CrossFit Games

Wild, Wild West Coast Classic Preview

June 16, 2021 by
Photo Credit: CrossFit LLC
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The final week of Semifinals features the last of five live competitions and it’s one most of us have been waiting for, for over a year. 

Remind me: The 2020 West Coast Classic was set to take place in late March of 2020. The roster of athletes in all the elite divisions were stacked, the workouts were all throwbacks to old Regional or Games tests, and anticipation was high. Then the world shut down and we were unsure if we’d ever see it come to life. Well, fast forward fourteen months and the stage is set for just about everything we wanted.

The Competition: Due to the extreme nature of shutdowns and restrictions in California, event directors made the decision early on to relocate with the priority being the ability to host a live competition with spectators. After shopping for several venues they settled on the Orleans Center in Las Vegas and it appears all systems are go for what should be an epic event. 

Staying true to their intention from last season, all the events for both teams and individuals will be replicas or variations of past Games events. Highlighting the list are two past Regional final events (from 2015 and 2017), the Ruck Run from the 2019 Games, and a revamped version of Push Pull, whose original version featured one of the most memorable final heats in Games history.

The Rosters: It may not be the star-studded field we were anticipating last season, but when looking at the Semifinal rosters, there are few as deep as this one; especially on the men’s side. 

There are seven past Games veterans in this field: Noah Ohlsen, Cole Sager, Sean Sweeney, Brandon Luckett, Will Moorad, Alec Smith, and John Coltey. 

There are also three past teen Games athletes who are looking to establish themselves in the elite field. Leading the way is three time Games teenage champion Dallin Pepper. Accompanying him are Tudor Magda, a former Games team champ himself, and James Sprague, who finishes fourth and fifth during his two year run as a teenage Games athlete. 

That’s already one third of the field with Games experience of one kind or another. 

Additionally, we’ve got a very determined lineup of men who feel they are more than good enough to compete at the Games.

  • Tola Morakinyo actually qualified last season out of Dubai, but due to the forced changes to the Games landscape, that invite was rescinded. 
  • Cedric Lapointe has been extremely close to qualifying via the Open, but has endured multiple major penalties after the video review process was seen through which ultimately also left him on the outside looking in. 
  • Spencer Panchik’s goal to qualify for the Games alongside his brothers is once again there for the taking. The other two have already secured Games invites, meaning it’s all on his shoulders to perform here and round out the trio.
  • Jake Berman and Kyle Bernier were regulars on the Sanctional circuit, but have since settled down at the Training Think Tank hub in Alpharetta, GA where they’ve been going toe to toe with Ohlsen and Travis Mayer, amongst others, on the regular. Both men seem very confident coming into this weekend.

It would be nice to say the list of potential Games qualifiers stops there, but this field is incredibly deep. 

  • Word has it that 22-year-old Sarin Suvanasai, 19th in the Quarterfinals, is the real deal.
  • US Army Warrior Fitness standout, Jacob Pfaff is trying his hand at individual competition this year.
  • 12th place Quarterfinalist Dylan Pettit is looking to establish himself on the scene.
  • Underdogs Athletics athlete Matt Dlugos, who trains alongside Kari Pearce, Danielle Brandon, and Bethany Shadburne (more on those three below), has gone two for two when it comes to top ten Sanctional finishes in the last two years.

Needless to say, it’s going to be quite a fight for the men.

Women’s Division: 

The women’s field has a bit more of a top heavy feel to it than the men’s does, and leading the way are the aforementioned trio of Pearce, Brandon, and Shadburne. All three women have been training together in Las Vegas for several months now. It’s curious that they all ended up at the same Semifinal, but perhaps the “home court” advantage was too appealing to shy away from. 

Despite the formidable names in that group, it is actually Dani Speegle who comes in riding the coattails of a second place finish in North America during Quarterfinals. Speegle is training at CrossFit Invictus this year, and in quite a stark contrast, she’ll be lining up against former Invictus athlete Lauren Fisher. Fisher had been a staple at Invictus for years and was a mainstay on their team the last two seasons. She now trains with Ohlsen and Co. at Training Think Tank, but certainly will be no stranger to the West Coast vibe; after all she’s won there before (Regionals 2016). 

It seems pretty safe to say those are the five favorites coming in, but a host of women will beg to differ:

  • Former teammate of Fisher’s, Regan Huckaby is also making a return to the individual division this season. Having finished seventh during Quarterfinals, is it possible she can threaten for a top five spot this weekend?
  • Long time East coast regional athlete, Kristine Best, finally scraped her way to the Games last year. It’s a safe bet to say she was disappointed not to be able to compete in person though. She’s historically competitive in this format, expect her to be right there as the end of the weekend approaches.
  • Two-time Games athlete and 2019 Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Champion Meg Reardon was absent from the competition scene in 2020. She’s still in the prime of her career at 29, and has plenty of Regional experience to boot. Don’t be surprised if she looks good after training and not competing for an extended period of time. She was 21st at Quarterfinals, which sets her up well for another run at the Games.

A few other names to keep an eye on for the ladies are Jordan Adcock, Hayley Murillo, Chelsey Hughes, Alexis Raptis, Alison Scudds and Sydney Wells.

Team Division:

The deck is stacked for the teams at The West Coast classic this year. There are at least thirteen teams with recognizable athletes on their roster, not all of which necessarily had the best Quarterfinal finishes, but live team competition is very different, so look for a very competitive final heat throughout the weekend.

The Top 3 Teams Coming In:

Invictus: The roster might be different, but the goal remains the same for this perennial powerhouse. They were a distant second, finishing 33 points behind Mayhem) in the Quarterfinals, but second place nonetheless. Led by two time individual Games athlete Eric Carmody this year, and featuring experienced women in Jenn Ryan (former Games team athlete and Masters Games athlete) and Brittany Weiss (four time regional athlete – twice as an individual and twice on a team), there’s no reason no to expect a great weekend for Invictus’s top team.

Team Man Made: This is about as raw of a roster as a team can field. Man Made CrossFit is in Cypress Texas, but their roster features athletes from all over the world.

  • The most experienced is Romania’s fittest woman from 2020, Carrie Tobias. She competed at Regionals on a team in 2018 and has been inside the top 200 the last two years in the Open
  • The rest of the team has no competitive history other than Open performances. This will be a huge test for them in a very deep team field.

Invictus Unconquerable: The second team representing the Sea of Green is the third ranked team in this field after Quarterfinals (where they were 10th overall). Invictus Unconquerable made history when they became the fourth Invictus team to qualify for the Games in 2018, making Invictus the gym with the most teams at the Games that year. They boast a pretty veteran lineup which may even challenge their “A-team” for the top overall spot.

  • Alex Bozenhard and Taylor Ballek were on Ocean State’s Finest 14th place Games team in 2017. Ballek also took 16th in the East Regional in 2018.
  • Devyn Kim was a four time teenage Games athlete, who took second in the 14-15 year old division in 2017 and never finished worse than seventh in her four teenage years
  • But it’s actually Wesley Rethwill of this group with the most experience of all. 37th at the Games as an individual in 2017, but he’s also been on three previous Invictus Games teams, including finishing second in 2018 with CrossFit Invictus X. 

Though these are the three top seeded teams coming in, there are several others with plenty of experience who will have something to say about the five Games spots:

  • Venture CrossFit was 13th in Quarters and is led by Nicole Corey who competed at the Games way back in 2012, and has been to Regionals five times total (three teams, twice as an individual).
  • The Ohio Brutes are a relatively unknown team but finished 17th in Quarterfinals, including a ninth place finish on the lifting test.
  • While the name “Fitness Like a Pro” is new for them, this exact roster for CrossFit Roseland competed at both Strength in Depth (5th place) and Wodapalooza (25th place) last season. CrossFit Mayhem reeled off five consecutive event wins at Strength in Depth before this team beat them on the final event of the weekend. That event featured the worm, and is without a doubt a noteworthy performance.
  • John Wood declined an individual invitation to compete at Semifinals to compete with his team, BackCountry Black
  • Blues City Athletics features one of the strongest men in CrossFit in Stephen Wallace as well as 2019 individual Games athlete Taylor Streid. Streid also turned down an individual spot for Semifinals for the opportunity to make the Games with her team.
  • Eric Evans (14th at SouthFit and 16th at Strength in Depth last season as an individual) features for Gold Standard Athletics
  • Rob Thomas leads CrossFit Hype again, both women on this team (Tara Demers and Tommie Deprima) have a considerable amount of experience too. This might be the team to make the biggest improvement from Quarterfinals (they were 42nd) this weekend.

It doesn’t even stop there for competitive teams. Ocean State’s second team, Scott Panchik’s gym, CrossFit Mentality, CrossFit Grandview led by Scott Cotrill, CrossFit Crag with Lindsey Grassis, and backfilled Salt Lake CIty CrossFit Gold all will be competitive in various events this weekend too. It’s the most loaded field of teams we’ve seen yet anywhere in the world. Navigating this mindfield and making it to the Games will be no easy task for the five teams who eventually do so.

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