The big, ancient hangar at Magnuson Park, a former US Navy facility, was a beautiful place for the competition. Huge sliding doors and million-paned glass windows let in natural light and let the noise out, and the half-acre building is surrounded by grass and trees. White-painted girders and ceiling made the place look somehow optimistic. It was the perfect setting for a three-ring CrossFit circus. Here it would be decided which 4 women and which 4 men would qualify for the CrossFit Games.
I was a score keeping, data-entry volunteer. I took a long walk around to watch the first event, the military press (which first had to be lifted off the floor). The athletes were fresh, the judges were working tightly together, and the seriousness and determination on all the faces provided a reminder that these early, light first-attempt presses were the first steps in a high-stakes trip. Well--except for the women laughing it up between lifts at one station! I liked seeing Nadia, Charity and Jenny enjoying the day as if this was all just for fun. It doesn't have to be fun to be fun, after all.
Later in the day I was able to watch some of the women and men in the WOD: muscle-ups, wallball, and sumo deadlift high pulls. When the first man in the first heat finished, the cheering started and the energy in the room leapt. Seconds later, when he fell to the floor in CrossFit sweat-angel mode, everyone in the room knew it was over and a mushroom cloud of noise blew the roof off the hangar. I wondered would only one man succeed in each heat? (No.) This workout was definitely going to separate the elite from the rest, just like Dave said it would.
Another volunteer, Ariana Davies, says, "The first round was a little gut wrenching. Only one person finished and I wasn't sure if that was the tone for the rest of the afternoon. Then turbo kicked in. I haven't seen so many guys do muscle ups without false grips, they were flying up there and coming back down, and then flinging the bar around. It was bananas! I would be watching one guy and then someone else would catch my eye--it was like being at Tiffany's for CrossFitters! Epic CrossFit day for me. I can't wait for next year."
Each time I went to the rope where I could see, I got a fire hose blast of energy and emotion, from within or without I couldn't even tell. I would have made a bad WOD judge. The compassion I felt for the competitors blinded me to bad reps. I heard myself screaming for the athletes while thinking, "PLEASE make the reps count!" as if I were praying to the judges for mercy. After watching an athlete finish and fall on the floor, I would go sit down at my table, head in hands, needing a rest.
One of the judges, trainer Matt Alford, says, "I saw Jordan Holland doing an extra rep at the sumo deadlift highpull after the judge had called time on his met-con. When I asked Jordan about it, he said 'If I was judging, I wouldn't have counted my last rep, so I did another.' That is the type of competitor that deserves to go to the Games in July. I was also really impressed with the performance of Jeff Vale of Crossfit Snohomish. Jeff came in a strong fifth in the competition. If Jeff is 5'9" and 160 lbs, I would be surprised. To hang with the big boys in the event that really favored a strong athlete is really impressive. Pound for pound, the strongest athlete in the room. Jeff's wife, Charity Vale, won the competition with the cleanest performance (by a man or a woman) in the met-con. She was pretty flawless with respect to technique and integrity of movement. Aside from being tremendous athletes, the Vales are a class act, both very humble and kind people. Good to see nice people finish on top!
My absolute favorite moment came after Dave Werner had presented the men with their medals, read their workout stats and commended them, and the applause had finally died down. Dave said, "Gentlemen, step off the platform and let's see what the ladies did." In introducing the women winners after the men, and in what he said about the women athletes, Dave emphasized the difficulty of the women's accomplishments in consecutive muscle-ups, endurance and strength. I can't even describe the scene without misting up! It was a great touch of class and so typical of Dave to do that.
One hundred and twenty-eight people competed out of 158 who registered. Schedule conflicts, no-shows, illness, injury or nerves accounted for the other 30. As usual Dave said it best: "What an amazing experience. Let's do this again next year."