Vellner and Toomey Repeat as Wodapalooza Champions, Mayhem Freedom Wins Team Title
The Wodapalooza CrossFit Festival has billed itself as one of the premier and most exciting CrossFit competitions in the world. It lived up to that billing throughout four days of competition, culminating with a final, action-packed day. With podium spots, big money and the 2020 CrossFit Games invitation on the line, day four was punctuated by nail-biting finishes across all the Elite divisions at Bayfront Park in Miami, Florida.
The men’s division:
For the first time since the Sanctional format was introduced, there was a tie atop the podium. With identical point totals of 714 points, Patrick Vellner defended his Wodapalooza championship by virtue of a tie-breaker over Cole Sager. The tie-breaker was the best event finish in the competition and Vellner tallied three event wins, while Sager had none.
Sager came into the final day with what appeared to be a comfortable 64-point lead over Vellner with two events remaining. The issue for Sager was that the eighth event was one that played right into Vellner’s wheelhouse. Named “Down-Up” it featured deadlifts at 335 pounds and bar-facing-burpees in a 12-9-6-9-12 rep scheme. Vellner, who recorded a deadlift of 595 pounds when he won the “CrossFit Total” at the 2018 CrossFit Games, dominated, recording his second event win of the competition after winning “Luce” to kick-off Wodapalooza on Thursday. He finished over 30 seconds faster than second-place finisher Noah Ohlsen, recording a final time of 4:14.
Meanwhile, Sager struggled with the heavy load, finishing 19th with a time of 5:50. His 19th place finish was his only finish outside the top-ten at the competition. Most importantly, his lead shrunk to just six points over Vellner, 620-614 heading into the finale under the Flagler Stage lights.
For Sager to earn his first career Sanctional victory, he would have to finish ahead of Vellner in the final event — “Celebrate Life” — a grueling chipper that consisted of 50 wall balls, 40 calorie ski, 30 dumbbell snatches, 20 box jump overs and 15 bar muscle ups. Sager and Vellner went rep-for-rep in the first two movements before Sager pulled ahead by three reps heading into the box jump overs. Vellner made up those reps on the box and both athletes got to the pull up bar at the same time. Vellner, a former gymnast, wasted no time getting up on the bar and had two muscle-ups done before Sager jumped up for his reps. The gymnast beat the former college football player Sager off the bar and celebrated as he crossed the finish line, with the raucous Miami crowd cheering the exciting finish and Vellner victory.
- Vellner becomes the third male athlete with multiple Sanctional championships and the seventh athlete overall to do so.
- Vellner also becomes the first athlete to defend his Sanctional championship. Tia-Clair Toomey would join him later on in the evening as she won the women’s division to repeat as Wodapalooza champion.
- Vellner was only the overall leader twice, after winning the opening event on Thursday afternoon and the final event of the competition. He recorded seven top-six finishes in eight events, including three wins.
- Vellner now has eight career Sanctional event wins including five this season. He is tied with fellow Canadian Brent Fikowski for third on the career Sanctional wins list.
- Sager has competed in three Sanctionals in his career, he has finished on the podium in all of them. This is his second runner-up finish after placing second at the Fittest in Cape Town last season.
- Noah Ohlsen finished third at Wodapalooza for the second-straight year.
- Saxon Panchik secured his third-straight Games invitation after finishing fourth. Panchik, who finished ninth at the Games last year, came in fourth in the final event on Sunday and moved past Travis Williams into the Games qualifying spot.
- Spencer Panchik placed sixth and joins Nycolas Joyal (seventh), Adrian Mundwiler (eighth) and Bryan Wong (ninth) as athletes who finished in the top-ten who are still seeking their individual Games invitation.
- “Celebrate Life” was created in celebration and memory of Jacob Morris, a teen athlete at the CrossFit Games last year who passed away in December.
The women’s division:
The women’s division had many compelling storylines as it headed into the final day of competition. Could Sara Sigmundsdottir unseat Tia-Clair Toomey as the top female athlete in CrossFit? And, who would earn the Games invitation in a close race that featured three women fighting for that honor?
After taking over the top of the leaderboard on Saturday, Toomey held a slight 16 point lead over Sigmundsdottir going into “Down-Up”. After going rep-for-rep with Sigmundsdottir, Kari Pearce and Brooke Wells through the first 12 reps of deadlifts and bar-facing burpees, Toomey methodically pulled away from the field. She picked up the win and flexed to the crowd gathered on Tina Hills after finishing with a time of 3:53. The win extended her lead over Sigmundsdottir to a comfortable margin heading into the final workout.
Meanwhile Emily Rolfe saw her hold on the Games invitation loosen dramatically. With a 16-point lead over Colleen Fotsch going into “Down-Up”, Rolfe struggled, finishing 22nd while Fotsch finished 15th. That gave Rolfe just a two-point lead over Fotsch heading into the final event.
In the final event, Toomey ended her Wodapalooza just like she started it, with an event win. Sigmundsdottir placed second and Kari Pearce finished third as each secured their podium finishes.
The attention then went to Rolfe and Fotsch who were on opposite sides of the floor. Rolfe was ahead of Fotsch after the wall balls and ski, but Fotsch was quicker cycling through the dumbbell snatches and held a two-rep lead going into the box jump overs. Rolfe pulled even as they each headed to the pull up bar for their 15 bar muscle ups. A costly no-rep on one of her final reps cost Fotsch, as both athletes sprinted to the finish line. Rolfe would take home the Games invite by four-tenths of a second over Fotsch.
- Toomey is the first athlete, man or woman, to win four Sanctionals in her career. She is a perfect four-for-four.
- With Toomey’s four event wins at Wodapalooza, she now has ten this season and 17 for her career, the most by any athlete.
- Sigmundsdottir finished second for her seventh career podium finish at a Sanctional. She leads all athletes with seven Sanctional appearances.
- Sigmundsdottir was the only athlete not to have an event finish outside the top-ten. She recorded seven top-five finishes.
- Pearce finished third, holding off Amanda Barnhart for her second career podium finish at a Sanctional.
- This year’s podium athletes at Wodapalooza on the women’s side were the same as last year. The only change was that Pearce finished second and Sigmundsdottir third last year.
- Rolfe secured her second-straight Games invite through a Sanctional. Last year she earned her ticket after winning at the Granite Games. The Canadian placed 18th at the Games in her rookie season last year.
- Rolfe’s tenth place to earn the Game’s invite is the second-lowest finish in a Sanctional to earn a Game’s qualifying spot. The nine athletes who finished ahead of her have already secured their Game’s invite, showing the level of depth and talent in this year’s Wodapalooza women’s field.
- Last year’s Wodapalooza Games invite for the women went to Taylor Streid who finished ninth.
The team division:
Two Sanctionals appearances this season and CrossFit Mayhem Freedom has two Sanctional victories. However, unlike their dominant performance at the 2019 Games, this season the team from Cookeville, Tennessee has been pressured. Team GOWOD went toe-to-toe with the four-time Games champions from the opening event to the final event.
Mayhem Freedom held just a two-point lead over GOWOD heading into Sunday. They would win event seven, team “Down-up”, 12 seconds ahead of GOWOD to give them an eight-point lead heading into the final event.
GOWOD needed to finish ahead of Mayhem Freedom and another team in “Celebrate Life” to pull off the upset. The team of Taylor Williamson, Andrea Nisler, Luke Schafer and Streat Hoerner took care of business on their side as they pulled ahead of Mayhem Freedom and the field on the partner dumbbell snatches and box jump overs to pick up their fourth event win of the competition.
The third-place team, Team Wit, was the team going rep-for-rep with Mayhem for the second-place event finish. It came down to the sprint to the timer button as both teams completed the muscle-ups simultaneously. Mayhem’s Tasia Percevecz out-touched Wit’s Harriet Roberts by .03 of a second to clinch Mayhem Freedom’s third-ever Sanctional victory, the most by any team, and redemption after their fifth-place finish in Miami last year.
- Mayhem Freedom added four more event wins to give them 16 over the last two seasons, the most by any team.
- Mayhem Freedom is the first team to win two Sanctionals with the same exact roster
- Over the last five events, Mayhem Freedom and GOWOD either finished first or second, setting up the exciting finish.
- Team GOWOD was ineligible for the Games invitation because two of their members, Williamson and Nisler, already accepted an invite to the Games after winning the team title at the Dubai CrossFit Championship. This is the first time a team in the qualifying spot was ineligible since the Sanctional format was implemented.
- Team Wit will decline the Games invite due to team members Samantha Briggs and Harriet Roberts each planning to accept their individual Games invitations. This is also the first time a team in the qualifying spot declined their invite since the Sanctional format was implemented.
- Mayhem Independence will receive the Games invitation unofficially after finishing fourth. This will be Mayhem Independence’s second Games appearance and first since finishing fourth at the 2018 Games.
- Mayhem Independence will be the lowest placed team to receive an invite to the Games since the Sanctional format began.
- Team Victory Grips came up just short of the Games invite finishing fifth 15 points behind Mayhem Independence for the qualifying spot.
The Final Top 10 Leaderboard
- Tia-Clair Toomey (808) | Patrick Vellner (714) | Mayhem Freedom (753)
- Sara Sigmundsdottir (770) | Cole Sager (714) | Team GOWOD (751)
- Kari Pearce (724) |Noah Ohlsen (666) | Team WIT (697)
- Amanda Barnhart (696) | Saxon Panchik (632) | Mayhem Independence (597)
- Haley Adams (630) | Travis Williams (620) | Team Victory Grips (582)
- Brooke Wells (596) | Spencer Panchik (594) | ROMWOD Meat Squad (550)
- Kendall Vincelette (572) | Nycolas Joyal (540) | Team SugarWOD (524)
- Alanna Fisk Colon (552) | Adrian Munwiler (540) | US Army Warrior Fitness Team (507)
- Kristine Best (540) | Bryan Wong (530) | TTT MIA (440)
- Emily Rolfe (530) | Logan Collins (528) | True North Strong (429)
** – Statistical support for this story provided by Chad Schroeder