How a High School CrossFit Program in Las Vegas Impacted Three Former Members

November 3, 2021 by
Photo Credit: Michelle Morrison
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Last month, Morning Chalk Up talked to Michelle Morrison, the CrossFitter and PE teacher behind 10-year-old Rancho CrossFit, a non-profit affiliate inside Rancho High School offering CrossFit classes to its 250 students. This CrossFit program, which has since spread across the entire Clark County School District, impacted every student that was a part of it. 

  • “I have kids who go off to college and four years later they reach out and thank me for everything I brought to their life from fitness,” Morrison told Morning Chalk Up. 

From high school to now:  Shane Hutchins, a 2015 graduate of Morrison’s program, calls Rancho CrossFit “a good gateway” to fitness. 

  • “I think like a lot of kids out of the school system, all I was ever taught was structure. I floundered without the structure, without the guidelines, without the boundaries. I found CrossFit – and I still do – a very valuable tool to provide that structure,” he explained. 

Though an active participant in high school sports, Hutchins says he “never really enjoyed them.” CrossFit, on the other hand, is something he’s stuck with into adulthood. The community has become an outlet for him.

Dimitri Kaganovitch, a former student-turned-CrossFit-coach who brought his siblings and mother to the sport, said one of the biggest things he took from Morrison’s classes was the understanding that you “need to get [yourself] into a gym and workout for longevity.”

Learning this early on, Kaganovitch said he’s “been able to carry [fitness] on, rather than learning later in life and having to reverse those years of bad exercise and dieting.”

  • “Kids at that age don’t have an intro to learning about themselves and their body and what’s important and what’s not,” said Kaganovitch, “[CrossFit] is super beneficial. High school is a good age when you can grasp information… and you can take it and use it for the rest of your life.”

Using CrossFit as a “stepping stool” for his other athletic endeavors, Abel Gomez, a former student, and current strength and conditioning coach, says he saw the benefits from Morrison’s program training as a collegiate wrestler. 

  • “I was lucky early on to meet someone like Michelle, who initially just set it up in all the right ways for us. She held us to certain standards, held us to certain ideologies when training and when competing, and what the sport of CrossFit was. She never really let us do anything until we were ready,” he explained. 
  • “I was more technically sound coming into college,” he continued. I knew my threshold earlier than most.”
Photo Credit: Michelle Morrison

One big thing: For both Gomez and Hutchins, mindset was one of the most impactful pieces to come from Rancho CrossFit. “There’s no other way to say it: [we got] into the pain cave early,” Gomez said. “And just found a way to get comfortable being uncomfortable.”

  • “I’m not averse to getting uncomfortable, but I’m not that kind of person. As a kid, I struggled, not with hard work, but with mental fortitude. I wasn’t as equipped to just grin and bear it,” Hutchins said.
  • “Just being able to practice that in high school, going to the gym when you don’t want to go, looking at the board and knowing it’s going to suck but doing it anyway and finding a way to laugh through it or do it with others… I found that valuable later in life, doing the things I don’t want to do,” he continued. 

In pilot training, Hutchins said, this was particularly valuable: 

  • “Pilot training was the kind of thing I always dreamt about doing; it was a goal for my whole life. But I got up every day and actively hated it. It’s awful.”
  • “But I felt much better equipped to just grin and bear it and put in the work with a [CrossFit] background. I’m not saying that’s the only thing, but I think it was a good way to practice [mindset] growing up.”

The bottom line: It’s been 10 years since Morrison started the Rancho High School CrossFit program, and in that time, 52 schools in the Clark County School District have added CrossFit classes to their curriculum. Every day, as Shannon La Neve, an administrator in the district said, they are “supporting [their] students and building a life-long love for physical activity and nutrition.”

  • “I think Michelle did the right thing for Rancho,” said Gomez. “For the students, she gave them an outlet that they all really wanted to be a part of. You can feel that, and that’s why it’s created what it has in the state of Nevada, with other schools diving into the affiliate, making it a varsity sport, and making it something that anyone can participate in at any level.”

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