I couldn’t get enough this past weekend. I watched more Regional action this past weekend than any of the previous. From watching Katie Mackey fight through the weekend, to being glued to my computer rooting for BackCountry Black in the team event, to watching in dismay as the team and athletes from Front Range CrossFit struggled, to being absolutely enthralled with the men drama (sickness taking out my pick Chris Hoppe and making the Pat Burke drama even better). And then I had to watch NorCal CrossFit compete with their “super team” and the men in NorCal. I also watched a bit of the men in the North East, but once it became clear that both Spencer Hendel and Austin Malleolo weren’t going to compete for the podium my interest waned.
Some thoughts I had from watching the Southwest Regional:
- It wasn’t said outright, but Andrea Ager was nearly given a podium spot in the Southwest this year. The thought being that the women in SoCal are so good that if Ager could come so close to getting to the Games in SoCal then she must be able to podium in the Southwest – which isn’t as good as SoCal. Or so we were led to believe. But Ager didn’t really threaten all weekend. Right from the start with the snatch and handstand walk she was trailing and never made a charge all weekend. So, much like Garret Fisher, Hendel, Malleolo, Sam Briggs and Stacie Tovar, Ager competed and just wasn’t good enough. The aforementioned athletes were all expected to get to Carson and non of them did. In weeks past I have been blaming the handstand walk for Briggs and Tovar’s failure, but Ager was just plain beaten this weekend. And speaking of the handstand walk…
- Chris Spealler qualified for his seventh CrossFit Games and did so in impressive fashion. It wasn’t the handstand walk that set him back, but the snatch. In recent history there has been an “Olympic lift” event of some sort that has killed athletes. It is a single modality with limited forgiveness for failure. We have come to accept that if a male cannot snatch 250 pounds then he isn’t “fit”. Why can’t the same be said for a single modality gymnastics movement? Just because it hasn’t been done in the past doesn’t mean it isn’t valid. Tovar and Briggs (among others) now know exactly what they need to work on to get better. For Spealler, however, it wasn’t the handstand walk, but rather his small stature in the hang snatch event. Spealler isn’t a big guy, we know this, and his 220 pound snatch was only good enough for 28th place in the Southwest Regional this year. That’s quite the hole to dig out of, much like Tovar and Briggs did with their handstand walks. But in Spealler’s case he overcame and took second in the Southwest. After the snatch he placed second, first, first, third, fourth and sixth to lock down second place. Briggs and Tovar couldn’t do that to overcome the bad showing in one event.
- How much would it suck to spend an entire year working towards one weekend to only come down with a severe GI infection? The viral GI bug that moved through the Southwest was horrible. How much does CrossFit hurt? How much does it hurt if you haven’t been able to retain fluids because you are constantly in the bathroom? Now imagine having an illness like this and moving through the “50’s” WOD? That’s what Burke did en route to qualifying for the Games. Unfortunately Chris Hoppe couldn’t and I was really rooting for him. I hadn’t heard of Hoppe until the Colorado Open at Front Range last fall. Watching Hoppe beat Matt Hathcock in pretty much every event put Hoppe on my map. Then I saw him at a few more local competitions and was sold – he was going to take a podium spot this year and advance to the Games. He was in fourth place and positioned well to make a run at the podium on Sunday, but the GI bug got the better of him and he had to withdraw. So unfortunate.
- Disappointments – there were a lot of disappointments this weekend, in my eyes. I expected a lot more out of Hathcock and Jasmine Dever. I didn’t think Hathcock would podium, but I didn’t expect him to finish 16th! I guess his showing in the Open was indicative of his overall fitness. And then there was Dever who severely disappointed, too. I really thought she would perform well as she finished really high in the Open and was a hot pick last year until she was injured. I thought she would come back strong and make it back to the Games (she went in 2012). Another disappointment out of FRCF was Colleen Maher. I was rooting for the team from FRCF to have a strong showing, but early on in the event with muscle-ups Maher really struggled. It was apparent, and obvious in the standings, that whatever happened at FRCF that caused some of their better athletes to move to BackCountry CrossFit really killed their team chances. I’m not sure how many of the athletes on BackCountry were former FRCF athletes, but I do know Chris Dozier (who won the SW Open in 2012) and Becky Conzelman (numerous Games athlete) were two of the athletes that jumped from FRCF to BackCountry.
- I couldn’t be happier for Katie Mackey. I know her a little bit from her coaching me at LoDo when I first started CrossFit and even though she didn’t do well in the standings she never gave up and kept working – hard. She struggled with some of the more advanced movements, but kept moving and moving and trying and trying. Well done Katie!
- My picks: I had Adrian Conway winning the men’s side, but he hurt himself doing some dips just a few days before Regionals started. Big bummer. Hoppe got sick so he had to withdraw, which left only Tommy Hackenbruck as one of my picks for the podium healthy and competing – and he won the region. I had Spealler on the outside looking in, but without Conway and Hoppe, Spealler makes it. I had Burke out of the top five, but he worked hard and through illness to podium. On the ladies side I had two of the three correct, but as I said above, Dever didn’t show up as hard as I thought she would and Mandi Janowitz took third.
Quickly through the other regions
Africa – I didn’t even look to see who won yet. That’s how much I care about this region…so I am skipping it.
Men: Malleolo, James Hobart, Matt Fraser
Women: Kaleena Ladeairous, Dani Horan, Sarah Scholl
Men: Fraser, Hobart, Craig Kenney
Women: Dani Horan, Sheila Barden, Rachel Martinez
Malleolo I thought was a sure thing, but he just struggled all weekend. I really whiffed on the ladies side.
Men: Jason Khalipa, Garret Fisher, Neal Maddox
Women: Alesandra Pichelli, Jenny LaBaw, Margaux Alvarez
Men: Khalipa, Maddux, Marcus Filly
Women: Alesandra Pichelli, Chyna Cho, Margaux Alvarez
Much like Ager, Fisher struggled all weekend and just plain got beat. Both he and Ager had strong showings, but didn’t have the juice to beat out their competition. There are certain CrossFit athletes that are “stars” in my eyes. Those that you see on social media a lot, possibly riding the train of the “super stars” which might be Fisher’s claim to fame working out with the likes of Kahlipa and Miranda Oldroyd who put themselves front and center in the sport of CrossFit. Seeing these athletes not make it to the Games is a bit of a shock to me. As a guy who loves baseball and the length of the season ensures the best team wins, these one-and-done sort of weekends leave a lot to chance. Hoppe got sick. Conway had an injury severe enough to keep him out this weekend, but he might have been ready next weekend. Briggs stumbled on the handstand walks. What if Fisher was just having a bad weekend? Or, in these events anymore, he could have just had a bad event and that one bad event was enough to keep him from Carson. One event where the nutrition wasn’t quite perfect or he slipped when making a movement or really needed to pee. We all have bad days and in the one-and-done nature of these events you can’t have your bad day, or even a bad moment. It requires perfection and Fisher didn’t achieve perfection.
Now it’s on to the Games. Can anyone beat Rich Froning Jr? Who will win the women’s side? Is it Julie Foucher’s year? We’ll have to wait about two months to find out. I can’t wait.