2012 Regional Preview: South Central

By Dave Re on 01.15.12

2011 marked a banner year for CrossFit. It saw the beginning of Reebok’s sponsorship of The Games, a Games grand prize of $250,000 for the individual winners, the first swim event in Games history, and, perhaps the most exciting addition, the inauguration of the worldwide Open. 

Here in the South Central Region, our athletes had an incredible and memorable competition season. The 2012 CrossFit Games Open begins in less than two months, marking the start of the sixth endeavor to find the fittest human beings on the planet. Let’s see what looking back at the past season might tell us about what’s to come this year.

On the Ides of March 2011, the CrossFit Games Open began, and for the first time we saw a truly global competition amongst the CrossFit community. In Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, a total of 614 Individual men, 336 Individual women, and a number of Masters men and women anted up to find out how they stacked up against the fittest athletes in the world. 

For some, the goal was to be in the top 60 men or women in the South Central in order to win a slot to the South Central Regional. For the Masters, the goal was a top 20 finish in their age bracket to secure a berth to the CrossFit Games. For others, fun was the name of the game, and a chance to see how they compared to the rest of the world. Through a total of 6 workouts over 7 weeks, our athletes battled through virtually every major CrossFit movement on their way to those goals. 

When the dust settled after the last workout, Drew Bignall (Mission CrossFit, in San Antonio, Texas) stood on top for the men, and Carey Kepler (CrossFit Central, in Austin, Texas) took the top women’s slot. Kepler finished in 11th place worldwide in the Open. Chase Ingraham looked to be out of out of competition after a knee injury sustaining doing box jumps during the 2nd Open workout, but managed to battle back into 47th place to move on to the South Central Regional. On the women’s side, Austin, TX emerged as perhaps the fittest city in the South Central Region, with a full 25% of the women proceeding to the Regional hailing from the capitol of Texas.

Masters athlete Cliff Lewis (from Heath, Texas) won the Masters Men 45-59 division worldwide, while Darlene Price finished 2nd in Masters Women 55-59. Bob Pariseau (Body Armor CrossFit in Houston, Texas) finished 12th in Masters Men 60-plus, securing his berth to the Games, too. Lewis would end up taking 4th place at the Games, and Price finished 2nd, including a workout win in the final workout.

The Open also determined which affiliate teams would advance to the Regional. CrossFit Central maintained a commanding lead throughout the Open, and placed 6th worldwide. In the Open, team scores were an aggregate of the best individual scores posted by athletes associated with each affiliate. It would be interesting to see how that would translate to results in the Regional when the make up of each team would be cemented. 

On June 17, a month-and-a-half after the end of the Open, 300 competitors and a small army of spectators converged on Tomball, Texas for the commencement of the 2011 South Central Regional. The workouts were the same at each of the 17 Regionals, and utilized the same set of equipment provided by Rogue Fitness. It quickly became apparent on the first day that the one factor outside the control of the event’s organizers would become a major factor in competition at the South Central Regional - the heat. 

At 4 p.m. on the 2nd day, the air temperature on the competition floor was measured at 108.6, and was still rising. Perhaps the clearest illustration of the effects of the heat were the results of the 4th workout, known as The Chipper. Other winning times in the remaining regions ranged from 17 to 20 minutes. Carey Kepler, 2009’s 3rd Fittest Woman in the World, was the only woman in the South Central Region to finish the workout under 22 minutes, with a time of 21:08. The delta between the South Central men and the rest of the world was even larger for that workout. Despite the best efforts of the event staff, the barbells were hot enough that several Team athletes refused to pick the barbell up to complete Overhead Squats in the team version of that chipper. Amazingly, there was only one heat related casualty on Saturday afternoon. It’s no surprise that CrossFit athletes are extremely tough people.

Speaking of tough people, who can forget Leah Maddox’s performance on Team CrossFit Strong? In the middle of the 4th workout, Leah whacked herself in the face on the pull-up bar, resulting in a wicked bloody nose. She refused medical treatment, and continued to participate in the workout with her team.

The women had a fantastically tight race through the weekend, with the top three places being separated by a mere 3 points, with 3 more points separating 3rd place from 4th. Carey Kepler, Lindsey Smith, and Lisa Thiel - all three athletes from Austin’s CrossFit Central - took the top three women’s spots, with another Austin based athlete, Whitney Welsch, finishing in 4th. Welsch and Smith tied for 2nd place in the final chipper workout with a dramatic photo finish that involved Smith diving on the cement slab for the finish line. Smith would end up finishing 16th at the CrossFit Games.

Aja Barto dominated the other men to win the South Central Regional, with a lead of 16 points over second place Zeph Littleton. However, the cut for 3rd was decided by a sole point, with Andy Lewis placing third with 56 points, and Aryan Barto and Aaron Bielefeldt tying for 4th with 57. Some long time Regional favorites were missing from the podium in 2011, including Kepler’s brother, Jeremy Thiel, who’d previously competed in every CrossFit Games and was named 3rd Fittest Man in the World in 2009. 

Team Bayou City CrossFit and Team CrossFit Waco traded blows all weekend, with both teams having several top 3 finishes in each of the workouts. Bayou City emerged on top with a 6 point lead on the back of their performances on the chipper workouts. Suffering from a weaker performance on the Thruster Ladder, CrossFit Dallas Central ended up in 3rd place, edging out Open favorites Team CrossFit Central by 11 points. CrossFit Dallas Central would go on to a strong 13th place finish at the CrossFit Games. 

What does 2012 hold for the South Central Region? With a slightly shorter Open this year, we’ll know who’s headed to Regionals by the end of March, this year. The Regional will occur several weeks earlier, which should limit how dramatic an effect the weather will have on the competitors. 

In terms of our top women from 2011, Lindsey Smith has moved out of our Region for the cooler climes of Columbus, OH, and Carey Kepler is planning to compete on the CrossFit Central team in 2012. With such a strong field of women, who can tell which ladies will emerge to lead the field this year?

On February 22nd, the athletes in the South Central Region will all start with a clean slate. Who will emerge on top and represent the South Central Region at the 2012 CrossFit Games? There’s only one way to find out!