masters podium spots (17 instances).

First-Time Masters

Each season brings a crop of the newly minted masters. Initially, in 2010, the masters division started  with athletes who were 50 years old and older. From 2011 to 2012, the youngest age division was 45-49. From 2013 to 2016, the youngest was 40-44. And then starting in 2017, the youngest division became 35-39. It seems highly unlikely that there were will be a 30-35 division (after all, Mathew Fraser won the Games last year at the age of 30). Conversely, the masters divisions are expanding this season with the advent of the 65+ age divisions (thus 60+ becomes the 60-64 age division). Read more about these new aged divisions here.

In the first couple of years of the masters competition, most masters athletes had not been to the Games as younger athletes. There were some who were on teams in 2009 or competed in the 2007 or 2008 Games where qualifying was not required. Then, when the younger age divisions were added, more former Games individuals and team members started to compete as masters. This really ramped up with the 35-39 age division. At the 2017 Games in the inaugural year of the 35-39 age division, there were four former individual podium athletes competing, one of whom was former champion Kristan Clever. The other podium athletes were Chris Spealler, Rebecca Voigt Miller, and Kyle Kasperbauer. Of the 40 athletes in 2017’s 35-39 age division, nine had competed at the Games as individuals, and another six had competed at the Games on teams. Almost all of them had competed at Regionals as an individual and/or on a team. The masters divisions gave new opportunities for our sport’s former stars to get to compete again for podium positions.

There are some differences between the women and men in the Masters 35-39 divisions. For the men, most have not competed as individuals at the Games for at least a couple of years. The men’s Games individual field has always been younger than the women (roughly 1.3 years younger than the women). Only Josh Bridges and Jason Smith were eligible to compete as an individual or as a masters athlete in the last five years (Smith was also the only 2019 Games national champion with a legitimate chance to compete in the masters division). 

For the women’s competition, there usually are a couple of athletes each season who have had the option to compete as a masters athlete or an individual. In the last five years, a woman was eligible to compete as an individual or masters athlete eight different times (This includes Samantha Briggs and Renata Pimentel, who were the only national champions with legitimate chances to qualify in the masters division in 2019). Looking at this season’s new 35-year-old women, the list of women eligible for individual or masters competition will be growing. 

The Teenager Divisions

For the teenagers, the phenomenon is reversed. With just two years for each age division, the younger teenagers often lag behind. In the teenage years, one year typically makes a huge difference, especially for the boys. In the AGOQ, just 32% of the girls and 18% of the boys were 14 years old. At the Games, 25% of the girls and 9% of the boys were 14 years old. As for the 16-17 division, in the AGOQ, 39% of the girls and 31% of the boys were 16 years old. At the Games, interestingly, 43% of the girls (an increase from the AGOQ) were 16 years old, but just 15% of the boys were 16 years old. 

Thus, it makes it quite notable to be a Games champion at the age of 14 or 16. The only teenagers who have achieved this feat were Nicholas Paladino (16 at the 2015 Games), Kaela Stefano (16 at the 2017 Games), Dallin Pepper (16 at the 2018 Games), and Olivia Sulek (14 at the 2018 Games and the only 14-year-old Games champion). These four first-year age division champions correlate to just 6.7% of all the teenage champions. Additionally, first-year teenagers in their age division account for just 18.3% of all teenage podium spots (11 in all). 

Two Sets of Age Division Rookies

Another interesting aspect to consider this season is that all the age group athletes who aged up last year did not get that chance to compete in their new age division as rookies due to COVID-19 causing the cancellation of the age group competitions at the 2020 CrossFit Games. Thus, in effect, there will be twice as many “rookies” in their respective age divisions at the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games, but the “newbie bump” will benefit the athletes aging up this season.

Age Group Division Notables

Below are the notable elite athletes who have aged up into a new age division this season. Apologies for not including more of the newly aged-up masters — these growing divisions feature even more stars who will likely make their mark in the next stages of competition. 

For teenagers, this list is opposite of the masters and includes notable 15- and 17-year-olds, many of whom competed as 14- and 16-year-olds at the Games.

Women 35-39  
Kristin Holte 7x Games Individual (1 Podium)
Alessandra Pichelli 7x Games Individual, 1x Games Team (1 Podium)
Jennifer Smith 3x Games Individual, 3x Games Team
Mandi Janowitz

1x Games Individual, 3x Games Team (1x Champion, 2 Podiums)

Chelsey Hughes 1x Games Individual, 1x Games Team
Casey Campbell 1x Games Individual
Gemma Root 2x Games Team
   

 

Alessandra Pichelli
Alessandra Pichelli

 

Women 40-44  
Rebecca Voigt Miller

10x Games Individual (1 Podium), 2x Games Master (2 Podiums), CFG20 Masters Qualifier

Talayna Fortunato 3x Games Individual (1 Podium)
Delaina Snider 1x Games Team, 1x Games Master
Ursula Fasel

2x Games Master

Lisa Marquette 1x Games Master
Rachel Green

2020 AGOQ 12th Place

 

Women 45-49  
Annie Sakamoto 2x Games Individual, 1x Games Team, 2x Games Master (2 Podiums)

Ali Crawford

1x Games Master
Maria Vulcano 1x Games Master
Danica Rolfe

2020 AGOQ 18th Place

 

Women 50-54  
Cheryl Brost 3x Games Individual, 5x Games Master (2x Champion, 3 Podiums)
Julie Rappaport 1x Games Team, 1x Games Master, CFG20 Masters
Carrie Sandoval 3x Games Master
Elena Kulik 2x Games Master
Patti Comeaux 1x Games Master

 

Cheryl Brost
Cheryl Brost

 

Women 55-59  
Christine Wells 2x Games Master
Rose Wall 1x Games Master
Lisa Fuafiva

2020 Open 46th Place

 

Women 60-64  
Mary Beth Prodromides 8x Games Master (4x Champion, 6 Podiums)
Bianca Williams 2x Games Master (2 Podiums), CFG20 & CFG17 Masters
Donna Eramo 3x Games Master
Litsa Olsson 3x Games Master
Nella Forte 2x Games Master
Debbie Corwin

2020 AGOQ 32nd Place

 

Women 65+  
Lidia Beer (65) 6x Games Master (1 Podium)
Shaun Havard (65) 4x Games Master (2x Champion, 3 Podiums)
Karen Miller 2x Games Master (1 Podium)
Pia Gund (65) 3x Games Master
Marcia Yager (65) 2x Games Master (1 Podium)
Diana Davidson 2x Games Master
Karin Gogolsky 2x Games Master

 

Lidia Beer
Lidia Beer

 

Girls 14-15  
Olivia Kerstetter CFG20 Qualifier
Bianca Miller CFG20 Qualifier
Dariana Rosales CFG20 Qualifier
Emily Meyer

2020 AGOQ 12th Place

Trista Smith

2020 AGOQ 12th Place

 

Girls 16-17  
Olivia Sulek 2x Games Teenager (1x Champion, 1 Podium), CFG20 Qualifier
Gigi Sabatini 2x Games Teenager (1 Podium), CFG20 Qualifier
Paulina Haro 2x Games Teenager, CFG20 Qualifier
Mallory O'Brien 2x Games Teenager
Emma Cary 1x Games Teenager (1x Champion, 1 Podium), CFG20 Qualifier
Chloe Honaker 1x Games Teenager

 

Mal O'Brien
Mallory O'Brien

 

Men 35-39  
James Hobart

3x Games Individual, 5x Games Team (3x Champion, 4 Podiums)

Daniel Tyminski 4x Games Individual
Adrian Conway

1x Games Individual, 3x Games Team (3x Champion, 3 Podiums)

Joe Scali 1x Games Individual, 1x Games Team
Nick Bloch 1x Games Individual
Kevin Manuel 1x Games Individual

 

Joe Scali
Joe Scali

 

Men 40-44  
Guido Trinidad 1x Games Individual, 1x Games Master

 

Men 45-49  
Breck Berry 4x Games Individual, 1x Games Team, 1x Games Master
Steven Swistak 3x Games Master
Michael Kern 3x Games Master (1 Podium)
Jason Grubb 2x Games Master (1x Champion, 2 Podiums)
David Hamel 1x Games Master, CFG17 Masters Qualifier
Alan Bates

2020 AGOQ 37th Place

Bradley Pritchard 3x Games Master

 

Men 50-54  
Robert Davis  6x Games Master (2x Champion, 3 Podiums)
Brent Maier 5x Games Master (3 Podiums)
James Grundler 4x Games Master
Bernard Luzi 3x Games Master
Greg Merkac 1x Games Master
Tom Hemenway 1x Games Master
Matt Cia 2x Games Master

 

James Grundler
James Grundler

 

Men 55-59  
Ron Ortiz 8x Games Master (2x Champion, 4 Podiums), CFG20 Masters Qualifier
Marco Casali 3x Games Master (2 Podiums)
Jay Bradley 2x Games Master 
Kevin Unger

1x Games Master

 

Men 60-64  
Dennis Cole 5x Games Master
Gus VanDerVoort 2x Games Master
Jim Duwve 2x Games Master
Jeff Christy 1x Games Master
Christian Galy

1x Games Master

 

Men 65+  

David Hippensteel

7x Games Master (3x Masters Champion, 3 Podiums), CFG20 Qualifier
Clayton Corwin 2x Games Master
David Tripp 1x Games Master
Walter Russell Brown 1x Games Master

 

David Hippensteel
David Hippensteel

 

Boys 14-15  
Gustavo Pusch

2020 AGOQ 12th Place

Rafael Breedveld

2020 AGOQ 31st Place

Carlos Valdivia

2020 AGOQ 44th Place

Wesley Chaffin

2020 AGOQ 46th Place

 

Boys 16-17  
Amato Mazzocca 2x Games Teenager (1 Podium), CFG20 Qualifier
Brynjar Ari Magnusson 2x Games Teenager (1 Podium)
David Bradley 1x Games Teenager (1x Champion, 1 Podium)
Alex Blazo 1x Games Teenager
William Stupart 1x Games Teenager
Azariah Price 1x Games Teenager
Jace Peck

2020 AGOQ 18th Place

 


Chad Schroeder has been doing CrossFit since 2009. Schroeder started working for CrossFit Media regularly at the 2012 CrossFit Games. He compiles and tracks all the CrossFit Games season results, athlete bios, and career records. He provides direct stats and research assistance to the media crews during live events and production shows. Originally from Kansas City, Missouri, he is a civil engineer during the day and was in the United States Air Force for 10 years. He has his Professional Engineer’s license along with master’s and bachelor’s degrees in engineering. Before finding CrossFit, he came from a triathlon and marathon background. Outside his work and CrossFit, he enjoys hiking and snowshoeing in the Colorado mountains  He also likes following MMA (UFC) and is a huge Star Wars fan and Lego collector.

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