This past weekend I was a judge at the Crossfit Regional competition for the Northern California region. It was an amazing weekend for the NorCal Crossfit community, and for some exceptional displays of physical performance. I don’t think anyone could have predicted what would go down this weekend if they had a crystal ball. I don’t know when the last time it rained like it did in the month of June out here, but Saturday’s competition basically took place in a monsoon. Some of the videos on the games web site shows this pretty well, but others don’t really do the situation justice. The amount of rain, wind, mud, extremely uneven ground, and general poor conditions made the results of the weekend’s performances that much more impressive.
For me, the highlight of Friday was Danny Nichols performing a 325 pound thruster. Danny is competing on TJ’s Gym team, who finished first after the weekend and will be a serious force to be reckoned with at the Crossfit Games in LA. Saturday was when the shit really hit the fan on the weather and workouts. I was incredibly siked and proud of our team at Crossfit Santa Clara for winning the deadlift/box jump workout. Alex and Hillary really crushed the workout considering the conditions. Not to mention Jason winning both workouts of the day for individual men. On workout 4 he had an amazing comeback that I really wished I could have watched more of, but I was busy judging. I had to go on what I heard from the crowd and our MC on the microphone.
The last day was all about who would advance to the games. All of the divisions had spots up for grabs at the start of the day, and even going into the last workout, the final spots for teams, women and men were not finalized. The energy levels in the stadium were so high off the charts that I can’t even convey. Even the photos and videos I have seen online do not do the environment justice. All I can suggest is that if you still have your region’s competition coming up, GO TO IT. It will be worth your time to be a part of this.
I don’t know exactly what my expectations were for judging, but I’m fairly sure it surpassed them in every regard. The experience was more challenging than I expected, the environment more energized, and the overall experience and service more rewarding. If you’ve read this far there is a good chance that you competed in and/or judged workouts in the Open. Judging at the regionals in no way compares to judging in the Open much in the same way as competing in the Open no way compares to competing in the regionals. The pressure is on to perform. You either get it right or you get it wrong. You can’t redo the judging of the workout any more than you can redo the workout.
Logistically some of the movements were more difficult to judge than I expected due to the specific standards of this weekend. The one that comes to mind first is handstand pushups. Anecdotally I have heard from other regions that some athletes had as many as 30+ reps taken away from them. I would guess this has more to do with the athlete executing the exact and specific requirements and/or judges interpretation of the movement than it does the athletes ability and work capacity. This movement proved difficult to judge on tall athletes as you need to see both the lockout of the arms and the placement of the feet on the wall because of the specific requirement for the regionals that both feet be touch the wall at lockout. I have no doubt that most HSPUs that were taken away during the past 2 weeks of regionals would have counted in a standard workout, and probably even during the Open.
I don’t want to go on and on with the challenges of every workout, but I will add one more note in summary. The movement names in the regional workouts may all sound familiar to anyone who has been doing Crossfit for any length of time, but that doesn’t mean that an athlete could walk onto the field without being briefed and do them as required. That may be part of the problem with the regionals that some people have. If you are still reading, I bet you have done a burpee. And you probably think it ends with a jump and a clap over head, but not at the regionals. You’ve done a kettlebell swing that you were told wasn’t complete until I can see your ears in front of your arms at the top of the swing, but not at the regionals. In the Open a box jump had one definition and in the regionals it has another one.
None of this is inherently a problem if it is clearly communicated to AND understood by all parties. Athletes, judges, fans, everyone needs to understand in order for things to run smoothly. I think this was the case in NorCal. Were there situations where judges made mistakes? Probably, but the most honest answer I can give is that I don’t know for certain. The reason for that is that I realized early on that I couldn’t pay attention to another athlete and/or judge and still provide the best service to my athlete.
I got to see some of the most impressive performances of physical fitness in my life this weekend. Both in horrific weather and when the sun was out. One thing that never wavered was the athletes’ attitudes. I can’t tell you how many times I would look around the athletes tent and see the women dancing to the music the DJ was playing just moments before they were about to face these brutal workouts. Or DURING the team workouts, you would see the non-active athletes getting down. Or the smile and nod that an athlete gave you when you told them what rep they were on. The weekend was an experience that couldn’t be learned any other way than learning it. I didn’t know every athletes name when they began, and some of them I had pre-existing opinions of. The one thing that was incredibly clear this weekend was just how human all of our amazing Crossfit athletes are. They cry, smile, laugh and bleed. I remember one specific moment when I was in the athletes tent introducing myself to my athlete and going over the last minute briefing. Before I knew it were were laughing and joking around about how they would PR. The next thought I had was how I had this person all wrong based on a video I had watched of them. It made me re-evaluate how to think about the people of our community, and how there can be so much shit talk on this internet, and how undeserving many of the recipients probably are.
And lastly, I could not be more proud of Jason Khalipa. I’ve been in Jason’s gym for about a year now and his personal performance is inspiring, his energy levels when coaching are motivating, but his attitude is why everyone loves him. I don’t think there was more than a few moments of this weekend when you didn’t see a smile on his face or running around high-fiving. He won the workouts he was supposed to, and then he won the ones he wasn’t supposed to win. I can’t wait to see what he does at the games in July.