The Virginia Sectionals: It Takes a Family to Take First at Sectionals

If you’ve never been to a CrossFit-style competition, you are missing out. Just like the workouts we do in our gyms, everything is structured as a race to see who can perform the most work.  This year, Ian McNeill and Gretchen Kittleberger decided to enter the gauntlet and represent our gym to the best of their abilities. They faced an incredible challenge of fitness with events that don’t allow any sort of specialization, nor were announced more than 48 hours prior. The Sectionals attract the fittest men and women in DC, Virginia and West Virginia. The energy and athleticism that filled the room was unparalleled in any other sporting event.  The events:

Event 1 (Saturday)
As many rounds as possible in 20 minutes of:
5 Pull-ups
10 Push-ups
15 Squats
Men wear a 20# vest. Women wear a 14# vest. Each rep is worth 1 point.

Event 2 (Saturday)
As many rounds as possible in 3 minutes of:
Clean & Jerk (185/115lbs)
Each rep is worth 20 points

Event 3 (Sunday)
As many reps as possible in 12 minutes of:
20 Overhead Squats (115/75lbs)
2 laps around the court
Each OHS rep is worth 4 points

Event 4 (Sunday)
As many reps as possible in 7 minutes of:
12 Box Jumps (24/20 inches)
8 Sumo Deadlift High-pulls (95/65lbs)
Each rep is worth 3 points

Both have collegiate competition experience: Ian is a former Harvard football linebacker and Gretchen is a former University of Maryland gymnast, but that’s not to say they wouldn’t face equally impressive athletes. Former Olympic team cyclists, former beauty pageant contestants (no kidding), full time trainers and every other kind of athlete under the sun were present.  Everyone’s goal was to place in the top 20 to make it to the next step along the way (Regionals) to being named the Fittest Man or Woman in the World at the final CrossFit Games in July.


We did some analysis of the event choices and learned that Events 1 and Events 2 would most likely determine the winners for the whole weekend. Day 2 events didn’t have movements or weights that would separate competitors in a meaningful way. The goal was to place really well on Day 1 and then maintain on Day 2.

Event 1 was a long workout by CrossFit standards, and with a weighted vest, we would assuredly see failed pushup reps.  The best athletes paced themselves and made sure to hit full range of motion on every rep. Gretchen and Ian scored 450 and 332 reps, respectively. Both had a lot of reps taken away by yours truly and decided to avoid me as a judge.  Ian crushed the pushups, but struggled with getting his chin clearly over the bar in his pullups, a unique problem for his build.  Gretchen, like many other top level females, spent a lot of time resting on pushups, but her performance put her in 9th place overall.

Event 2 was a measure of strength and Olympic lifting skill. This event would create a huge gap between competitors and would set the stage for the winners.  Competitors who had both strength and had trained the clean and jerk would crush this event.  Ian and Gretchen did extremely well: Gretchen tied for third place in this event with 19 reps (a whopping 4 over her target for this event) and Ian tied for 13th with 15 reps. Gretchen packed more punch than any other competitor; every single woman her size struggled to get more than 5 reps.  She put her bodyweight over her head 19 times in 3 minutes. That’s no joke.

Typically these events are dominated by larger competitors (the winner was a big guy), but in this case, Gretchen sealed her lead. Ian’s judge took away 3 reps from him for finishing with a push (instead of locked arms) which was hotly debated by our team. Nonetheless, both athletes demonstrated clear benefits of strength biased programming and hard work on Olympic lifting movements.

After Day 1, Gretchen ranked in first place, just one point over 2nd place.  Ian ranked somewhere in the 30s.  Both needed strong performances in Day 2.


Event 3 tested competitors’ overhead strength. The run was short and easy enough compared to the overhead squats that it was pretty meaningless for people’s scores. People either did well with overhead squats or didn’t.  The top male scored 112 reps and the top females scored 120 reps. Gretchen won first place in this event, timing her run and reps perfectly to complete six full rounds, without ever dropping the bar from the overhead position. Ian again tied for 13th place on this workout with awesome overhead strength.  After this event, Gretchen moved further into first by about 50 points and Ian moved to 28th place.

Event 4 used light weights and plyometric movements. It was a test of who had the most explosive power and the most grit.  It was only 7 minutes long, but because of its weighting it would contribute about 33% of the total points for the competition.   It had the potential to cause a lot of shuffling amongst competitors, and Gretchen knew she needed to hit 9 rounds to maintain her position. She did more than that. She got 9 and a half rounds, a full 49 points higher than the next fastest woman. Simply epic.  Ian had no problem with the high pulls, but box jumps got to him. He finished with a respectable 6+ rounds and ended up 47th overall out of 200 or so men. Being the 47th fittest athletes in Virginia is something to remember!

A Weekend of Many Firsts for Gretchen

Overall, Gretchen placed first by a whopping 100 points. That’s no small claim given the athletes that showed up for this event.  She also drank alcohol for the first time in 3 years (in celebration), took her first ice bath, tried avocado for the first time, and ate salmon for the first time.  Gretchen’s event placements were 9th, 3rd, 1st, and 1st. She ranked higher than women who had competed at the CrossFit games last year and every single woman who competed at SuperFit this year. Gretchen will be competing in her first Regional competition in May, where she has a very good shot at making it to the CrossFit games. She’s done awesome thus far and it won’t be easy, but we’ll be doing the best we can to support her along the way.

A Family

Special thanks to Dave H and Elizabeth for making the trip up to watch Gretchen and Ian compete on Sunday.  The CrossFit community and CrossFit Charlottesville are like family to me.  I want to thank everyone for supporting our athletes.  Gretchen and Ian gave it everything they had and they deserve congratulations for everything they have accomplished.

Final scores are listed here for men, and here for women. I think Dave and Elizabeth have more pictures.

15 thoughts on “The Virginia Sectionals: It Takes a Family to Take First at Sectionals

  1. amazing stuff guys. congratulations gretchen and ian!

  2. It was an awesome time, and it makes me wish I had been able to come up Saturday to watch it all and support our gym representatives that much more. I have a couple photos which will go up on Facebook soon, and I know there are some shots on Gretchen’s camera, as well. But none of it really captures the energy and excitement that permeated the gym and resting areas.

  3. I also hope Gretchen’s glitter, CrossFit Charlottesville tattoos and ribbons catch on as a trend. It’s awesome that the most unassuming-looking person kicked so much butt.

    1. it made me very sad to scrub off that tattoo last night. I want to wear it all the time.

  4. You guys rip. Super Hard. congratulations both of you! Impressive!

  5. well done, guys! an amazing achievement and example for the rest of us. 🙂

  6. Gretchen and Ian, you both deserve every inch that you clawed for during this past weekends’ WODs. This is a HUGE step in a very good direction for both of you. Keep up the good work and hold on to what you’ve got, but first, enjoy some well deserved rest.

    All of us are very proud of you.

  7. Congrats guys! Way to represent Charlottesville! Great job Kyle too for making it all possible 🙂

  8. Great job at the Sectionals CrossFit Charlottesville. I was one of the event photographers and enjoyed capturing all your accomplishments. I created an album to view the many images taken, since one never knows which ones CrossFit HQ will pick. When you click on the link, just click on “All My Photos” and choose the album titled 2010 CrossFit Sectionals.

  9. My jaw is literally on the ground! Congrats to both of you. It’s people like you, with the incredible mental and physical strength, that make me proud to call the CrossFit Charlottesville box home.

  10. Your guys are awesome! Great job this weekend!

  11. Congrats guys! I’m glad to be part of the same box as you both. Way to represent!

  12. Wow! So friggin awesome to have Cville represent at Sectionals! Great job to both Ian and Gretchen, and holy shit on the 1st place! I’ll be watching your progress through Sectionals and on to the Games for sure! May even see you there if I can qualify for our Affiliate team.

    And thanks again for the session last Friday – we were thinking about you guys getting ready to crush it!


  13. Gretchen,

    Your performance was truly awesome and I’m glad that not only an extreme athlete but a genuinely nice person took 1st! My daughter surely has her ribbons at school today 🙂

    Good luck in Ohio!


  14. Awesome!!!! So proud of you both. Very cool!

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