May 9th, 2017
Author: Ray Fleser
Ocean State CrossFit’s competition team, Ocean State’s Finest, makes its third appearance at the CrossFit Games East Regionals. The only team from the State of Rhode Island to qualify for Regionals has done it with an all-time high ranking: 1st out of 379 teams in the North East and 12th out of 4177 teams in the World!
Ray Fleser and Ashleigh Cornell, coaches at Ocean State CrossFit, have been with the squad for three years, making Regional appearances in 2015 and 2016.
Tim Dearujo and Christine Middleton have been with the squad for two years, making their first Regional appearance in 2016.
Tristan Maiorano came into the fold shortly after the 2016 Open. His performance earned him the title of Fittest Man in Rhode Island, a title previously held by Fleser. Shortly thereafter, Fleser reached out and the two began training periodically at Ocean State.
Alex Bozenhard and Taylor Ballek trained at New London CrossFit, a gym where former Finest Coach, Aaron Meredith, had connections. Meredith connected Bozenhard and Ballek with Fleser.
Maiorano, Bozenhard and Ballek competed in two of Ocean State’s competitions. With all athletes performing well in the North East Fitness Invitational and Couple’s Therapy, Fleser saw the potential for a savage squad. The athletes met, began training, and in the fall of 2016, decided to make the commitment to Ocean State for a shot to get to Regionals.
Training and Commitment
The squad began training for this competition in December, 2016. Initially, training consisted of 6 days per week, with 3-4 days involving 2-4 hours of practice.
The squad demonstrated incredible commitment and sacrifice throughout the practice season.
Bozenhard and Ballek commuted from Connecticut. Bozenhard coaches part time at New London CrossFit, and Taylor studies at the Coast Guard Academy. Working around their availability proved difficult, but their determination made it possible.
Maiorano balanced the intense practice schedule with a full college course load, studying business at Bryant College. He coaches part time at Red Island CrossFit, and hosts workouts at his home gym in Mystic, Connecticut.
Deraujo has made the same incredible commitment for two years now. He drives from Massachusetts to train at Ocean State CrossFit every day. In addition to his full time engineering job, he coaches part time at CrossFit New Bedford. He makes this training commitment throughout the whole year, not just for the competition season.
In addition to practice, all athletes participated in daily classes at Ocean State CrossFit with the members of the community. Fleser mandates that athletes integrate with the community in order to be eligible for selection to the team.
The rigorous practice and workout schedule prepared the athletes for the first leg of the CrossFit Games, the Open.
The Mission, or Lack Thereof
The team had confidence going in to the Open, but did not have a specified mission, other than to put athletes on the floor at Regionals. Fleser, an athlete who assumed the role of coach, had several different scenarios for the 2017 season.
Bozenhard placed in the 50s in 2016. Before the 2017 Open, he told Fleser, “I want to be top 30. Anything less than that is a failure.”
Ballek placed in the 40s in 2016, and said, “I want to qualify Individual, but would probably want my first year to be with a team.”
Maiorano and Cornell wanted to go Individual if they qualified but had the team as a back up if things did not unfold as they hoped. Cornell had passed up an Individual invitation in 2016 and made it clear she would not pass up another invitation.
Middleton had a busy season of Olympic Weightlifting throughout the Fall, making it to the American Open in Orlando, Florida. In doing so, she had several nagging injuries and was unsure of her abilities as she headed into the Open. Overcoming her injuries, she performed well.
Fleser, Dearujo and Morton intended to work hard and see where the pieces fell.
When asked by members and friends about the season, Fleser stated, “We’re not talking about the Games. We’re not talking about specifics of Regionals. Right now, we’re taking the Open one week at a time. We have an amazing squad – no doubt our best group of athletes yet – but we’ll see what happens and who qualifies for what, and make our determination and decisions then.”
The Open consists of five events over a five week period. The Director of the CrossFit Games, Dave Castro, makes the announcement on Thursday night, and athletes have until Monday night to submit a score. All scores must be judged, and high level scores must be video taped for later submission and validation.
Each week, different movements and skills test athletes in different ways. The first workout, 17.1, utilized equipment new to the Open, dumbbells. With a task-priority workout of DB Snatches and Burpee Box Jumps, 17.1 was a low finesse workout that tested athletes’ conditioning. Ocean State’s Finest placed 3rd in the North East.
The second workout, 17.2, utilized the dumbbells again. The workout consisted of Lunges, Toes to Bar, and Bar Muscle Ups. 17.2 tested endurance and gymnastic capacity. Ocean State’s Finest placed 2nd in the North East.
The third workout, 17.3, did away with dumbbells and got back to the barbell. Squat Snatches and Chest-to-Bar Pull-Ups made 17.3 an Olympic Weightlifting test, with a component of gymnastics. Ocean State’s Finest placed 3rd in the North East.
The fourth workout, 17.4, repeated a Chipper style workout from 2016. Ocean State’s Finest placed 7th in the North East, their worst finish in the 2017 Open.
The final workout, 17.5, utilized two movements that have appeared in every Open so far, the Thruster and Double-Under. Most athletes knew these movements would show up, but the capacity remained a mystery. With 10 rounds of small sets, 17.5 was a mental toughness workout, pushing athletes to sprint through the work in a very uncomfortable state. Ocean State’s Finest placed 1st in the North East.
The top three male and female scores contribute to the team score. The leaderboard shuffles every week to stay current with the team scores. After five weeks, Ocean State’s Finest sat on the top of the North East leaderboard.
Most athletes on Ocean State’s Finest had their best Open finish in 2017.
Out of about 15,500 male and 14,000 female athletes in the region, Bozenhard finished 16th, Ballek finished 12th, and after video submission and validation, both received Individual invitations.
Cornell and Maiorano both placed in the 30s. Fleser had his best year at 29 years old, finishing 47th, and Morton broke the top 100 for the first time, also at age 29. Dearujo also had his best finish yet, placing 105th.
With first place team finish, Bozenhard and Ballek declined their invitation and mission was established: go team and make a push for the 2017 CrossFit Games.
On May 19, this 3rd year team will go to Albany with one goal in mind; qualify for the Games.
A special thanks to the Ocean State Community for all of its support, to the sponsors for their help throughout the Open, and to everyone who has believed in the team throughout the first leg of the 2017 season.