Well, it’s quite a bit later than I had hoped, but I will try to put words to a weekend filled with amazing moments. This is no easy task though. This weekend’s competition wasn’t about results; it was about effort and striving to achieve each of these athletes’ best. It’s easy to sum up their efforts in terms of ranking, but each and every one of these athletes can tell you that the journey to get to this point and the obstacles they overcame over the course of the weekend cannot be reduced to a ranking. It’s much more than that, and at the end of the weekend, that number tells a very small portion of the story.
Team Invictus embodied everything we value in our athletes. They supported each other throughout, they found strength when they knew their teammates needed help, they overcame a bit of unexpected adversity (a counting error had them doing quite a few additional reps in the first event), and they improved when pressured by a very good competitor (congratulations to CDR Redlands, who pushed Team Invictus to be at their best in days 2 & 3). As a coach, I could not have asked for anything more. In the end, their full effort earned them First Place in Southern California for the second year in a row. Invictus has been open for 4 Games, and I am proud to say this makes 4 for 4 for Team Invictus!
I also want to acknowledge two very important members of our team, George Economou and Kathy Borkoski. George and Kathy served as our team alternates. Either of them could have contributed in the arena and almost certainly would have put us in the same place on the podium. The hardest decision a coach has to make is to choose between equally deserving athletes, but these two never wavered in their unconditional support of the team. They quickly became coaches and the best supporters the team could ask for.
Rachel Doucet is brand spankin’ new to Invictus – and CrossFit. She participated in the Open and did well, but having had very little coaching on higher skill movements, she was a bit nervous when the regionals workouts were announced. Two weeks ago, Rachel could not do a handstand push-up. In event 1, she did 45 handstand push-ups – and 45 deadlifts – in 6 minutes! That was a good start. ☺ She proceeded to shock herself all weekend long and prove that nothing is impossible if you believe and work for it. The weekend culminated for her with Event 6 . . . which included muscle-ups. Just a couple hours before Event 6 would start, Rachel got her first muscle-up (thanks to Shane’s good instruction). She then proceeded to knock out 5 muscle-ups in Event 6, and gave every Invictus fan goosebumps each and every time. At the end of the weekend, Rachel finished 14th amongst the Southern California female athletes.
To say that I am proud and excited for Rachel is an understatement. We all remember what it was like to get our first muscle-up, handstand push-up, pull-up, snatch PR, etc…. Rachel hit “firsts” and “PRs” all weekend long. She has the heart of a competitor . . . and all I can say is this next year is going to be a TON of fun with her in the gym!
Dave Lipson made us all proud throughout the weekend. After a tough first event, Dave battled back all weekend – including a first place finish in Event 3 – to earn a 9th place finish. Despite suffering a nasty tear on Event 4, Dave came out and snatched 235 lbs on Sunday morning. He couldn’t hang from a bar or rings for Event 6, but went out and had some fun anyway – blazing through the deadlifts and wall ball shots and doing the muscle-ups and toes to bar in singles – hanging from his finger tips only. But most impressive was Dave’s perspective throughout the weekend. He was composed and appeared to enjoy every event more than any competitor out there.
Valerie Voboril showed the world what those close to her have known for a while now. This woman can do anything she sets her mind to. Less than six months out from being cleared to resume training after the birth of her first child (the beautiful baby Vin), Val did the unthinkable and earned a spot to the CrossFit Games, taking 3rd in the most competitive region in the world for female athletes.
Val hasn’t had the luxury of training full-time. She has a full-time career as a teacher, and a full-time job as a new mom. She sneaks in one training session a day, 5 days a week, and sleeps as much as baby Vin permits. For that last 5 months she’s balanced it all with aplomb. In the end, it was a perfect Mother’s Day that ended with Val taking the podium with her daughter Vin (picture below).
In addition to those athletes competing in Southern California, several of the athletes I have had the pleasure of coaching remotely had phenomenal weekends.
Camille Leblanc-Bazinet is going back to Games! Camille overcame a lot of adversity throughout the weekend, but she stayed composed and fought through every situation to land herself back on the podium and back to the Games. The weekend challenged her and made her even stronger heading into Games. And the good news for all of us in San Diego, Camille will be down here training starting Wednesday!
Tarasa Barnett is going back to Games! Tarasa secured her return trip to games representing Latin America. Since August we have worked to develop the strength that Tarasa will need to compete at Games. It paid off this weekend as Tarasa was able to shine where other women struggled with the heavier loads of the regionals events.
Team Cayman pushed hard all weekend and finished in 2nd place. I have no doubt that they gave everything they had in each event.
Michelle Kinney took 4th in the Central East. What makes me proud is not where she finished at the end of the weekend, but how she finished the weekend. Michelle (who is a smaller athlete) knew the heavier loads of regionals could make things difficult. But she fought like the champion she is until the very end. After a rough outing with the more than ½ bodyweight dumbbell snatch, Michelle bounced back in Event 4 to take second place (behind Julie Foucher’s world record time). And despite knowing that she was mathematically out of contention for a podium spot, Michelle came out and became one of only a few women in the world to complete Event 6 (again placing second behind Foucher’s world record time). This is how good competitors respond to adversity, and I am proud as hell of Michelle for it. I know she’ll be ready for next year and will use this as fuel to make her even stronger and hungrier moving forward.
Anthony Shefferly finished in 16th place in the Central East. Anthony was 52nd place in his region at the conclusion of the Open, and the goal was to put himself into the final event of Regionals. Mission accomplished! Next year will bring some new (loftier) goals, and I know he’ll bust his tail in training to make it happen.
Finally, a HUGE thank you to the most amazing support staff in the world!
- Our healers – Heidi, Tara and Ian – are the most talented, hardest working, most caring individuals I know. They skipped meals, got up early and stayed up late to make sure that all of our athletes’ bodies felt as perfect as possible despite the beatings of the 6 events.
- Jen Martin, Jaimie Bougie, Krazy K and Pops – These four, as well as dozens who supported them, made this weekend possible for all of our athletes and spectators by keeping them fed, shaded and organized. The Sea of Green couldn’t exist without their hard work.
- Volunteers – Our athletes cannot shine without a platform, and without volunteers, regionals could never happen. To all of the volunteers that gave up their weekends to put this on, thank you! And specifically to the Invictus members who were super-volunteers all weekend – Bryan, Ivan, Steve – thank you for everything you did. You managed to work nearly every minute of the weekend . . . stealing away only those moments when you swapped out the volunteer/judge shirt for your Sea of Green t-shirt to help our athletes along.