Since the introduction of the Teen Division in 2015, the CrossFit Games has only given out 320 teen invitations. Of those, more than twenty have claimed by kids from Michigan. Did someone spike the mitten state’s schools sloppy joes with clenbuterol?
The youngest of these Michigander prodigies is Jadzia Oronati-Phillips, who recently took third place in the 2020 Wodapalooza 13-15 division. After competing in gymnastics, the 15-year-old from Rochester, MI, a small town on the outskirts of Detroit, walked into CrossFit Maven to give it a shot. A year later, she’s in a solid qualifying position heading into the Age Group Online Qualifier (AGOQ) and is in constant competition with two-time Games athlete Faith Ferguson, among others who call Maven their home-gym.
- “Every day when I think I did good, I see that Faith beat my time by a minute on the WOD. I’m constantly reaching to beat people, so I’m constantly getting better,” Oronati-Phillips said.
Faith Ferguson shares the sentiment with her younger gym buddy. The 2018 Games athlete has taken Oronati-Phillips under her wing and the two, along with former teen competitor Mia Nightingale, train together at CrossFit Maven every day.
- “There’s something so special about training with someone so often that just makes you so much closer,” Ferguson said. “I feel like the camaraderie inherent in CrossFit is what makes it so special, so to have such a group like that just amplifies it and makes it so special.”
Rochester, MI isn’t the only town teeming with teen CrossFit talent. Just a short 15-minute drive from CrossFit Maven, is CrossFit Novi, home to both 2019 Games athlete and American Ninja Warrior competitor Sophie Shaft and 2020 Games-hopeful Carmen Raad.
- “Carmen and I are best friends, and our relationship is a lot closer than some of the other teens, but we’re all pretty close,” Shaft explained. “We all benefit so much from being able to train together.”
There’s no doubt an advantage for these teens to be in the presence of so many other like-minded people their own age. Teens on the outside looking in realize it, too.
- “I would love to have someone my age to train with,” 14-year-old Delia Moines from Gainesville, FL said.
Though Moines belongs to an affiliate, Risen Strength CrossFit, she primarily trains at home because, without a driver’s license, there’s no way for her to get to the gym every day.
- “I feel like there’s a big benefit in always having someone to push and encourage you,” Moines said.
The teens in Michigan found each other, and having that group of compatible people around to keep you motivated is certainly an asset. That advantage doesn’t end when these athletes leave their gym for competition, though.
Oronati-Phillips attributed her success at Wodapalooza to having her community with her.
- “It makes you perform better in competition knowing that not only does your crossfit box have your back, but others (teens) do too.”
At the 2019 Games, 6 Michiganders traveled to Wisconsin to compete. Just like any other social situation with teens, breaking into a friend group is full of awkwardness.
- “Brent Fikowski was training at the same box as I trained at in Madison, he made a joke about how I reacted to meeting him,” 2018 Games athlete Tori Gallegos said. “Then he gave me some tips for things, he’s a pretty awesome dude.”
It seems this group of close-knit teens have each other’s back when the social-going gets tough.
- “I think we try to socialize with and meet new people, but us Michigan teens are such good friends and are so close that we always seem to end up getting in a group and talking and laughing,” Ferguson admitted.
The community these teens have found themselves in is unique, it’s something special. Training alone is tough, especially as a teen, but these athletes have found a way to sustain high-level training and build the next wave of individual challengers.
Teen CrossFit Games Athletes from Michigan
Paige Powers — Barbarian CrossFit/CrossFit Maven
Sonia Studnicka — Barbarian CrossFit
Mikaela Senkus — Barbarian CrossFit
Faith Ferguson — CrossFit Maven
Mia Nightingale — CrossFit Deviate/Maven
Dylan Kade — CrossFit Maven
Mason Martinec — Oakland County CrossFit
Jadzia Ornorati-Phillips — CrossFit Maven
Sophie Shaft — CrossFit Novi
Carmen Raad — CrossFit Novi
Sophia Grimmer — CrossFit Muskegon
Azariah Price — CrossFit Triple River
Claire Doty — CrossFit Abyss
Rebekah Devine — CrossFit Abyss
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