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:
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.
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.