History Rewritten: Records Fall at the West Coast Classic

June 21, 2021 by
Credit: West Coast Classic (instagram.com/thewestcoastclassic/)
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CrossFit’s ability to continuously measure our progress is one of its undeniable traits that gets so many of us hooked. So for those of us who get particularly stoked about comparing performances and measuring improvement, nothing was more exciting than the West Coast Classic in Las Vegas, NV this weekend. 

Remind me: The West Coast Classic Semifinal featured seven workouts that had previously been tested at either Regionals competitions, the CrossFit Invitationals or the Games between 2013 and 2019, making it the quintessential chance to assess how some of the top athletes in the world have progressed in recent years, both as individuals and as a community as a whole.

  • “We thought it would be perfect to celebrate the history of CrossFit…by programming old workouts historically,” explained Matt O’Keefe, the president of Loud & Live Sports of the decision to program all former Regionals and Games events.

A Closer Look

Event 1: 2016 Regionals Snatch Ladder
10 squat snatches (185/135 pounds)
8 squat snatches (205/145 pounds)
6 squat snatches (225/155 pounds)
4 squat snatches (245/165 pounds)
2 squat snatches (265 pounds/175 pounds)

In 2016, the top men’s time across all eight regions was Mat Fraser’s time of 6:05.29, while the top female time was 5:29.82 by Kara Saunders. Both times were taken down in Las Vegas: Tola Morakinyo had the top men’s time with 5:49.53, and Kloie Wilson posted the top female time of 5:28.26.

Worth noting: What’s even more impressive than Morakinyo and Wilson’s times was the depth of the field on the weekend. In 2016, only 33 percent of the men’s field of 321 athletes across all regions completed the event under the time cap, while only 20.7 percent of the women’s field finished. At the time, just finishing the workout was seen as a major accomplishment. 

  • Fast forward to 2021, and in just one Semifinal with 30 athletes in each division, 70 percent of the field, both on the men’s and women’s side completed the event. 

Notable individual improvements: In the competition against themselves, Noah Ohlsen, Cole Sager, Regan Huckaby and Kari Pearce all boasted huge personal bests from 2016. 

  • Ohlsen shaved one minute and 28 seconds off his 2016 time, while Sager took off one minute and six seconds, and Pearce improved by a massive two minutes and 36 seconds. Meanwhile, Huckaby didn’t even finish the event in 2016 (CAP + 8 reps), but posted a time of 6:20.72 on the weekend. 

Event 2: 2014 CrossFIt Games ‘Legless’
27 thrusters (95/65 pounds)
4 legless rope climbs
21 thrusters
3 legless rope climbs
15 thrusters
2 legless rope climbs
9 thrusters
1 legless rope climb

“Legless” in 2013 was the first time legless rope climbs were introduced in competition, and to say athletes struggled with the movement, especially on the women’s side, is an understatement. In fact, only two women completed the workout under the 10 minute time cap that year: Alessandra Pichelli and Christy Adkins.

Worth noting: Twenty women on the weekend completed Legless before the time cap, 19 of whom bested Pichelli’s top time of 9:33.7 from 2013. Further, the fastest time on the weekend put up by Pearce (6:21.2) was more than three minutes faster than Pichelli’s in 2013.

  • On the men’s side, Sager’s time of 4:50 was one minute and 17 seconds faster than Josh Bridges’ winning time of 6:07.3. More impressive than that is that 19 men on the weekend beat Bridges time from 2013. 

Event 3: 2019 CrossFit Games ‘Ruck Ruck’
6K Ruck Run with increasing weight each lap 
(10, 30, 40, 50 pounds for the women, 20, 40, 50, 60 for the men)

Though the event on the weekend was similar to the 2019 CrossFit Games, it was much more challenging at the West Coast Classic, and not just because of the hot desert sun that caused Kristine Best to withdraw from the competition and Dani Speegle to stop after the third lap.

  • At the Games in 2019, athletes unzipped and loaded their rucks with more weight each lap, while on the weekend, athletes wore a ruck but also had to hold onto to a sandbag, which they placed on their backs during the second, third and fourth laps. This essentially prevented them from using their arms as they ran. As a result, scores were, expectedly, much slower on the weekend than at the 2019 Games. 

Event 4: 2017 CrossFit Games ‘Triple-G Chipper’
100 pull-ups
80 GHD sit-ups
60 one-legged squats
40 calorie row
20 single arm dumbbell push press (100/70 pounds)

In 2017, the “Triple-G Chipper” at the Games was won by Saunders in a time of 10:45.72 and Fraser in a time of 10:46.46. Both times were bested at the West Coast Classic. 

  • Bethany Shadburne posted the top women’s time, beating Saunders by 17 seconds (10:28.26), and Spencer Panchik took down Fraser’s time by a huge 53 seconds (9:53.58).
  • Even more impressive is that a total of seven men at the West Coast Classic went faster than Fraser did in 2017. 

Notable individual improvements: Shadburne crushed her time from 2017 by more than two and a half minutes, while Pearce shed more than a minute off her 2017 performance. On the men’s side, Ohlsen improved his score by a minute and 39 seconds, while Sager crushed his 2017 time by more than two minutes. 

Event 5: 2017 Regionals Finale
30/25 calorie bike
20 burpee box jump overs (30/24 inch)
10 D-ball cleans (150, 100 pounds)

While the event in Las Vegas was similar to the 2017 Regionals event, there was one major difference: In 2017, athletes cleaned a sandbag at the end of the event, and on the weekend they used a D-ball. So a direct comparison is likely not 100 percent accurate.

But just for fun: Both the winning times from the 2017 Regionals competitions — Sara Sigmundsdottir (3:26.92) and Andrey Ganin (2:54.39) — were, once again, beaten at the West Coast Classic.

  • Three men and four women were faster than Sigmundsdottir and Ganin’s 2017 times. Brandon Luckett had the top men’s times of 2:48.92, and Dani Speegle topped the women’s leaderboard in a time of 3:01.54. 

Event 6: 2014 CrossFit Games ‘Push Pull’
9 strict deficit handstand push-ups
18 toes-to-bar
60-foot sled pull
60-foot sled push
10 handstand push-ups
20 toes-to-bar
60-foot sled pull
60-foot sled push
11 handstand push-ups
22 toes-to-bar
60-foot sled pull
60-foot sled push
12 handstand push-up
24 toes-to-bar
60-foot sled pull
60-foot sled push

The “Push Pull” event on the weekend was the most different from its original form. The original event didn’t include the 84 toes-to-bar, nor did it include sled (Torque Tank in this case) pushing. Further, the handstand push-ups repetitions were lower in 2014, and the pull portion of the workout involved pulling a weighted sled as opposed to a Torque Tank. Thus, the 2014 event was more of a sprint, while the event on the weekend had a 17-minute time cap. 

  • As a result, the event can be seen more as being “inspired by” the 2014 event, as one commentator put it on the weekend, as opposed to a repeat workout. 

Event 7: 2015 Regionals Closer
15 ring muscle-ups
1 squat clean (235/150 pounds)
1 squat clean (255/165 pounds)
1 squat clean (275/180 pounds)
1 squat clean (285/190 pounds)
1 squat clean (295/200 pounds)

Again, this final workout on the weekend in Las Vegas was similar to, but not the exact same as the 2015 regionals event. 

  • The difference: The women’s clean ladder started at 135 pounds and topped out at 175 pounds in 2015, while this weekend it began at 150 and went to 200 pounds. On the men’s side, the 2015 weights started at 225 pounds and topped out at 265 pounds.

Worth noting: Considering the barbells were considerably heavier at the West Coast Classic, a direct comparison doesn’t seem fair. However, leave it to the athletes to boast comparable scores to 2015 even when the final barbell was 30 pounds heavier for the men and 25 pounds heavier for the women than it was six years ago.

  • Cedric Lapointe’s winning time of 1:20.59 on the weekend was only three seconds slower than the winner across all regions in 2015 — Shane McBride (1:17.7). 
  • On the women’s side, Danielle Brandon’s winning time of 1:30.49 wasn’t far off Amanda Goodman’s winning time in 2015 (1:21).

Notable individual improvements: Despite the significantly heavier barbells, Pearce actually beat her time from 2015 by almost 30 seconds — 2:32.0 in 2015 and 2:03.21 on the weekend — while Noah Ohlsen posted the exact same time from 2015 (1:24)

The bottom line: As impressive as Pichelli was in 2014 when she showed the world how to kip a legless rope climb and finish “Legless” before the time cap, or as great as Fraser was on the Snatch Ladder in 2016, the athletes from the West Coast Classic proved just how much fitter they are today. The questions then become: What is the limit of human fitness? Is there a limit?

  • The good news is, we might have the opportunity to find out in upcoming years, as O’Keefe said, he thinks they will “run with that theme (at the West Coast Classic) moving forward in the years to come.”
  • It’s a great way to provide “context and…celebrate the past and the progression of the sport,” he added. 

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