CrossFit Games

From the Diamond to the MACC: CrossFit Mayhem’s Luke Parker Prepares for First Semifinal

May 21, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Luke Parker
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CrossFit Mayhem’s Luke Parker is heading toward his first Semifinal event after finishing 106th in the United States. 

He will compete with several big names in the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge, a list that also includes Scott Panchik and Justin Medeiros among others. His ultimate goal — to reach the CrossFit Games for the first time in his young career. 

Remind me: A former college baseball player who also competed on Season 15 of ABC’s “The Bachelorette,” Parker began doing CrossFit in Georgia before joining CrossFit Mayhem in Cookeville, TN. In his three-year career, Parker has gone from 133074th in the Open in 2019 to 1429th in 2020 and now to 363rd. Though he started his career with a trial by fire. 

A harsh introduction: As a former college baseball player, Parker looked for other ways to compete after hanging up his cleats. He did some triathlons and then agreed to do a half-Ironman with his brother. Parker realized during training for the big event that he wanted to be a professional athlete, but he did not want to do triathlons. He headed to a CrossFit box in north Georgia and immediately tackled one of the hardest workouts around. 

  • “My first workout was Murph,” Parker explained. “And (the coach) is like, ‘Hey, I think you need to do some kind of foundations, on-ramp.’ And I’m like, ‘you know, I play college baseball. I work out, I know what I’m doing. Played high school football. I’ve done cleans before, I’ve done a deadlift before. I know how to squat.’”
  • “He made me snatch a PVC pipe and do a couple of pull-ups. And he’s like, ‘yeah, you’re good. You can RX everything. Meet up with us tomorrow and bring a weighted vest if you want. We’re doing our Memorial Day Murph workout for our gym.’”

Parker met up with the CrossFitters and brought a weight vest, unaware of what he faced. However, the particular vest he chose was roughly 35 pounds instead of the standard 20. He proceeded to do a full Murph with an added burden and quickly learned how to embrace the suffering inherent to the Hero workouts. 

  • “I had no idea I was getting myself into,” Parker said. “I didn’t know what grips were. My hands were torn from like my knuckles to my palms. In the end, I was bleeding everywhere.”
  • “And I just remember suffering so bad but thinking, ‘Man like if I could get tough and get good at this and do this for a living. That’s what I want to do.’”

Despite his athletic background, the transition from baseball player to CrossFit competitor was not a simple task. He had to deal with some “weak spots” in his game while he grew as a different type of athlete. Parker’s baseball coaches specifically told him to avoid anything overhead to “save his shoulders” for the games. 

  • “That did help me though because my entire college career of working out with baseball, I focused on my legs. … I mean, my strength definitely crossed over. I just had a lot of raw strength when I first started, and now it’s slowly starting to come together.”
  • “Anything Luke lacks in natural talent, he makes up for in effort,” Rich Froning explained. “He has consistently shown up and thrown himself against the wall every day. I expect him to have a great future in the sport.”

The best guidance possible: With Parker heading toward his first Semifinal appearance, he is highlighting the figures that helped him on his journey. There are multiple that have offered guidance over the years, but two, in particular, played the biggest roles — Travis Mayer and Froning. 

  • “I’ve gotten some advice from everyone I’ve ever met. I mean, the list goes on,” Parker said. “Like I said, it’s been super unique and cool to be able to connect with so many top-level CrossFit athletes.”
  • “Definitely the closest I’m with are Travis Mayer, and then his buddies like Noah Ohlsen, Chandler Smith. And then now since I’ve been here in Cookeville, for sure, Rich Froning, Tasia Percevecz, and Haley Adams. I mentioned Jacob Heppner earlier.”
  • “I’ve been like trying to be a sponge and just soak up everything that I see them do. Whether it’s the way they eat, they sleep, or just hanging out and cutting up and having the right mentality and learning to flip the switch, you know, at ‘three, two, one, go.’”

The guidance does not only focus on putting together strong performances at competitions. These high-level athletes also show Parker how to find balance in his life. Both Froning and Mayer split their time as husbands, fathers, and coaches while still finding success on the competition floor. 

  • “I feel like I’ve been really blessed in the point being able to connect with guys like Travis and see him first hand handle his business, which is his gym, be a full-time athlete, love and go on dates with his wife, and spend time with his kids and his mom and dad that are also members of his gym.”
  • “Same thing with Rich while I’m here and a friend of mine, Jacob Heppner. It’s been super inspiring to see them, not just get after it and do three days or even four days and train like absolute savages, but to be able to execute everything else in their life with their kids or family and relationships in business and thrive in those other areas.”

Fueling that fire: Parker’s desire to compete at the Games has only grown with his time at local events and while training with some of the sport’s biggest names, However, he also highlighted one specific moment that pushed him even further — watching the Cookeville team compete and dominate in the Assault to Bob event in 2019. 

  • “In the first event, they won, they crushed everybody,” Parker said. “And I just remember Rich crossing the finish line, doing the little celebration. I remember just, ‘I want to be there. I want to be that guy’s team, right? And be in those shoes.’” 
  • “And watching all the individual athletes. I was actually in the Coliseum for Mary when Noah Olson beat Mat Fraser by like two reps and stole the leaderboard and was rocking those red shorts the next day. Being able to see that lit a fire like I can’t even explain. Like, words will fail me.

Bottom line: Parker knows that he has a major challenge ahead of him as he approaches the MACC. He will face off with some of the biggest names in the sport at a venue within driving distance. Regarding his expectations, the plan is to perform at the best of his abilities, gain valuable experience, and prepare to make a lot of noise in the future. 

  • I’m scratching the surface of where I’m gonna be in the next year, two years as an athlete,” Parker said. “So yeah, I know, I’ve got a long way to go, because I don’t want to just show up to the CrossFit Games and not do so hot. Like when I show up, I want to show up and kick the door down.”

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