2022 CrossFit Semifinals Preview: Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge
Week two of Semifinals are here, and with the only two competitions slated for this weekend, and one of them being the Fittest in Cape Town which only qualifies one athlete to the Games, a majority of this week’s focus will be in Knoxville, TN where the second of four North America Semifinals is going down.
The lineups for the men’s and women’s fields at the MACC are a bit different in make-up. The women’s is headlined by two big names at the top, and then several other athletes looking to establish names for themselves. The men’s field on the other hand, is extremely stout and will undoubtedly leave some very popular athletes on the outside looking in.
Games Experience at the MACC
For the women, there are four previous Games competitors in the field, and all four of them were at the Games last year. The headliners–Brooke Wells and Danielle Brandon–each qualified through a live Semifinal last season. While the other two, Baylee Rayl and Sydney Michalyshen, punched their tickets through the online Atlas Games Semifinal in 2021.
The men’s field has twice as many athletes with Games experience, and of those eight, the experience and pedigrees cover a massive range.
- Noah Ohlsen, Cole Sager, and Saxon Panchik have names and resumes that speak for themselves.
- Logan Collins, a late addition to this field, also boasts four individual Games trips and three top 15 finishes.
- Both John Coltey and Mitchel Stevenson qualified via the Regionals format in 2018.
- Tyler Christophel, largely known as a team athlete at the Games, qualified for the 2020 Stage 1 online competition.
- And Zach Watts was last year’s Cinderella story at this very competition.
The team division at the MACC is likely going to be one of the most closely contested team competitions across all Semifinals, and though Mayhem Independence will be the headliner, there are a handful of other very respectable contenders in this field.
Men at the MACC
Quite honestly, this is a tough competition to pin anyone as a shoo-in for a Games spot. However, given their pedigrees and consistency, the trio of Ohlsen, Sager, and Saxon Panchik, are without a doubt the trio that should be respected most in this field.
Ohlsen and Sager have each made every single CrossFit Games field since 2014. Saxon’s streak is only half that length (he’s made every Games beginning in 2018), but all told since making it for the first time, these three have qualified 20 total years. So until they don’t do so, we’ll consider them shoo-ins for three of the five spots.
Things are about to get dicey, because there are at least four athletes who have very high expectations for making the Games, and if three spots are already gone, that means only two of those four can make good on that confidence.
- Dallin Pepper would have made the Games last year if he knew how to use a d-ball. He has said it, so we don’t feel bad repeating it. He’s in phenomenal form and it is highly unlikely he’ll have a flaw in his game of that proportion this season. Coming off a top 5 finish at Wodapalooza can mean nothing but positive feelings and trajectory for a young man everyone in this field should be aware of.
- Logan Collins, as previously mentioned, was moved into this field from the Atlas Games field in a series of late changes made by the CrossFit Games team to Semifinal rosters. He is a real threat in this format, he qualified via Regionals in 2016-2018 and backed those qualifications up with Games finishes of 14th, 15th, and 11th. Last year he was forced to compete in the Atlas Games online and took 10th, expect him to do much better than that in a live format.
- Tyler Christophel was in that same online competition as Collins last year and placed 6th, missing the Games by 21 points to eventual Games podium finisher Brent Fikowski. Then, in the LCQ, he missed by one spot and only 8 points behind Alexandre Caron. To make matters even more frustrating for Christophel, Roman Khrennikov, who won the LCQ was unable to travel to Madison and despite being there and ready to go, CrossFit did not allow him to compete. So, to say he is motivated to qualify this year might be an understatement. Add in the fact that he’s got an entire extra year training with the Mayhem crew in Cookeville, and this man could be extremely fine tuned heading into Semis.
- Spencer Panchik is someone that pretty much anyone who likes CrossFit probably wants to see good things happen to. The more you know about his backstory, and where he and his twin brother Saxon have come from, the more likely you are to want to see them qualify together for the CrossFit Games. The positive for Spencer is that he’s coming off a very solid 7th place finish at Wodapalooza in January in which he actually beat both Saxon (8th) and Scott (9th). The bad news is, this is about as difficult as a draw as anyone will have to go through to make that happen.
Considering two of the aforementioned seven men will not make the Games at the MACC this weekend, “bubble athlete” here takes on a bit of a different meaning. However, there are a couple names more than worth taking note of in this section:
- Mitchel Stevenson and John Coltey both have qualified for the Games via a similar format before. Stevenson is foregoing the chance to compete with his team this year to pursue another trip to the Games as an individual. Coltey trains with the PRVN crew in Nashville and should be in great form.
- Jake Berman is another name to be on the lookout for, he trains with the Training Think Tank crew quite often and has that sneaky potential to do very well in a couple workouts. If he can manage to not have a couple bad ones as well he could be knocking on the door for a Games spot.
- Zach Watts proved last year that he could overcome a difficult men’s field at the MACC to snag the 5th spot. If he can manage to do it two years in a row it will go along way for his career.
- Hunter Holifield was one of the guys Watts beat out at the MACC last year, taking 8th. He’ll need to be much more consistent if he wants to replicate or improve on that against this group though.
Luis Oscar Mora from Mexico finished 4th place as a teenager back in 2016. He’s had plenty of years since then to develop into a competitive athlete in the elite division. It would be quite a surprise for him to have a top ten finish here, but it’s great to see a few men from Mexico breaking into the Semifinals fields in the very competitive men’s division in North America.
Women at the MACC
Seems like this is pretty clearly going to be the Danielle Brandon and Brooke Wells show. Notably, and despite the fact that it feels like Wells has been on the scene forever and Brandon is a relatively new name in the sport, these two women are both only 26 years old.
Wells already has seven CrossFit Games under her belt. Everything seemed to be on track for her to have possibly her best finish ever last year, with an outside chance to even podium, before her elbow injury. The focus this weekend though, will just be on getting through. It seems everything is on track, and all any fans can do is hope that’s the case because the women’s field is more competitive with her in it.
Brandon gained a lot of attention last year for a variety of reasons, from her colorful hair, to her colorful hand gestures, and of course being singled out amongst all the athletes after her training partners withdrew due to illness. But don’t let those distractions be all you know about her, she is a uniquely gifted athlete who is still trying to make all the pieces fit. But if they do come together, she could be a threat to anyone not named Toomey. Let’s hope we get to see some of those impressive physical feats in Knoxville.
Again there are really only two names here, Baylee Rayl and Sydney Michalyshen. Both are coming off their rookie (individual) appearances at the Games. Michalyshen is someone we saw coming, while Rayl was the surprise no one expected last season. She only made the Semifinals after getting a backfill, went on to take second online in the Atlas Games, and made it through all the cuts to an 18th place finish at the Games.
Similarly to Watts on the men’s side, being able to back up a Games qualification a second year will go a long way towards solidifying these two women as regular threats to make the Games, but unlike Watts, their chances seem high to do so in this field.
It’s worth noting that Rayl, like Christophel, has an additional full year of training under her belt with the Mayhem crew. Michalyshen made a big change this off-season, leaving rural Canada to live and train full time at the CompTrain headquarters outside of Boston under the guidance of Ben Bergeron. Many fans did not get to see the full talents of these two women last year due to their Semifinal being online, so it will be refreshing for them and us to have the chance to express those talents live this time around.
There is a lot of opportunity for the final Games spot in this field, and come Sunday it’s likely several women will still be in the hunt for that spot. Here are a few we are keeping our eyes on:
- Kelly Clark: 10th at the MACC last year, 20th online Quarterfinals this year.
- Rebecca Fuselier: 12th at the MACC last year, 59th online Quarterfinals this year.
- Shelby Neal: 16th Granite Games last year; 35th online Quarterfinals this year.
- Hayley Murillo: 15th West Coast Classic last year; 62nd online Quarterfinals this year.
If we’re being transparent, there are about a dozen women that have similar resumes to these four. All it will take is one of them to emerge this weekend and potentially take that next step towards being a perennial threat.
‘Emma Gardner is only 19 years old and doesn’t have a ton of competition pedigree. But 78th in the Open in North America, 68th in the Quarterfinals in North America, and a very legitimate training environment at CrossFit New England make her an intriguing young name in this relatively wide open field.
Although they are the second team in their own gym, Mayhem Independence is not to be taken lightly. Finishing third place worldwide in the team Quarterfinals with all top ten finishes immediately catapults them into the upper echelon of relevant teams this season. Of course we still need to see them compete live, but typically the thing that trips teams up in live competition is the worm, and we know they have plenty of opportunity to practice that where they train. They should be the class of this field, but there will be plenty of formidable opponents out there alongside them.
The next four qualifying teams are very good and should get their due:
- Kamo Athletics: 6th Team Quarterfinals
- CrossFit Westchase Red: 10th Team Quarterfinals
- CrossFit Shoofly Storm Squadron: 15th Team Quarterfinals
- CrossFit Kilo II: 19th Team Quarterfinals
However, there are two teams a little further down in CrossFit I1luvit (23rd Team Quarterfinals) and Decorum CrossFit: The Ohio Brutes (32nd Team Quarterfinals) who finished 10th and 13th respectively at the Games last year.
The one extremely tricky thing about assessing the team fields is that the roster for Semifinals is not necessarily the same one they used for Quarterfinals. For example, Mitchel Stevenson is not competing with I1luvit, so that likely decreases their chances. Each of the six teams mentioned above has at least two athletes on it that, if either of them is not competing for whatever reason at Semis, will likely make it nearly impossible for them to make the Games. But, if all those teams do have their best rosters, then we’re in for a showdown on the team side of things at the MACC.
|MACC Men||MACC Women||MACC Teams|
|1||Noah Ohlsen||1||Danielle Brandon||1||Mayhem Independence|
|2||Saxon Panchik||2||Brooke Wells||2||Westchase Red|
|3||Dallin Pepper||3||Sydney Michalyshen||3||Decorum – Ohio Brutes|
|4||Cole Sager||4||Baylee Rayl||4||Kamo Athletics CrossFit|
|5||Logan Collins||5||Kelly Clark||5||Crossfit Shoofly Storm Squadron|
|WC||Tyler Christophel||WC||Shelby Neal||WC||Crossfit I1luvit|