South East Day 3 Recap

By Lee Nessel on 05.30.11
The competition's over, and three men, women, and teams earned invitations to the Games in California.

They cited sacrifices and gameplans, hammering away at weaknesses during training and staying focused on their own performances. All of that played into who won the coveted top three spots to compete at the 2011 Rebook CrossFit Games in July.

The South East Regional is in the books. Heading to California are:

Women: Leah Polaski, CrossFit Atlanta; Cheryl Nasso, CrossFit Fort Pierce and Shana Alverson, CrossFit East Decatur.

Men: Jared Davis, CrossFit Southside; Chase Daniels, The Palm Beachers; and Brandon Phillips, Outlaw CrossFit.

Teams: CrossFit Hardcore, CrossFit Vida Brickell and World Camp CrossFit. 

Davis said he sacrificed many opportunities to have a good time this past year, and that his greatest accomplishment was committing to training. Not bad considering the one-line of biographical information on the Games website says, “I like to party.” 

“This is the first year I really committed to focusing and making the training a top priority. I used to just show up and have fun and kind of just go through the motions,” Davis said. “This year, I didn’t go out of town on weekends, I stayed home on weekends, rested, trained, worked weaknesses, stayed focused. I cut the booze back, that was a big one. I just turned down a bunch of opportunities to have a good time because I knew that to compete with these guys, I had to sacrifice those things.”

And thus, the CrossFit party came to him.

Davis, Daniels and Phillips all said they make an effort to up their game by seeking each other out, literally going the distance.

“I train with a lot of these guys. On weekends, we travel around and meet each other just to try and get in that competitive environment,” Phillips said.

“We always go out to Miami, I train with Guido Trinidad at Peak 360, we’ve go to (CrossFit) 305 training with Pete (Kazanas) all the time,” Daniels said. “I’ve trained with Jared a couple times. It’s a good push, that’s what it’s all about. 

Davis’ two workout wins came on Saturday’s 21-15-9 reps for time of: deadlift (315 lbs), box jump (30”) and the final workout of the weekend, the chipper: For time: row 20 calories, 30 burpees, 40 two-arm dumbbell ground-to-overhead (45 lb DBs), 50 toes to bar, 100-foot overhead walking lunge (45lb plate), 150-foot sprint.

He won the chipper in 10:17, flip-flopping the lead with Daniels throughout, all the way through the lunges. Daniels was first to the lunge turnaround. “Once I saw that I got out ahead of Chase a little bit, especially on my turn, I knew it was time just to drop the hammer. This is the last workout, you can do anything for 10 seconds. I feel satisfied and destroyed at the same time.

I think it was a good test of mental toughness. The lunge especially. I feel like it was just a toe-to-bar workout with just a grind element at the end. It’s a good test of mental toughness because you want to drop it every step. You’ve just got to realize that it’s 50 feet you do one step at a time, you’re not going to die.”

While Davis had two workout wins on his resume for the weekend, top female qualifier Polaski had none. 

“I actually told people before I went into it that I probably wouldn’t win any events outright,” Polaski said. “That’s sort of been my status quo, I don’t have huge strengths, but I try not to have huge weaknesses either and it tends to go pretty well in competitions.”

And she doesn’t plan to change much going into the Games. ”I’ve been hammering my weaknesses over the last year, ever since Regionals last year, so I’m just going to keep down that path, working weaknesses, really not change too much. I don’t want to mess with a good thing going into the Games. And hope that it will serve me well.

 “I’m elated, I had a rough time at Regionals last year so I’m ecstatic, I couldn’t be happier.”

Focusing on improving their weaknesses paid off for the women.

 Cheryl Nasso earned fans this weekend with three workout wins and a stoic display of heart. After winning the chipper workout Sunday, she was in shock thinking about the elite group of competitors that she is now a part of.

 "Oh my god, I’m going to California. I thought I was going as a spectator,” she said “CrossFit is not just strength, it’s about mental toughness and I didn’t tap into that until this past month. This past month I had to really work on everything I was bad at—muscle-ups, heavy weight. It sucks, you’re so used to being good at stuff then when you have to work on things you’re bad at, it makes you feel like crap. But it pays off in the end.”

Making it to the Games for the third year in a row, Alverson also was steady through the competition, taking a first, second and third place in three of the workouts. “I’m trying to just be in the moment this weekend and not have any expectations,” she said after Saturday’s workouts, also admitting she didn’t think she was going to compete this year.

As for the team competition, CrossFit Hardcore says there are “no egos” amongst them. But several years of training and competing together has melded enough competitive ego to have them leading the Southeast to California.

Steve Walters gave CrossFit Hardcore a lead they never lost in the final heat of the weekend, capping their third event win. Walters, Adriana Grassi, Justin Thompson and Silke Vonsaalfeld torched the field in the team chipper, winning in 17:43.

World Camp finished second in the last workout (18:06) and had two event wins to leave them at third. CrossFit Vida Brickell was a steady force, taking the second spot without an individual event win.

Next for Hardcore: Train harder.

“We worked so hard, through so many challenges, injuries throughout the year. I can’t be more proud than being with these people,” said Grassi as she reveled in a sweaty embrace with her teammates.

Grassi said this last chipper workout was the toughest team one, and not just because it was last.

“I think this was the worst because it was you... if each one of us would have slowed down, we would have dragged the team down,” she said. “It was probably the toughest one mentally, and knowing this was the last chance we had, it was definitely the toughest one we had so far.”

The talk of the Regional was the strict standards, but fair judging. Drew Shamblin of Crossfit Tuscaloosa said he watched video of his Friday workout (Run 1K, 30 HSPU, Row 1K) and saw that he actually did 50 handstand push-ups instead of just 30,  including the no-reps—which of course required exertion and caused fatigue but didn’t count.

“The judge was doing his job, it was may fault,” Shamblin said. “My feet kept coming off the wall.”

Kettlebells, overhead squats and thrusters also had strict requirements that forced many no reps. Russell Berger of CrossFit Huntsville had a strong showing at the Regional, but one slight foot move on the thruster ladder changed everything.

Even with three event wins, he could not overcome the 39th place in the thruster ladder Friday, putting up only 195. He finished 6th overall.

“The thruster workout was kind of a shit show, I pretty much just bombed out on that one, just had a bad single lift,” he said. “I don’t know if I choked or if I was trying to protect my back or what, but easy weight went out this way (motioning in a circular motion away from his body) and you only get one shot. I basically settled for about 25 pounds less than I really thought I could have gotten which put me way down in the hole. There are two ways to deal with that, you either whine about it, feel sorry for yourself and go home or you get over it and win everything else.”

Berger won half the events, but it still wasn’t enough.

He suffers from Facet Syndrome, a condition where the joints on both sides of each vertebrae degenerate and cause pain. Berger said he took anti-inflammatories and iced his back after a hyperextension before arriving in Jacksonville. “I wonder if it’s why I missed that thruster,” he said Sunday. “It’s so easy to hyperextend on those. 

“It just wasn’t meant to be this year. Every WOD allows for a margin of error, but not that one. It’s either really well designed or not designed well at all. I’m not complaining at all. I did my best and that’s where I landed. Next year…” 

Rachel Batista, who suffers the effects of nine herniated disks from a T-bone car crash, had to be carried out of the arena after the chipper workout Sunday She said she's done a ton of rehab, built up all the muscles around her back and has avoided surgery. It started to become aggravated with the 205-pound deadlifts in the DL/BJ workout, then got worse with overhead squats. 

The chipper workout was a struggle. "I'm 4-11 so jumping up to the bar and dropping down hurt," she said about where she ended that workout when time was called, not having made it to the walking lunges.

Many athletes complemented the judging, saying they may not have liked the standards, but at least they were enforced fairly.

Winning team CrossFit Hardcore talked about something that was quite the buzz on Saturday – the kettlebell swings in workout No. 4: For time: 250 chest-to-bar pull-ups, 250 kettlebell swings (24/16kg), 250 double-unders, 250 overhead squats (95/65lbs) . Judges called many no reps, given the challenge of extending the bell straight overhead.

“They were so strict,” said Vonsaalfeld. 

“We got a lot of reps that didn’t count, it was very tough, because you really didn’t know when it was good and when it was bad, so it’s not like you really have a feeling of it,” Grassi said.

Some athletes adjusted with a form of kettlebell snatch, sometimes saving time over the wide –arching swing.

And there were protests against some calls, of course, including coach Kris Morrill wanting World Camp CrossFit’s Jessica Denney to challenge a call on her failed 180-pound thruster in the team thruster ladder workout.

But her 175 lift was unmatched by any woman in the competition – individual or team.

She powered through 50 reps of 35-pound dumbbell ground-to-overhead in the last workout in an amazing display of strength, and 21-15-9 deadllifts at 185 were no problem. At only 19 years old, she will be one of the rising CrossFit stars to keep an eye on, starting with her team’s appearance in California.

Athletes had different means of adjusting to the requirements, like Chris Holt, whose team CrossFit Threshold won heat 2 of the chipper Saturday. He had blood running down his body from his nipple ring.

“Make sure my nipple rings hit,” he said about the chest-to-bar pullups. “If you can hear the clink, then you’re good.”

Event director Johnny Mac said the judging was outstanding this year.

“We talked to our judging staff and we told them, ‘We will back you 100 percent if you do what we ask you to do. Hold every athlete to a standard consistently. We understand that there is only a moment that you have to make a decision, but make a decision, make a firm decision based on what information you have at that moment, based on the standard we presented to you and we will back you 100 percent every time.’”

The most commonly heard word from athletes was “game plan.” Just about every one had a plan going into the workouts. In team events, it included communicating to ensure smooth transitions. For some individuals like Alverson and Wendy Shafranski, it was going unbroken in the deadlift, box jump workout.

“I knew I could do the first set unbroken, it was just what’s going to happen after that?” said Alverson, who won that event in 3:50. “But I just talked it over with my coach (Friday) night… he said it’s too short to break it up so you go unbroken.”

Second-place finisher in that event, Wendy Shafranski of CrossFit Vero Beach, had the same unbroken plan and was a close second in 3:53.

“I was hoping to do the deadlifts unbroken and I did …This is my third regionals, so I’m like the old lady here,” said the motivated 36-year-old. She finished 8th overall.

Many of the men had specific numeric patterns in mind.

Shamblin was one of those, finishing fourth in the 21-15-9 DL/BJ workout Saturday morning (4:19) citing both strategy and desire.

Shamblin’s gameplan was 7-7-7 reps on the 21, 5-5-5 on the 15 and 5-4 on the 9. 

Dominator of that event and overall Davis: “This workout really played to my strengths. I just didn’t stop. I stuck to the gameplan.”

Davis said the key to this workout was locking in the midline.

Brian Del Greco of CrossFit Reaction, who tied for second in Saturday’s first workout (4:11) said he went into it with a plan to “stay under that fatigue threshold.” His plan: 6-6-6-3 on the 21, keep moving on the box, 5-5-5 on the 15, keep moving on the box, unbroken on the 9. And he stuck to it. 

“I’ve got some ground to make up in the competition for me to prove to myself that I deserve to be here,” he said.  He went on to finish 10th overall.

Another athlete to keep an eye on is Sarabeth Phillips, who had two workout wins, and finished 5th overall. The former gymnast finished was 19th at Regionals last year competing under her maiden name, Mclendon. “I train with all guys because there are no girls,” she said of CrossFit Tuscaloosa. “Drew Shamblin is my training buddy and so I just go head to head with him every day and usually he kicks my butt, but it makes me a stronger competitor as well just training with guys because I don’t compare myself to women, I compare myself to men.”

CrossFit is a sport, but several competitors emphasized a different aspect of the competition, the mental side.

“To me, CrossFit is more mental than physical,” said Irving Hernandez of CrossFit Paragon, who in only one year of training has burst onto the scene as a force to reckon with. Hernandez impressed with his gymnastics and strength, winning several of his heats and finishing tied at 8th with CrossFit 305’s Peter Kazanas. 

In discussing the chipper workout where Hernandez won the mens’ first heat but finished 5th in the event: “I hate rowing. I’m really good at burpees. The hardest thing was probably the ground to overhead. If you’re a big guy, then toes to bar would be alright, but… “ he said with a shrug and a smile, hinting at his 5-foot-3 frame.

Athletes with gymnastics backgrounds did well at handstand push-ups and muscle-ups. But just as Polaski, Daniels and Phillips demonstrated, it takes consistency throughout, and not necessarily an event win, to make top three overall in the end.

“There’s a good mix of events throughout so there’s not really a place to hide. They made it where everybody is going to work out every day so nobody can really take more of the load than anybody else,” Brandon Conner of team CrossFit Atlanta said about the workout lineup. “It’s some good programming, a good wide range of events are covered. I think it will find the best teams.”

The athletes said they were impressed with the Reebok sponsorship and how it has boosted not only visibility, but also the quality of venue with the Jacksonville Equestrian Center. All said the CrossFit community is special. 

“For me personally, it means giving everything you have—spiritually, mentally, physically, going in there and laying it on the line every day, and community, family,” said Nikki Johnson of CrossFit Jax. “It’s such a great family to be a part of, especially CrossFit East.”

Basem M

thsnsk verr good
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Posted at 7:52 AM PST on January 13, 2012

Like that my home town Buddy Represented!! Duece!!

Posted at 7:53 AM PDT on May 31, 2011

Polaski not Polanski

Posted at 1:57 AM PDT on May 31, 2011

Awesome event Jmac and crew!!!

Posted at 8:43 PM PDT on May 30, 2011