Jun 12th, 2017
Author: Ray Fleser
The lone team from Rhode Island at the East Regional has qualified for the 2017 Reebok CrossFit Games.
Road to Regionals and the CrossFit Games
The East Regional competition consisted of individuals and teams from Eastern Canada and the North East. The event took place on May 19-21, in Albany, New York. To qualify for the East Regional, over 600 teams from East Canada and the North East competed in the 5-week CrossFit Open, held in February and March. At the conclusion of the Open, the top 15 teams from each region advanced to the Regional competition in Albany. The three-day competition consists of two grueling events each day, testing all components of fitness and teamwork. At the end of the competition, the top five teams advance to the Reebok CrossFit Games.
Ocean State’s Finest had experience at the East Regional, qualifying in 2015 and 2016. Upon completing the Open and qualifying for Regionals in 2017, training shifted into specific team oriented events for the Regional. The team trained to perform well enough to qualify for the CrossFit Games. The team’s rigorous training schedule included early mornings, late nights, multiple sessions per day, and tremendous sacrifice. To perform as a unit, members had to commute daily from Connecticut and Massachusetts, affecting work, personal time, and even school.
Tristan Maiorano skipped his college commencement ceremony from Bryant University to perform with his team.
The East Regional kicked off with a partner workout involving Running, Strict Handstand Push-Ups and heavy Dumbbell Snatches. Ocean State’s Finest executed as they practiced and finished 5th in Event 1.
The second event involved an implement new to Regionals, and something Ocean State’s Finest did not have in training, the Worm. A 435-pound, 17-foot, flexible log, the Worm awards teamwork and brutally punishes teams when athletes lose synchronization.
The event called for Thrusters. Holding the Worm on their shoulders, athletes had to squat below parallel, rise together and press it overhead. Upon completing 40 Thrusters, the team performed 40 synchronized Burpees over the Worm. Throughout this portion of the workout, Ocean State’s Finest performed well, sitting in 4th.
The second round called for 30 more Thrusters and Burpees. Communication broke down and the team lost their rhythm, getting “no-rep” calls on several Thrusters. They performed over 15 unnecessary repetitions. The team grinded through the workout, finishing in 10:27 for a 16th place finish.
The margin for error in CrossFit leaves little room for the missed reps that Ocean State suffered. The 10th place team in Event 2 finished only eight seconds faster. However, regardless of the small time difference between 10th and 16th place, the point spread hurt the Finest. The finish bumped them down to 8th place, with a signifigant point deficit from the top five, needed for the Games.
Following each event, Fleser brought the team outside for a reflection.
“Well, guys… There’s our one fuck-up. We did it. Nothing we can do about it now, nothing more we can do today, but that’s it. That’s the one fuck-up. From here on out, we need top five finishes on every event. Take the night, get your head screwed on right, and come back tomorrow for blood. If we want a successful weekend, no more fuck-ups.”
The team remained calm, focused and determined. They realized that eight seconds would take the rest of the weekend the come back from. They had used their mulligan and it was time to execute.
Event 3 started with partners on the Assault Bike, then synchronized heavy Wallballs, synchronized Bar Muscle Ups, and finished on the Concept 2 Rower. A brutal display of metabolic conditioning and basic gymnastic capacity, Ocean State finished well, with a 4th place finish at 23:48. Five teams in the top 10 failed to finish in the 25 minute time cap.
Event 4 utilized the Worm again. After Friday’s communication breakdown, the team adapted their original cadence and had great success. Going unbroken with sets of 30 Push Press and Legless Rope Climbs, Ocean State’s Finest finished 5th at 10:37.
The team executed on Day 2 with two finishes in the top five, exactly as anticipated. However, the points from Event 2 still kept them out of the top five. Ocean State entered Day 3 in 6th place, with a small point spread between CrossFit Queens, Pro1 Montreal and East Woodbridge. Any team could qualify for the games with a strong performance on day three.
Event 5 tested high-volume gymnastics capacity and finished with a test of mobility and stability. It opened with 125 Chest to Bar Pull-Ups,
then 100 Toes to Bar and finished with 100 Single-Arm Overhead Squats with a heavy dumbbell. In order to perform the gymnastics, another athlete had to be hanging from the bar which fatigued the grip. This made the difficult movements even more challenging.
The men went first, finishing in the meat of the pack. Although Ocean State’s men executed as practiced, their movements could not keep up with some of the other athletes. Reebok One’s Austin Malleolo, Reebok Back Bay’s Mike Abgarian and CrossFit Milford’s Nick DelGrande had incredily fast cycle times on their gymnastics. The men of Ocean State had no chance to match their speed.
When the females took the floor, they had a lot of distance to cover. Their gymnastics moved flawlessly, but were still out of the top five when approaching the dumbbell. Ashleigh Cornell and Christine Middleton handled the Single-Handed Overhead Squats with a 55-pound dumbbell well, but when given to Taylor Ballek, magic happened. The young 20 year old demonstrated tremendous mobility, squatting about twice as fast as everyone around her. Keeping the bell in hand, Ballek’s speed bumped them up to 4th place in the event, with a time of 18:20.
Ballek’s speed on her squats covered enough ground to give Ocean State a 4th place finish on Event 4, after coming onto the floor in 8th place. This 4th place finish earned enough points to get back in the top five and awarded her the MVP of the competition.
Although the team got back in the top five with Ballek’s amazing squat performance, the point spread between the teams contending for the 4th and 5th place positions left an open opportunity for whoever performed best in Event 6.
Two points separated Ocean State from a 6th place East Woodbridge, and three points from a 7th place Pro1 Montreal. With five points awarded per placement, out of these three teams, whoever won the last event was going to the Games.
Event 6 called for the least skill and most aggression out of all of the events at the East Regional. The teams performed 50 synchronized Clean and Jerks with the worm, advancing it every 10 reps.
With three years of Regional team experience, Fleser was in the back position making the calls and watching the other teams. Ocean State kept a steady pace throughout the event. This pace fell behind in the first three rounds, but left energy to continue in rounds four and five when other teams fell apart.
As Ocean State approached round five, Fleser saw the other three teams still working at round four. Ocean State began to tire, and with three reps left, fell apart with three no-rep calls. Still knowing there was a significant lead, Fleser yelled for the team to stop, take a breath, and resynchronized. Tristan, in the middle position, echoed the calls and Ocean State finished the final three lifts.
Running across the finish line, Fleser looked to his right and saw East Woodbridge, Pro1 Montreal and CrossFit Queens all working. He threw up his hands and told his team, lying on the ground and gasping for air, “That was enough guys. We’re going to the Games.”
Ocean State’s Finest came back from a 16th place finish on Event 2 with top five finishes for the rest of the competition. The final event, which had the most importance, was Ocean State’s best finish, 3rd overall with a time of 4:49.
The only team from Rhode Island to qualify for the East Regional in the last three years has finally punched their ticket to the Games.
A special thanks to all of the sponsors who helped make the trip possible, including Lululemon for hosting the raffle, all of the companies that donated, and everyone who attended.
The biggest thanks to all of our supportive fans! To all of our family and friends, representing four CrossFit communities across four states, it meant the world to look up and see you there for us!