Contenders for 2022 Wodapalooza Elite Individual and Team Podium Finishers

January 10, 2022 by
Photo Credit: Athlete's Eye Photography
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There are more individual elite athletes competing at Wodapalooza this week than we had at the Rogue Invitational and the Dubai CrossFit Championships combined. Narrowing down such a large and accomplished field to the podium contenders means there are definitely athletes who have a chance to podium that we won’t cover here, these are just the most likely threats based on what we know so far.

Men: As of now there are 43 men in the elite individual field, these are the six we feel have the best chance to podium:

  • Pat Vellner: Two time defending champion at WZA, coming off second place finishes at both the Games and Rogue. He has to be the favorite and the one to beat.
  • Cole Sager: Tied on points with Vellner at WZA in 2020. West Coast Semifinal winner, and with the exception of Rogue which he’s had two 11th place finishes at recently, this style of competition (6-9 events) are something Sager has generally excelled at. 
  • Saxon Panchik: Competed at both the 2019 and 2020 WZA Sanctionals where he finished 5th and 4th respectively. 5th at the Games this summer, but like Sager struggled at Rogue (10th). Expect another top five finish for him here with a good chance to podium.
  • Scott Panchik: A late, and surprise, addition to this vaunted roster and he immediately catapults into the podium conversation. Seems hard to imagine him competing if he weren’t feeling really good (especially after announcing his retirement this past summer). He placed 11th at the Games basically being unable to run, so there’s certainly no shortage of fitness left in him.
  • Gui Malheiros: He’s the defending WZA RX champion from 2020, but he’s come a long way since then. 7th at the Games and 5th and Rogue means he has to be in the conversation here to burst through and challenge for a podium spot.
  • Ricky Garard: Following a podium finish in Dubai in his return to competition Garard did have a bit of setback as a result of illness. Hopefully he’s recovered well enough from that for the crowd in Miami to see him perform as well as he did in Dubai.

Women: The women’s field isn’t quite as top heavy as the men’s, but that means there is a lot of opportunity for the women who will be there to make a legitimate podium run. Again we’ve chosen six who we feel have the best chance: 

  • Bethany Shadburne: She was so impressive winning the West Coast Classic and unfortunately was unable to compete at the Games. Everyone wants to see how good she really has become, and a good performance here is expected by most. 
  • Sara Sigmundsdóttir: She’s been 2nd (to Tia-Clair Toomey) and 3rd (to Toomey and Kari Pearce) in the two Wodapalooza sanctional years. She must be feeling confident following Dubai (where she was 7th) to make the decision to compete so shortly afterwards. 
  • Emma McQuaid: Like Shadburne she won her Semifinal (Lowlands Throwdown online), only she did compete at the Games where she placed 12th, her best finish to date. She was 9th at Rogue, but none of the eight women who beat her are competing in Miami. 
  • Dani Speegle: Speegle competed with both Shadburne and Brandon at the West Coast Classic Semifinal. She had a dismal 27th place finish on the Ruck run, but outside of that finished every other event 6th or better. This actually bodes well for her in Miami though where a host of top five finishes should keep her right in the hunt even if she does have one poor event.
  • Emily Rolfe: Rolfe has quietly put herself into the conversation with many of the other women on this list. In her two Games appearances she’s been 15th (2021) and 18th (2019) and has won an event at each. She placed 10th at WZA in 2020, 16th at Rogue in October, and 8th at Dubai in December. It’s a lot of offseason competition for her, but at 32 and with so many young women emerging it makes sense for her to try to capitalize on some opportunity while the iron is hot.
  • Arielle Loewen: Loewen has had a tremendous season already, and should be in contention once again in Miami. She may not have that “homerun” potential, but she also doesn’t seem to have many holes in her fitness. Look for consistency throughout the weekend to keep her right up towards the top of the leaderboard when all is said and done.

Elite Teams of Three: The headliners in each division are probably the Mayhem teams, but the landscape of the men’s and women’s division are in quite contrast to each other. 

Women teams of 3: the “Mayfem” trio of Andrea Nisler, Taylor Williamson, and Haley Adams stands out as the clear and obvious team to beat. Nisler and Williamson have been considered the most formidable female team competitors for several years now, adding a perennial top five individual Games athlete doesn’t seem like it will slow them down at all. Beyond them a few other teams who will have podium aspirations include: 

  • Team GOWOD: Mia Hesketh, Solveig Sigurdottir, and Julie Hougard
  • Team Kriger: Kristin Holte, Lena Richter and Ingrid Hodnemyr
  • JUNK: Alexys D’Toile, Carolyne Prevost, and Danielle Dunlap
  • Invictus: Jenn Ryan, Brittany Weiss, and Devyn Kim
  • 3 Blind Mice: Tommie Deprima, Madison McElhany, and Emma Ferreira (winners of the Online Qualifier)

Men teams of 3: Rich Froning will be joined by Angelo DiCicco and Luke Parker for the male Mayhem contingency (Mayhem in Paradise), but unlike their female counterparts, they probably aren’t the favorites in the division. Instead, look for one of the following teams to be your eventual winners, though Mayhem will undoubtedly be involved in the podium race: 

  • The Boys: Noah Ohlsen, Travis Mayer, and Chandler Smith
  • Smith Bros: Ben Smith, Alec Smith, and Dane Smith
  • Team Herculus: Travis Williams, Roy Gamboa, Logan Collins
  • Thunder from Down Under: Khan Porter, James Newbury, Matt Dlugos
  • Invictus: Eric Carmody, Joshua Al-Chamaa, Ryan Sowder

The big picture: With so many athletes and teams in the elite divisions at Wodapalooza this year there will be no shortage of excitement, drama, and storylines to follow. These are the top six individuals and teams we are expecting to do well, but as stated in the beginning, they are by no means the only relevant ones out there. Whether you’ll be in Miami watching the action in person, or following along with the live broadcast from home, expect to see some great races and epic performances throughout the competition in all four elite divisions. 

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