Experience and Perspective Make for a Bigger and Better Teen-Focused Competition
When the CrossFit Games were canceled for age groups and teams in 2020, independent competitions stepped up as alternate competitive outlets for athletes out of luck. One of the most fruitful turned out to be the Pit Teen Throwdown, hosted by the Pit Fitness Ranch in Three Rivers, Michigan.
This year, event organizers Brock Yost, the owner of the Pit Fitness Ranch, alongside mother and son duo Stephanie and Azariah Price, are using last year’s experience coupled with perspective as a coach, parent, and teen athlete to make the 2021 Elite Teen Throwdown everything and more for this year’s athletes.
As the largest teen-exclusive CrossFit competition on Earth with over 150 athletes this year, “the Pit,” as the competition is often called, has more room to focus on intricate details that pertain only to the teens, in ways the Games or other big competitions just don’t have the bandwidth for.
- “Knowing how this goes from a coach, parent, or athlete perspective, we’re able to work out some of the unnecessary kinks,” Price explained. “Not only that but to put out a competition with the goal in mind of ‘I want something for me, as a teenager.”
Remind me: The primary goal last year was simply to get teens back in a competitive setting after months of isolation. But with the Games back in action this year, the event coordinators turned their focus to create a more robust athlete experience.
As a way to connect newer athletes to the supportive veteran community, the Throwdown will host a one-day rookie event before the main competition, aimed at athletes that have been doing CrossFit for less than a year.
18-19 Division: This division is especially pertinent with last year’s cancellation. Athletes who qualified for the Games then aged up this year, so the Pit created the 18-19 division to help extend the athlete experience farther through an athlete’s career, according to Price.
- Notable names include Maggie Pairan who competed at the 2021 MACC Semifinal in the Elite Women’s Division.
- Emma Gardner, an 18-year-old out of CrossFit New England who trains under the wing of Ben Bergeron and Katrin Davidsdottir is also worth mentioning.
- This division allows athletes like Pairan and Gardner that are in-between stages from teen to elite division to compete. It also gives spectators a nice preview of up-and-coming athletes to watch out for on the big stage in a few years.
Athlete Development: Pit organizers are adamant that the heart of the event comes out with the amenities and events they’ve planned to help better connect athletes to their community and give them supportive knowledge moving forward.
- Every athlete has been given access to The Tunnel, an online mentality program that mimics sports psychology work.
- During the event, guest speakers will host workshops that they feel are important to their development as athletes.
- Dallin Pepper and James Sprague, household names within the teen division who both aged up in 2021 and are now vying for spots, will host a seminar sharing tips and tricks to the competitive world.
- Will Campbell, a long-time teen division athlete, and his father, who is on the competition medical team, will present a class on sports medicine subjects and competing healthily and safely.
- EZ Muhammad, two-time individual Games athlete and weightlifting coach, will also host an Olympic weightlifting seminar for athletes.
Why do Price and the Pit team care so much? They’ve seen the effects of competition for teenagers firsthand. Price has racked up multiple elite-level competition experiences from Wodapalooza and the Granite Games, to the CrossFit Games in 2019 and just barely missed qualifying in 2021.
As most teens will be quick to point out, Price can confirm that the best part of big competitions is getting to bond with kids that do the same thing as him, especially because there’s not a high concentration of teenagers that spend eight hours a day in the gym and measure their food like elite athletes do in Three Rivers, Michigan. With that in mind, the main focus of the event became to cultivate that community aspect.
- Price: “(The Pit) is a great time because there’s nothing else going on, it’s just about us teens. In between events, we’re not worried about other things, we’re just together getting to enjoy the things we’ve accomplished as CrossFit athletes.”