CrossFit Games

Occupational Games Winners Prove Full-Time Careers Don’t Have to Conflict with Fitness

May 18, 2021 by
(Courtesy of Carolyne Prevost) (Courtesy of Simon Paquette) (Courtesy of Ellia Miller) (Courtesy of Mitch McClune)
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The 2021 CrossFit Games season featured a new online competition — the Occupational Games — to crown the fittest law enforcement officers, firefighters, healthcare workers, college students and school teachers. 

Remind me: While the worldwide Open used to include occupational leaderboards, this was the first year it was its own competition held in conjunction with the Age Group Online Qualifier. 

  • Like the Quarterfinals and AGOQ, those who competed in the Occupational Games earned their spot during the Open.
  • The top 10 percent of the 4,030 military service members, 2,820 law enforcement officers, 2,780 firefighters, 3,470 healthcare workers, 2,090 college students and 4,530 school teachers who competed in the Open earned a spot in the Occupational Games.

The male and female Occupational Games winners:

  • Military service members: Ellia Miller, Mitch McLune
  • Law enforcement: Shaylin Laure, Ryon Anderson
  • Firefighters: Katrina LaClair, Simon Paquette
  • Healthcare workers: Kelly Benfey, Ean Phillips
  • College students: Sarah Schaefer, Eric Evans
  • School teachers: Carolyne Prevost, Mitch McClune

One big thing: Presumably, most Occupational Games competitors work full-time jobs, leaving them less time than many top athletes in the individual division, who are pursuing CrossFit as their career. Despite this, the top Occupational Games athletes proved their careers haven’t stopped them from being at the top of their game, and even competitive with some of the best athletes in the world. Two female winners—Prevost and Laure—will even be competing at the upcoming Semifinals, while the other Occupational champions had impressive Quarterfinals finishes. 

  • Prevost, a full-time High School teacher, placed 18th in North America in the Quarterfinals and will be competing in the online Atlas Games Semifinals next month. And Laure, who works 50-plus hours a week as an FBI agent in Raleigh, NC in the violent crimes division, and is also on-call 24/7—meaning some weeks she never gets to the gym at all—will be competing at the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge in Knoxville, TN.
  • Further, Benfey, a physical therapist who won the healthcare division, also had an impressive Quarterfinals competition, placing 222nd in North America, and has made it her goal to qualify to Semifinals next year, while Miller was close behind in 231st, and college student winner Schaefer was 289th. Finally, firefighter LaClair also placed 37th in the 35-39 year-old division in the AGOQ and 214th in the Quarterfinals.
  • One the men’s side Paquette, a full-time firefighter and 2013 CrossFit Games athlete, has been focusing more on long distance fitness to prepare him for an Ironman in recent months. Not only did he win the Occupational Games, Paquette also placed an impressive 254th in North America in the Quarterfinals. Further, college student Evans was 181st in the Quarterfinals, while McClune finished in 197th.

What they’re saying:

Prevost: For Prevost, the win is hugely symbolic, as it shows that she’s able to maintain a high fitness level while also teaching full-time, which in the last year has mostly been entirely remotely. “It’s a great promotion for other teachers and students out there,” she said. 

  • Though excited about her Occupational Games title, Prevost, a 2019 Games athlete, has her sights set on bigger things this summer: Semifinals. “My goal is obviously to perform the best that I can and get myself a qualifying spot for the Games,” she said. 
Credit: luizmlivramento

Paquette: For Paquette, the competition was also symbolic as “it’s important for people to know that firefighters keep fit,” Paquette explained. 

  • “I’m also very happy to see that many of my coworkers are training in CrossFit to keep in shape and be ready for anything,” he said.

Benfey: As a healthcare professional, the win is more than being about a competition. It’s about leading by example, Benfey explained.

  • “People know they shouldn’t smoke, but they do. Educating people to stop doesn’t really motivate them to change. What motivates people is seeing others lead by example,” she said. “Having the title of fittest healthcare worker on earth is my example of prioritizing my fitness while still having a full time job to inspire those around me.”

LaClair: After a year of pandemic-related challenges, where LaClair wasn’t able to train in her gym for months, she couldn’t be more proud of becoming the fittest female firefighter, she explained.

  • “How freaking cool is that? I am absolutely honored,” she said. “I truly believe that this is the best job on earth, and to be a representative of the female firefighters around the world is just indescribable.”

McClune: McClune, who serves in the Air Force and as an Air Force Leadership studies instructor at Arizona State University won not one, but two divisions in the Occupational Games: military service member and teacher. He remains humble about his wins. 

  • “I don’t know if I can rightfully claim to be the fittest military service member. I know some extremely fit individuals like Chandler Smith, Jacob Pfaff and Scott Tetlow that didn’t compete over the weekend and I think they would definitely have something to say about that,” he said. Nonetheless, “it is an honor to be able to compete alongside fellow service men and women and represent the Air Force.”

Miller: And for Miller, who serves full-time as a State Medical Planner with the National Guard, winning the competition “reinforces my drive and determination to continue training and putting in the work to be the best I can be in this sport,” she said. 

  • “It also means so much that I can show the rest of the military that it’s possible to be successful in this sport while upholding our commitment to our service and the country,” she added. 

The big picture: For those who competed in the inaugural Occupational Games, it was a real chance to represent their chosen careers and even come together and bond with others in their industry, Laure explained. 

  • “Multiple women in my division reached out to me to encourage me during the competition and even tagged me in posts congratulating me at the end of the weekend,” Laure said. 
  • She added: “Women in a professional setting often see other women as a threat. I’m proud to say that the women in the law enforcement division truly aspire to build each other up and see each other succeed…To be able to represent the incredible women within my profession is an absolute honor.”

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