May 12th, 2017
Author: Ray Fleser
The CrossFit Games invites the top 20 athletes in the world from each Masters division, which starts at 35 years old. Each division is five years and the athletes compete against other athletes within their specific age division.
The top 200 athletes in each division worldwide advance to the Online Qualifier. The Qualifier serves as a continutation of the Open. The Games post four new workouts, and athletes have four days to complete them. Video recording submission for validation is required.
Pops climbed the leaderboard throughout the Qualifier, finishing 14th in the world.
Coming from a background in bodybuilding, Pops transitioned to CrossFit with relative ease. He started at Ocean State CrossFit in 2012, and quickly realized he wanted to compete. Being in the younger division of the 50-54 age range, Pops performed incredibly, but came up short of the top 20 finish that he needed to qualify.
Throughout his years in the 50-54 age division, Pops placed top 200 in the world four years in a row, advancing to the qualifier, but never to the Games.
Now or Never
He made it his mission to work on his weaknesses, take care of his ailments, and leave no stone of fitness unturned. He trained with Ocean State’s Finest, participated in class with the Ocean State community, and threw down in local competitions. Pops got every ounce of fitness he could in preparation for the 2017 season.
Knowing that the difference of qualifying or not qualifying could come down to being able to do a single movement, Rich made the dedication and earned himself a place at the 2017 CrossFit Games.
Two More From Ocean State Make Qualifier
Stuart Swanson, a 54 year old freak of nature, crushed the Open and advanced to the Online Qualifier.
Swanson trained hard in 2016, but his season ended ubrubptly when he pulled his hamstring in 16.2. Still finishing the Open for pride, he knew the year was a wash and completed the workouts at a cautious pace.
In 2017, Swanson came out with a chip on his shoulder. Training daily with Ocean State’s Finest included accessory work and practices, which increased his volume capacity and catapulted his intensity. Swanson’s dedication included double and triple sessions with the Finest, and participation in class with Ocean State’s community. The work ethic Swanson displayed in the 2017 season yielded incredible results.
He finished the Open 50th in the world, his personal best, advancing him to the Qualifier. A strong performance, including a 5th place finish on Event 3, yielded a 30th worldwide ranking for Swanson in 2017. Although he climbed 20 spots in the Qualifier, his performance did not earn him an invitation to the CrossFit Games.
Currently 54 years old, he advances to the 55-59 age group in the 2018 season. With a fire in his eye from a close miss in 2017, Swanson plans to spend the next year preparing for a new division, and a place at the Games in 2018.
Heather Sangermano, a new face in CrossFit, got serious and made a statement in her third Open.
Sangermano started CrossFit after a lifetime of bodybuilding. A principal by trade, she worked with athletes as a personal trainer in her spare time.
She found CrossFit in 2014 and loved the competition. In 2015, she met Coach Ray Fleser at the 4th Annual Master’s Throwdown at Ocean State CrossFit. After finishing 1st place in her division, the two started talking about her athletic background. Fleser learned she placed in the 400s worldwide in the 2015 Open.
Fleser and Sangermano stayed in touch throughout 2015. He made sure to see her in 2016 for the 5th Annual Master’s Throwdown. With her second year in a row taking 1st place, Fleser knew the talent she possessed. When asking how she performed in that Open, Fleser was surprised she finished in the 300s, expecting more.
Following the Throwdown, the two started recounting her CrossFit experience over the past three years. She trained at a facility that provided a great service to the general population, but did not cultivate her as an elite athlete. Wanting more, Sangermano started following Fleser’s programming and dropping in to Ocean State CrossFit on a weekly basis.
At the first training session, Fleser asked her what her goal was. She replied, “I want to make the Qualifier.”
Fast forward nine months, Sangermano finished 132nd in the world at the end of the Open. She obtained her initial goal of top 200. Throughout the Qualifier, she continued to climb and settled 84th in world in the 45-49 division.
Sangermano now trains at CrossFit Mystic. They do a great job working with their general membership and their elite athletes. They have a strong community and are able to work with Masters athletes like Sangermano, youth athletes like phenom Nick Cyr, and everyone in between.
To Richard Viera, for his invitation to the CrossFit Games, to Stuart Swanson, for his hardest year of work and a 30th place finish, and to Heather Sangermano, for her first year in the Online Qualifier!