A “Labour” of Love: MACC Semifinal Heart and Soul Lies in Its Affiliate Community

May 12, 2021 by
Photo Credit: 12 Labours CrossFit
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In less than three weeks the organizers of the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge will be one of two officially licensed CrossFit events to kick-off the invitation process for the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games. 

The MACC will be held at Thompson-Boling Arena on the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville on May 28-30. How the MACC got to the point where it is only one of five Semifinals to hold a live, in-person competition this year is a tale of hard work, perseverance, stubbornness, stress and most importantly, community.

In the beginning: 

The MACC as we know it today started in 2012 as the Mid-Atlantic Affiliate Challenge (MAAC) and the primary purpose of MACC CEO and founder Luke Espe was to hold a big community event, the actual competition would be just a piece of the overall experience.

In order for that to happen, he had to cultivate and involve his own affiliate community. With that, the backbone, the heart and the soul of his first event in 2012 and the following eight iterations became an extension of 12 Labours CrossFit.

Image – 12 Labours CrossFit

It takes a village:

One of those affiliate members that bought in early to Espe’s vision was Wilson Pak, the General Manager of 12 Labours CrossFit and the Director of the MACC. Pak along with his team consisting of affiliate members made it their mission to keep Espe’s vision of celebrating community by holding a live event. A large task to try to accomplish during a global pandemic.

However, for the 12 Labours CrossFit community, who have taken on the biggest roles in organizing and running the MACC over the last nine years, it was business as usual.

“Whether I am coaching a CrossFit class or organizing a CrossFit Semifinal, my goal is to provide the best experience by being overly prepared,” said Pak. “My day-to-day involves managing two affiliate locations of 12 Labours CrossFit and the MACC is an extension of that community. The people who help run the event collectively are 12 Labours CrossFit, they have been a part of this since day one and none of this wouldn’t be possible without them. Everyone involved as a lead or managing position at the MACC is a member or a coach at 12 Labours CrossFit. It’s so cool to be a part of this and to see it grow to what it is today and it’s because of our affiliate. It was important to keep the tradition alive.”

That core group that Pak oversees has helped him run three different variations of the MAAC/MACC, in three different venues, in three different states, with three different budgets.

“Each time we kind of went in blind not knowing what to expect,” said Pak. “But the one constant, the community of 12 Labours CrossFit, made this so much easier to handle and manage. We wouldn’t be where we are today, on the verge of holding a live competition during a pandemic, without each and every one of them. We are ready to rock!”

Becoming a Semifinal:

The MACC was one of the original 15 Sanctional events of the 2019 season, serving as a direct qualifier for the 2019 CrossFit Games. Because of its previous relationship and not being able to hold their competition in 2020 MACC organizers were contacted by CrossFit and asked if they were interested in becoming one of the four North America Semifinal qualifiers. After a lengthy application process, CrossFit let Pak and his team know that they were selected, the same day that they announced the Semifinal hosts.

The MACC organizers at that point were adamant that they would have their event whether they were selected or not. At the time they knew that having their event in the greater D.C. area would be unlikely due to COVID-19 restrictions and were exploring those options.

After the Semifinal announcement Pak started a multi-city tour that spanned Georgia, Florida, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee looking for a location that would not only allow for them to host but do so safely without compromising the experience for the athletes and potentially fans if they were allowed to attend.

The MACC team settled on Knoxville, a location best known as the home of the University of Tennessee Volunteers athletic teams. Working with the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, Sports Commission and Health Department they were able to secure a venue and over the next few months created and adopted COVID-19 protocols that would allow them to not only have fans in attendance but also vendors and keeping in their original philosophy of fostering a safe and enjoyable community experience.

During this process they were in constant communication with CrossFit as well as other Semifinal organizers discussing best practices and helping each other deal with issues that arose due to the unique environment. The MACC team submitted their proposed workouts to CrossFit to review and approve which was not an issue for them, as their programming as in their past competitions, took into account athlete safety first.

Game time:

The MACC has been at the forefront of handling the challenges of holding an event during the pandemic and taking initiative to make sure their competition would be held in-person. Within three weeks of being announced as a Semifinal, it announced its change of location. Since then they have been openly communicating with not just CrossFit but the whole community through their social media platforms, announcing venue changes, ticket sales, volunteer and vendor registrations.

One of the most important things that Pak has sought to communicate is the COVID-19 protocols that have been put in place. In order to hold an event this size and with 5,000 fans in attendance, everyone, including athletes and volunteers must follow the rules that the organizers have agreed to enforce with the University and Health Department. That includes temperature checks, masks worn at all times while inside the venue unless actively competing, social distancing, and required PCR COVID-19 tests for athletes and volunteers prior to traveling to the event and during unless they show proof of vaccination. 

With a star-studded line-up of athletes converging ont Knoxville, including the reigning and defending “Fittest Woman on Earth” Tia-Clair Toomey and “Fittest Team on Earth” CrossFit Mayhem Freedom, the MACC team has no doubt the event will be amazing, and as always, it will have “community” at its heart.   

Tickets are still available for the MACC including Family Tickets for the recently announced Team athletes.

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