Former Masters Champs Headline 45-Plus Age Groups
The 2021 CrossFit Open is over and the individual and team athletes are preparing for the upcoming Qualifiers. Meanwhile, the masters athletes will compete at their respective gyms in the Age Group Online Qualifier with an opportunity to move closer to the NOBULL CrossFit Games.
The Masters divisions feature a wide variety of talented athletes, including perennial Games competitors and multi-time champions. Now they will face off once again after a one-year absence due to COVID-19.
Why this matters: Younger athletes like Patrick Vellner and Kari Pearce will understandably draw attention as the Quarterfinals, Semifinals, and Games approach. However, several athletes headline the Masters divisions and have the gold medals to prove they are deserving of attention in the coming months.
Women Ages 45-49: Of the five athletes sitting atop the Open leaderboard, two are familiar faces at the Games. One has made the trip to California and Wisconsin as both a team and masters athlete. Another has been a constant presence in the top 10.
- Annie Sakamoto finished second in the Open and started her season off with yet another strong performance. Sakamoto is a popular name among those that have been following the Games since the early days of CrossFit. She competed with the CrossFit West Santa Cruz team in 2009 before taking ninth place as an individual in 2011. Sakamoto has been to the Games four times in her career, including two in the masters 40-44 division, and has secured both second and third-place finishes.
- Karen McCadam, who finished third in 2021, is no stranger to CrossFit success. She won the 40-44 worldwide Open in 2015 and competed five separate times in the 40-44 division at the Games, placing in the top 10 every single time. McCadam took second place in both 2015 and 2017.
Women Ages 50-54: Of the top-five women in the 50-54 category, two have truly made names for themselves as very successful athletes. One has stood atop the podium twice in six years. The other has experienced similar highlights, albeit in fewer trips to the Games.
- Cheryl Brost secured top-five finishes in 21.1 and 21.2, leading to a second-place finish in the Open. Now she is on her way to even more success after six previous appearances and six top-10 finishes. Brost is a two-time champion in the 45-49 division (2016, 2017), and she took second place in the 40-44 division in 2014.
- Kylie Massi is back in the top five after three weeks of the Open and will now prepare for the next part of the season. Massi is a familiar face to fans of the Masters divisions after being named champion in 2015 (45-49). A three-time Games competitor, Massi’s most recent trip in 2017 resulted in a second-place finish in the 45-49 division.
Women Ages 55-59: Laurie Meschishnick finished the 2021 Open in fourth place, setting her up for another potential trip to the Games. She previously competed at the big show six times. She won the 55-59 division in 2019, finished second in the 50-54 division in 2018, and third in the 50-54 division in 2015.
Women Ages 60-64: All of the Masters divisions feature talented competitors, but the 60-64 age group for women may be the most stacked. There are three athletes with multiple podium finishes in their career, as well as one that is a truly dominant force.
- Patricia McGill is drawing closer to a return to the Games after finishing the 2021 Open in second place. She has only one Games appearance in her career, but she made the most of it by securing a second-place finish in the 60-plus division in 2019.
- Susan Clarke has competed at the Games four separate times and is starting the season off in a positive manner once again with a fourth-place finish in the Open. Clarke has been possibly the most dominant force in the Masters divisions in her career. She has finished first every single time that she has reached the Games, walking away with the gold in 2014 (55-59), 2015 (55-59), 2017 (55-59), and 2019 (60-plus).
- Patricia Failla rounds out the top five after three weeks of the Open. The 2017 champion (60-plus), Failla has stood on the podium three separate times. Her achievements include third place in 2014 (55-59) and second in 2018 (60-plus).
Women Ages 65-Plus: Next to the 60-64 division, the 65-plus age group features an impressive roster of female athletes that have competed at the Games and stood on the podium. Another has come close to winning a medal several times.
- Pia Gund capped off the 2021 Open atop the 65-plus leaderboard and could be on her way to another appearance at the Games. She has competed at the Games three times during her career as a masters athlete. All three of these trips resulted in top-five finishes and a career-best fourth-place finish in 2017.
- Lidia Beer has headed to the Games five times in her career and finished in the top 10 in four of those trips. She took second in 2016 (60-plus) and then added a fifth-place finish in 2017. She tied for second in the Open and will now prepare for the next step in the season.
- Shaun Havard took fourth place in the Open and added yet another accomplishment to her resume. Harvard is a two-time champion at the Games in the 60-plus division (2016, 2018). She also finished second in 2017.
- Mary Schwing rounds out the top five and adds even more Games experience to the list of competitors. She is a four-time podium finisher in the 60-plus division and has seven appearances on her resume. Schwing won the 60-plus division in 2012.
Men Ages 45-49: There are several talented athletes in the 45-49 division, but one man is a familiar face to fans of the CrossFit Games. Jason Grubb finished fifth in the 2021 Open in his respective division, but he adds a championship pedigree to the list of male athletes. He has competed twice at the Games (40-44 division) and has walked away with a medal each time. Grubb finished third in 2018 and then won the gold in 2019.
Men Ages 50-54: There are multiple standout athletes in the 50-54 division, but two will draw particular attention. These two men have been to the Games multiple times and became the first brothers to compete together in 2015. Now they headline the leaderboard.
- James Grundler ended the three-week Open in second place, marking his sixth consecutive year with a top-five finish in a masters division. Grundler has four Games appearances to his name, including seventh-place finishes in 2016 and 2017 (45-49 division).
- Bill Grundler, the longtime CrossFit commentator, is back in the top five at the end of the Open. He won 21.3 with a time of 10:05 and then finished fifth in 21.4 with a 260-pound complex. Grundler is a two-time Games competitor and finished second in 2015 (45-49 division).
Men Ages 55-59: Allen Duarte finished third in the 2021 Open after finishing fourth in 21.3 and securing top-13 scores in 21.1 and 21.2. Duarte has competed at the Games four times and finished in the top seven each time. His career-best is a third-place finish at the 2019 Games (55-59).
Men Ages 60-64: Next to Clarke, Will Powell could be one of the most dominant athletes in the Masters divisions. He is a three-time champion after winning the 55-59 division in 2014, 2015, and 2016. He also took third place in 2018 (55-59). Powell took second place in the Open and could be on his way to another medal.
Men Ages 65-plus: One of the new divisions, the 65-plus category features two of the most-decorated masters athletes in Games history. These men have combined for five gold medals in their career and will likely compete against each other for another.
- David Hippensteel won the Open after posting top-ten scores in all four workouts, including second in 21.3 and third in 21.4. Hippensteel is a two-time champion who won the Games in 2013 (55-59) and 2018 (60-plus). He also finished second in 2014 (55-59).
- Scott Olson, the seventh-place finisher in the Open, is capable of returning to the Games and adding another medal to his collection. Olson is a three-time champion after winning the 60-plus division in 2012, 2013, and 2014. He most recently took 11th place in the 2016 Games.
Bottom line: Similar to the 35-39 and 40-44 divisions, there is an assortment of big names striving to return to the CrossFit Games after a year’s absence. There are multi-time champions and athletes that have come close to standing on the podium. The season is only in its early stages, but one thing is certain — these masters will turn in some impressive performances in the coming months.