The (Unofficial) Age Group Awards
The official age group season is over, and at least from the CrossFit Games end they won’t be handing out any awards for the 2020 season. Even though some potential replacement competitions are in the works, that doesn’t mean the hard work of the age groups through the Open and Age Group Online Qualifier (AGOQ) should go unnoticed.
Enter the Unofficial Age Group Awards.
We’ve selected noteworthy performances and awards in each age division broken into three distinct groups. The “Tip Of The Spear,” award highlights the top overall performer across the season and two stages of competition. The “Podium Worthy,” award recognizes the athlete(s) that had the podium and a shiny medal in their sights if things progressed to Madison. Last but certainly not least the “Spirit Of The Games,” represents an athlete whose performance and standing in the season exemplify the best of the sport regardless of placement.
Without further ado.
Tip Of The Spear: Elijah Subiono, Emma Lawson.
Subiono found his stride winning the AGOQ on the heels of a 2nd place finish in the Open, and put up an eye-popping 285-lb clean and jerk in event 5 of the AGOQ. Subiono led all athletes with ten top-10 finishes across all events in the Open and AGOQ. Lawson was the clear toast of the division, winning 6 of the 11 events across the season and was the only athlete to finish every event in the top-5, which earned her a clean win in the open and a tie for first in the AGOQ. Coupled with a 3rd place finish at the Games last year as a 14-year-old, and Emma Lawson was well on her way to the top in 2020.
Podium Worthy: Sophia Shaft, Rokkvi Gudnason.
Shaft was just gaining steam after a third place finish in the Open, and tying Emma Lawson for the top spot in the AGOQ. Along with Lawson she was one of just two 14-year-olds to qualify for the Games both years in this division and was poised to earn some hardware in Madison. Gudnason turned some heads by winning the Open in the division, but two finishes outside the top-10 in the AGOQ dropped him to third by just one point. Still, he’s the latest in a long line of Icelandic athletes to break through after missing out on the Games last year via tiebreaker, and seven finishes of 2nd or better in the Open and AGOQ stand as proof of his ability to bounce back.
Spirit Of The Games: Jadzia Onorati-Phillips
Onorati-Phillips was heartbreakingly close to qualifying last year, missing out on the Games by just two spots, and four points total. The format change and cuts to qualifying spots meant that in any other year she would have made it to Madison. This year she put in the work to qualify 4th overall, and had a legitimate shot to podium before the division disappeared entirely.
Tip Of The Spear: Emma Cary, Tudor Magda
Coming off a title in the 14-15 division, Cary was in a qualifying spot as an individual through the Open in her first year of the 16-17 division. She took the top spot in the AQOQ with four event wins, and her seven wins total in her career are the most of any teenager ever in the AGOQ; and she still has another year to add to her gold medal count in the teenage ranks. Magda was the clear favorite to bring home the gold this summer and is deserving of the top spot on multiple levels. He’s qualified for the Games all four years that he’s been eligible, and he’s just the 4th teenager in history to do so. He blew away the division in the AGOQ with just 15 points, 38 points clear of second, and his combined scores from the Open and Qualifier were a ridiculous 83 points ahead of the next closest athlete.
Podium Worthy: Olivia Sulek, Paige Powers, Luiz Henrique Alves Moreira
The teenage girls are worthy of multiple spots here because the division is that talented, Sulek finished the year 1st in the Open, and 3rd in the AQOQ as a 16-year-old, and Power finished 3rd and 4th respectively and both have made waves in the adult divisions. Sulek finished 50th worldwide in the Individual division, and Powers qualified for and competed in back-to-back Sanctionals at the Mayhem Classic and Strength in Depth. Alves Moreira put himself in line to follow in the footsteps of countryman Guilherme Malheiros as the next Brazilian to stand on the Games podium. Alves Moreira was the only other athlete besides Magda in the top five in the AGOQ to win an event and it catapulted him up into 2nd overall along with the 2nd lowest point total of the division across the Open and AGOQ.
Spirit Of The Games: Anikha Greer
Greer also deserves to be in the conversation for podium worthy as well, but the 17-year-old would-be first time qualifier out of Canada exemplifies perseverance in the pursuit of her Games berth that was ultimately lost to history. In 2018, Greer finished 21st in the AGOQ — just one point, and one spot away from qualifying in her last year in the 14-15 division. Last year, she improved to 15th but the number of spots at the Games were halved from 20 to just 10. This season Greer finally broke through, finishing 2nd overall in the AGOQ only to have the season cut short. She may not get to compete in Madison, but she’s worthy of recognition along with this really cool gesture by her friends from the gyms.
Tip Of The Spear: Nicholas Urankar, Kelley Jackson
Reigning division champion Urankar was set up nicely to defend his title after a 2nd place finish in both the Open and the AGOQ, as well as the lowest combined point total in the division between the two. Urankar flexed his elite level strength with a 371-lb clean and jerk in the AGOQ and was on track to potentially join Kyle Kasperbauer with back-to-back titles in the men’s 35-39 category. Jackson may not have taken her competition prep as seriously as her peers, but that didn’t stop her from having some serious results in the Open and AGOQ, taking 3rd and 2nd respectively. The individual and team Games veteran would’ve had a battle on her hands in a very deep division amongst other former Games individuals, but her experience, skill set, and the results this season place her on top.
Podium Worthy: Susanna Etto, Ryan Elrod
Etto made the biggest leap in her division during the AGOQ, moving up seven spots to win the qualifier ahead of all three podium finishers from the Games last season. Etto would still have something left to prove in Madison to get the top spot here, but making the Games in back-to-back seasons along with an impressive improvement puts her squarely in the podium spot. Elrod is in a near identical situation as Etto, except he moved up 20 spots in the AGOQ to get the win on the men’s side. Heading to Madison would’ve been a nice piece of redemption after he recently finished a suspension due to a failed drug test after qualifying as an Individual in 2017 that stemmed from a fertility drug used to grow his family, but his finish in the AGOQ will serve as the foundation for another strong comeback next season.
Spirit Of The Games: Rebecca Voigt-Miller
This is as much a no-brainer as they come, and Voigt-Miller also deserves consideration for the podium as well. Her 4th place finish in the AGOQ meant that for the 13th consecutive time, Voigt-Miller would be lacing up her sneakers and stepping onto the competition floor at the CrossFit Games. To put this in perspective, when Voigt-Miller first competed at the Games in Aromas, the entire teenage 14-15 division was still in diapers. That level of consistency and durability is worthy of the highest praise.
Tip Of The Spear: Jenn Ryan, Alexandre Jolivet
Ryan showcased how consistency wins out by finishing 3rd in the Open, and winning the AGOQ despite not winning a single event across both competitions. The former Games team athlete with Invictus was the only woman in the top three without a win, but she was also the only qualifying athlete without a finish lower than 20th in both the Open and AGOQ. Jolivet made a clean sweep of the Open and AGOQ, winning both stages as he aged up into the 40-44 division. Jolivet qualified all three times in the 35-39 division, including a podium finish in 2018, and after finally being the young one in his division was set to be the man to beat in Madison, winning four events, and finishing seven inside the top 10 across the season.
Podium Worthy: Kelly Friel, Josh Petlowany
Friel already has a pair of CrossFit Games medals around her neck, after the UK native finished 2nd overall in 2018, and 2019. Another 2nd place finish in the AGOQ would’ve set her up nicely for a three-peat podium performance, and she’s one of the strongest in the field with a 237-lb clean and jerk in the qualifier at 42-years-old. Petlowany sits on the other end of the spectrum, as a would-be first time qualifier whose consistency in an otherwise topsy-turvy division placed him 2nd overall in the AGOQ after a 4th place finish in the Open. A former individual and team competitor at Regionals in the South, Petlowany made good use of his first year in the 40-44 division and earned himself honors here.
Spirit Of The Games: Valerie Voboril
If you want a great example of an athlete that represents what CrossFit — both the sport and fitness methodology — is all about, look no further than Valerie Voboril. A teacher, and mother, being an elite athlete has been only one part of her story. She’s qualified as an individual for the Games six times, finished inside the top-5 four times, and podiumed twice. After finishing 3rd at the Games in 2010, she took time off to have a baby, only to return and podium again in 2013. She’s one of only a few athletes to compete as an individual in Aromas, Carson, and Madison, and she’s now transitioned seamlessly into the Masters competition to qualify once again, despite maintaining a career outside of CrossFit. One of the best stories is of her grading papers in between events during the downtime at Regionals.
Tip Of The Spear: Michael Orlov, Karen Mccadam
Orlov may be a newcomer to the division, but he’s no stranger to the CrossFit Games, qualifying in 2017, and barely missing on multiple occasions in other divisions since 2015. His first year in the 45-49 division gave him a huge boost, as he notched a career best finish in the Open (2nd), and won the AGOQ. He would’ve faced a stiff test in Madison from some game competition but his two performances so far have earned him top honors. Mccadam’s 21 points in the AGOQ were the lowest of any women’s division, and her second AGOQ win puts her in a tie for most all-time amongst masters women. It’s her first year in the division and it would have been epic to see her battle it out with Janet Black, but the two-time podium finisher in the 40-44 division had the lowest combined point total between the Open and AGOQ with 54, and would’ve made her sixth straight Games appearance.
Podium Worthy: Justin Lasala, Janet Black
Lasala gets the nod just slightly ahead of Giulio Silvino despite the latter beating out Lasala by a few points in the Open and AGOQ. History is on Lasala’s side, and his two event wins en route to a 3rd place finish in the AGOQ had him primed to repeat his podium performance from the 2019 Games. Silvino’s division best 353-lb clean and jerk is worthy of distinction as well though. Black is truly one of the all-time great masters athletes on the women’s side. The two-time Games champion has made 8 consecutive Games appearances, including one on a team in 2013. Her win in the Open coupled with a 2nd place finish in the AGOQ put her in a great spot to defend her 2019 titles, and at the very least add to her medal count.
Spirit Of The Games: Jolaine Undershute, Jennifer Dieter
Both women would have qualified for an impressive 6th straight appearance at the CrossFit Games, and both have competed in both the 45-49 and 40-44 divisions at the Games. They finished right next to each other on the leaderboard in the AGOQ in 3rd and 4th, and it would have been great to watch these two seasoned veterans battle it out for a spot at the podium as the latest chapter in their lengthy careers.
Tip Of The Spear: Greg Geerdes, Tia Vesser
Despite a less than stellar finish in the Open, Geerdes fired things back up when it counted, winning the AGOQ going away by 40 points over 2nd place. Geerdes also finished 2nd last year at the Games and was the highest returning finisher from the 2019 class. This would’ve been his 4th appearance at the CrossFit Games, and arguably his best chance so far to bring home a title. Vesser really started to blossom in 2020, less than a year after she made her CrossFit Games debut, finishing 7th in Madison. Vesser finished 2nd overall in the Open, then won the AGOQ. She edged out Joyanne Cooper by just one point but showed some home run potential as the only athlete in the division to win multiple events in both the Open and AGOQ.
Podium Worthy: Steve Hartle, Joyanne Cooper
Hartle could’ve easily been swapped for the top spot with Geerdes, and his pair of 2nd place finishes in the Open and AGOQ stand as proof. He’s also competed at the Games both as a master and as an alternate for Backcountry CrossFit’s affiliate cup team. This was his first year in the division, so expect him to make some noise next year as well. Cooper would’ve qualified for her 5th trip to the Games, and the best part is that each year she’s improved at the highest stage, starting with a 9th place finish back in 2014, and ending with a bronze medal in 2019. She nearly won the AGOQ, finishing 2nd by a single point, and the Aurora, Ontario native stood a great shot to bring back another medal to Canada.
Spirit Of The Games: Ron Ortiz
Ortiz picked up right where he left off after missing 2019 (with a hand injury) as one of the most accomplished masters athletes of all-time. His 5th place finish in the AGOQ would’ve earned him his 9th CrossFit Games appearance, 2nd most all-time and the most on the men’s side. He’s finished on the podium at the Games four times, won twice in two separate divisions, and has podiumed in three divisions total. Next year he’ll age up into the next category and will have a shot at a record-tying third title as well.
Tip Of The Spear: Karen Lundgren, Jeff Goebel/Jody Clements
This season would’ve been Lundgren’s first CrossFit Games appearance in what was her first year in the 55-59 division. Not only did she finally get over the hump, but she did so in a big way, winning the AGOQ including two events, and even though the season is scrapped, hopefully her result this year is just the spark she needed to repeat the performance again in 2021. The Goebel/Clements pick was a tough one to sort because each athlete took home a piece of the pie this season. Clements thoroughly dominated the Open, and Goebel came back from a 44th place finish in the Open to win the AGOQ in impressive fashion. Clements still had the lowest combined point total, but the competition would have been razor thin at the Games
Podium Worthy: Laurie Meschishnick, Allen Duarte
Meschishnick manhandled the Open, and is the reigning champion in this division from the 2019 Games, but she struggled with event 5 of the AGOQ which dropped her down to 4th overall. Still her combined point total between the two stages of competition puts her two points behind Lundgren, and her pedigree as an 8-time qualifier and 3-time podium finisher all but guaranteed her another piece of hardware for the collection if the Games took place. Duarte could have easily been in the top category as well for a 55-59 division that was very hotly contested both in the AGOQ this year and at the Games last year. Just one event placement, is what separated Duarte in 3rd from eventual Champion Joe Ames in Madison last year, and Duarte’s 2nd place finish in the AGOQ, one point ahead of Clements meant that we were in for another barnburner if they made it to Madison.
Spirit Of The Games: Walter Schreiber
Not having the Open placement count as a score has been a recent development for the AGOQ but no one has taken a bigger advantage of it than Schreiber. He finished 111th worldwide in the Open — remember only the top 200 make it through — only to rally and finish 9th overall in the AGOQ which would’ve made it one of the biggest turnarounds in Masters history. It brings to mind the famous lesson from poker legend Jack Straus that all you need is a “chip and a chair,” meaning as long as you’re still in the game, you can win, and Schreiber stayed in the Game long enough to claw his way back into the top 10.
Tip Of The Spear: Will Powell, Patricia McGill
Powell is already a CrossFit Games legend for his accomplishments in the masters competition and by winning both the Open and AGOQ he was on the verge of history. The 3-time champion Powell would’ve had the chance to win a record-setting fourth title, in a record third age category. His 15 points in the AGOQ were the lowest point total of any athlete in any division, and he finished 10 of the 11 events across the season in 6th place or better including five event wins. McGill cruised through the Open with just 10 total points, including three event wins, but she slid to 3rd in the AGOQ — seven points back of first — despite finishing 5 of the 6 events in ninth or better. She finished 2nd at the Games in this category in 2019, and last year’s champ Susan Clarke did not compete, so McGill was in the driver’s seat this season.
Podium Worthy: David Gantz, Pauline Sciascia
Gantz finished 2nd behind Powell in both the Open, and AGOQ and if it weren’t for Powell, Gantz’s point totals would easily stand alone as first place worthy in any other division. A past podium finisher in the 55-59 category, this was Gantz’s first year in the division so he’ll have a great chance to go head-to-head with Powell and the 60+ crew in 2021. Sciascia was on the path to improving on her bronze-medal performance at the 2019 Games, after winning the AGOQ ahead of McGill, and 2-time 60+ division champion Patty Failla. A similar story played out last year with Sciascia getting the best of McGill in the AGOQ only for McGill to get the upper hand in Madison, but either way both athletes stood a great chance to stand on the podium once again in 2020.
Spirit Of The Games: Lynne Knapman
Very few people remember what the master competition looked like back in its inaugural year in 2010. Only one athlete — Australia’s Lynne Knapman –can speak from experience about what it’s like and compare it to the present. Knapman has competed in and qualified for every single CrossFit Games masters competition since its inception 11 years ago. Knapman is the Iron Woman of the masters division and has now competed in 3 different divisions across more than a decade. With multiple podiums under her belt, she has one of the longest, and most impressive resumes in the sport.
Research assistance by Chad Schroeder