Catching up with Misfit Coach Drew Crandall After The Granite Games

June 10, 2021 by
Credit: Athlete’s Eye Photography
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Three Misfit Athletes showed up to the Granite Games in Eagen, MN. Two of them qualified for the Games (Rogelio Gamboa and Caroline Conners), while the third earned a Last Chance Qualifier spot (Austin Spencer). Seeing how successful all three of their athletes were, we reached out to Drew Crandall, one of their head coaches, to check in and find out if there was any secret to their success. 

Before we dive into the interview, here’s a quick recap of each of their competitive history over the past couple of years:

Rogelio Gamboa:

  • First in Dubai with Misfit P10 Performance during 2019-2020 season (no team competition at the Games).
  • 6th at Games with Don’t Stop in 2019.
  • No individual competitions since the 2018 South Regional where he took 2nd.
  • Also was first at South Reg. in 2016.
  • Five time individual Games athlete; best Games finish was 23rd in 2018.

Caroline Conners :

  • 7th at Mayhem Classic (Eramo was 2nd there, Chung was 6th, Nicole Chovan was 19th).
  • 12th East Regional 2018.
  • 21st East Regional 2017.

Austin Spencer:

  • 15th at Mayhem Classic, Wayman was 10th, Mertens was 16th, Tetlow was 18th.
  • 2018-2019 season he was 16th at WZA, Paul Castillo was 7th, Saxon was 5th, Drew Wayman was 4th.
  • 2018-2019 season he was 7th in Brazil, Saxon was 2nd.
  • 2017 Regionals – 6th, 5 points behind Michael Palomba.
  • Had to WD from 2018 Regionals due to back injury.

The Interview:

Morning Chalk Up: Do you work with them as their coach?

  • Drew Crandall: “I am both Caroline and Austin’s coach. Misfit Co-Owner Matt Sherburne is Roy’s coach” 

MC: Do they follow your online program remotely? (or work with a different coach?)

  • Crandall: “All three receive what we would typically refer to as ‘remote coaching’ from us. But I have the luxury of working with Austin and Caroline in person at Misfit HQ.

MC: What was the conversation with Gamboa like in deciding to give it a run as an individual this year?

  • Matt Sherburne: “The conversation Roy and I had leading up to this season was all about finding the areas where we could be 1% better. His mindset is that he still has a lot left on the table when it comes to untapped potential. However, to be the best, it takes a village. It takes an immense amount of vulnerability and trust to allow someone else to help you when you’ve always been a lone wolf.”
  • “Roy decided it was time to see what would happen if he did so. So after a few conversations about what was missing in his game, we came to an agreement that there were immediate areas to address. Each training session we worked to be 1% closer to his ultimate goal which is proving to himself that he still belonged as one of the best.”
  • “From the conversations I’ve had with him it was clear that when the team rules changed he really wanted that mountain to climb when it came to throwing his hat back into the individual ring the year before he aged up to Masters. That attitude definitely carried over to a weekend where he had to fight consistently to climb up to 4th.”

MC: What happened to Austin that forced him to withdraw in 2018?

  • Crandall: “Austin injured his back deadlifting during Linda which was event 2 at 2018 regionals. He was cleared by the medical staff to keep going, and he actually went out and put on a gutsy performance during the muscle up/pistol/hs walk ramp event, but it was clear he wasn’t going to be able to do the snatch burpee event and had to withdraw.” 

MC: What has the journey back to high level performance been like for him?

  • Crandall: “Austin’s journey from 2018 regionals to the Granite Games has a lot of twists and turns. Being .52 seconds away from qualifying in 2017 moved the timeline for his goals up quite a bit and finding balance in his personal, professional, and competitive life was a challenge up until this year. In 2017 he was working as an arborist and putting in what we would consider ‘moderate volume’. Making the jump to full time coach/athlete proved to be a lot tougher on his body and mind than expected.” 
  • “Luckily the injury was rehabbed fairly quickly and it was a series of trial and error that led him back to becoming a full time arborist this year. He trains very early 2-3x a week before a full day of manual labor and comes back right after for a second session. His only full training days were Saturday and Sunday until Granite Games prep when he took Fridays off to add a third full day each week. From a coaching standpoint it’s an important lesson that athletes need different things from each other to achieve similar levels of success.” 

MC: What’s been the biggest area of improvement for Caroline in the past two years?

  • Crandall: “Caroline’s improvements come from two very different places. From a programming standpoint we take a competitor’s aerobic capacity very seriously, and she is one of the few athletes that just puts her head down and logs the hours it takes to develop that. Along those same lines I took the barbell out of her hands for most of this entire year. She has always been very gifted with strength work, so we agreed to let conditioning pieces stand on their own most days to direct the focus and energy needed to move the needle there.” 
  • “The other side of the coin was her willingness to really dig into the mental aspects of not only the sport itself, but her personal psyche. Out of all of the areas she works so hard in, I am most impressed with the way she bought into having really tough conversations.” 

MC: What was your level of confidence for each of them coming into Granite Games? 

  • Crandall: “We legitimately believed all three of them had a real shot at qualifying. When you work with athletes that have past success like Roy and Austin that belief stays with you. For Caroline to make us feel like this was her year she had to show us something pretty special in the gym, which she’s been doing consistently for about a year now. It was pretty fun to watch that transformation.”

MC: Is there anything in particular about how Misfit prepares elite athletes for approaching a competition that you feel specifically contributed to their success this past weekend?

  • Crandall: “We’ve been doing this for a long time and feel very confident in our ability to develop athletes in the off season and push for their peak at the correct times, but the secret lies in support and motivation. Our strategy has evolved pretty drastically to put an emphasis on convincing athletes to execute through various strategies. Without the desire and grit that lives in the best competitors, the program becomes nothing more than words on a spreadsheet.” 
  • “We just make sure we’re around to foster and encourage those attributes when the grind starts to wear on them. Whether it’s ultimately mentioned or not, I have to make sure I mention Hunter Wood as well. Myself, Matt, and Hunter create our programs as a collaborative process which I believe gives us a distinct advantage in that realm.”

MC: Are there any other Misfit athletes competing at Semifinals coming up?

  • Atlas Games
    • Women: Alexis Johnson, Mekenzie Riley, Paige Semenza, and Rachel Cannon
    • Men: Justin Reidelbach
  • West Coast Classic
    • Women: Carly Lucas
  • German Throwdown
    • Men: Haraldur Holgersson

MC: Any additional thoughts following a very successful weekend for your athletes?

  • Crandall: “One of the themes we push in our community that really hit home this weekend is ‘Hard Work is Patient.’ All three of them can serve as that motivation for others in their own way when it comes to buying into playing the long game. Roy’s career has already been so impressive, and he’s still asking all of the right questions about what can move the needle for him.” 
  • “Austin fought through numerous injuries and lifestyle changes to get back to a top 10 athlete at a major regional/semifinal type event, which really came down to the fact that he loves the sport and was willing to find what worked. Caroline hasn’t wavered for a second during her 8 year climb from our affiliate beginners class to qualifying.”

The big picture: In this day and age of the sport there are several different high level options when it comes to coaching and programming. Seeing a group like Misfit show up and have each of their three athletes do very well at a Semifinal is an impressive feat. Keep an eye on their other athletes in the final two weeks of Semis to see if this trend of success continues for them with the remaining Semifinalists they work with.

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