Analysis by Tommy Marquez and Mike MacPherson
Which of CrossFit’s 17 regions are the most competitive? Some regions are ferocious—such as the North East, home of both the Fittest Man and Fittest Woman on Earth—while other regions struggle to send one athlete to the Games.
As the wall clock counts down to Feb. 23 and the start of the 2017 Open, we set out to answer this question by the numbers. The score for each division is the sum of three scores, which we’ve labeled Elite Strength, Region Strength and Region Depth:
● Elite Strength measures how strong the region’s most elite athletes are. We look at the best 2016 CrossFit Games finish by any competitor from the region.
● Region Strength measures how strong the region’s middle-of-the-pack athletes are. We look at the worldwide finish of the 10th individual (seventh team) from each region.
● Region Depth measures how good the tail end of the region is. We look at the worldwide finish of the 20th individual (15th team) from each region.
Let’s take the Mid Atlantic, home to 2016 Games silver medalist, Ben Smith. The Elite Strength ranking for the Mid Atlantic is second, because there was only one region in front of the Mid Atlantic at the 2016 Games—namely the North East, home the Fittest Man on Earth, Mat Fraser.
The region ranks 10th in Region Strength, because the worldwide Open performance of the 10th-place finisher from the Mid Atlantic, Kent Ingalls, was bettered by the 10th-place finishers from nine other regions.
And the Mid Atlantic ranks eighth for Region Depth, because seven other regions had better worldwide Open finishes by their 20th-place finishers than did the Mid Atlantic’s 20th-place finisher, Brandon Hedrick. You add up the three categories to get a total of 20, which makes the Mid Atlantic the sixth-strongest men’s region.
Here’s the full table of results for all 17 regions for the Men’s Division.
Cream of the Crop
Looking at the top five regions for men, the North East jumps off the page. Having Fraser lead the way certainly helps, but it’s more impressive that he has zero effect on the other two Open categories.
Simply put, the North East men were dominant in the Open overall. Thirteen athletes from the North East finished inside the top 100 worldwide in the Open, which means the North East accounted for 13 percent of the top 100. If the regions were equally represented, each of the 17 regions would have approximately 5.8 athletes in the top 100, so that 13 percent is significant.
The region’s 20th-place athlete finished higher worldwide in the Open than the 10th-place athlete in 12 of the 16 other regions, meaning 75 percent of the time, the region’s lowest qualifying athlete would have finished inside the top 10 elsewhere.
In the South West, he would have moved up a remarkable 17 spots to finish third overall, highlighting how strong the North East was in the Open.
Both the Europe and South East Regions could improve their Elite Strength scores if either Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson (third in 2015) or Noah Ohlsen (eighth in 2014, 2015) can replicate or improve upon past success at the Games.
Middle of the Road
Looking at the middle presents a considerable opportunity for movement in both directions.
Spots six through 11 are separated by only 7 points total. The Mid Atlantic and Canada East’s rankings were driven primarily by strong 2016 Games performances from Smith (second) and Patrick Vellner (third).
Beyond that, the region was middle of the road when it came to Open performances. The addition of Lucas Parker to Canada East adds another level of strength to a region already rich in current and former Games athletes such as Alex Vigneault, Paul Tremblay, Albert-Dominic Larouche and Simon Paquette.
Adding Parker puts another perennial Games athlete into a presumed qualifying spot at Regionals, which could ultimately drive the Region Strength and Region Depth numbers in a positive direction.
In 2016, Southern California’s Region Depth score slid despite the Region Strength number remaining relatively stable. Add in the departures of Dan Bailey (Central East) and Rasmus Wisbech Andersen (Africa), and SoCal’s chances to move up depend heavily on Josh Bridges, Garrett Fisher or Christian Lucero cracking the top 10 at the Games.
Bottom of the Barrel
Despite being in the bottom six, there are some bright spots for regions such as Canada West and Africa.
Brent Fikowski’s emergence as a star at the Games put Canada West fourth in Elite Strength, partially offsetting two dead-last finishes in Region Strength and Region Power.
Joe Scali returns from an injury this year, which adds another Games-level individual to the mix, and his legendary trash-talking might be able to light a fire under his fellow Canada West comrades to improve on two abysmal rankings in the Open.
Africa has potential to rise on the individual side. As mentioned earlier, Wisbech Andersen moved back across the pond from SoCal and landed in Dubai. The CrossFit community in the Middle East has been growing quickly, and affiliates are luring big-name athletes over with coaching opportunities. If Wisbech Andersen or 2015 qualifier Phil Hesketh manage to make it back to the Games out of the Africa Region, the region’s Elite Strength score will almost instantly receive a boost. Three-time CrossFit Games qualifier Jonne Koski also moved to the UAE, and if he’s healthy (he withdrew from the 2016 Games due to injury), he could boost Africa at the Games.
The Men’s Regional Power Rankings brought about some surprises and met some of our previous expectations as well.
Europe’s second-place finish overall caught us off guard. The North East and Central East confirmed our beliefs about the regions’ relative strength. Both California regions performed lower than expected and were a stark reminder that the competitive landscape of the men’s competition is changing quickly.
Check back later as we break down the Regional Power Rankings in the Women’s Division.