CrossFit Invictus and Mal O’Brien Shine, Brent Fikowski Climbs While Colten Mertens and Emily Rolfe Survive at Epic Granite Games
It was a story of two groups of three in the Granite Games women’s field. At the top of the leaderboard Games veterans Mal O’Brien, Amanda Barnhart, and Dani Speegle were the class of the field all weekend. They combined for five event wins and only had one finish outside the top eight all weekend.
- O’Brien’s 576 out of 600 possible points is the type of dominance we are looking for when it comes to an athlete who can challenge for a podium finish at the Games.
- Barnhart was very quiet this weekend, but much like fellow Comptrain athlete Cole Sager last week at the MACC, was never in jeopardy of missing out on making her fifth consecutive Games.
- For Speegle, this one has to feel good. A lot of people were questioning her ability to contend in a tough women’s field with two long and brutal workouts over the course of the weekend. Well, she put those doubts to rest with extremely impressive finishes of fifth and twelfth on those to her fourth straight ticket to Madison.
At the bubble it came down to three women for two spots. At the start of the day Kloie Wilson was fourth, Alex Gazan was second, and Games veteran Emily Rolfe was on the outside looking in sitting sixth. Heading into event five they were separated by 23 points.
Event 5 was in Rolfe’s wheelhouse and she did not disappoint, taking second and bumping up into fifth. Wilson hung tight with a sixth place finish and maintained her hold on fourth going into the final. For Gazan she slipped to sixth on the back of an eighth place finish. With the legless rope climb event looming, the gap between four and six was sixteen points.
Gazan took the lead early and never relinquished, winning event six, taking 100 points, and rocketing right back into a Games qualifying position; she will be making her Games debut later this summer. Rolfe displayed more of her veteran savvy with a fourth place finish to lock up the third Games trip of her career.
For Wilson, this finish hurts a lot; however, she finished between fourth and seventh on every event and still missed the Games by five points. She’ll be going to the Last Chance Qualifier along with Fee Saghafi and Kelly Stone, but this will be a tough one to swallow.
The drama was just as real on the men’s side, only this time for both the overall win and the final Games spots. To begin the day, Brent Fikowski was in third overall. He won event five and moved into second, trailing Phil Toon by four points. It would be a winner take all in the final between the two. Fikowski did enough, placing fifth in the final to Toon’s twelfth earning the victory at the Granite Games. For Toon this is an excellent finish in a great field, fans should be excited to see him in the mix as a rookie this August.
Even though there were 104 points between third place Colten Mertens and ninth place Matt Dlugos entering the final, when Dlugos won it and Mertens took 27th there was a chaotic reshuffling on the leaderboard.
Staying steady in the chaos were Games veterans Travis Mayer, who finished second on the legless rope climbs to lock up third overall and an impressive eighth CrossFit Games appearance; and Samuel Kwant who after struggling through illness last year at Semis had a great bounce back this time around. A pair of third place finishes on the final day allowed him to climb from eighth to fourth and punch a ticket back to the Games. Don’t forget he was second place in 2020, and has a pair of event wins at the Games to his name. Having him back at the Games certainly adds some experience and depth to the field.
That left one spot, and it came down to twelve points between the three guys. Dlugos’ 100 points put him up to 424. Minnesota native Nick Mathew struggled in event five with a 13th, but rebounded impressively with a fourth in the finale. Those points allowed him to edge Dlugos by four points and end up at 428. In the meantime, Mertens, who was the overall leader entering the final day, only took ten points on the final event. Those ten points however, gave him 438 total points and means he takes fifth at the Granite Games for the second straight year.
While the individuals had everyone on the edge of their seat, there was not too much drama on the floor in terms of standings on the team’s side of things, but the story lines for the qualifying teams are all still meaningful in their own right.
- CrossFit Invictus has bolstered their roster this year with the addition of Joshua Al-Chamaa in an attempt to make a run at the podium this season. Step one is winning the semifinal, which they have now done in a convincing way taking a top three finish in all six events.
- Finishing second is CrossFit OBA, who put their team together this year and looked quite impressive this weekend with all finishes of fourth or better.
- For CrossFit Move Fast Lift Heavy making it back to the Games this year is rather emotional for their two returning team members, Christian Harris and Will Carter. They had thought they’d earn a Games trip last year, and ultimately had it rescinded due to a failed drug test. To go back to the drawing board, bring two new women into the fold, and return a year later to do it again is a testament to their commitment to the pursuit. Closing the weekend with their only event win just adds to the sweetness of it that much more.
- Much like OBA, CrossFit Greater Heights Ascend put their roster together this year. They look good on paper, but that doesn’t guarantee anyone anything. They backed it up by showing up in Minnesota and managed to keep themselves in the top five from beginning to end of the competition.
- The five spot goes to a team who we did not get to see live in Semis last year, however, they did make the Games by qualifying fourth online at the Atlas Games. CrossFit Rhapsody had to fend off challenges from several teams over the last two days, but ultimately did just what they needed in the final event, beating the teams breathing down their neck and punching their return trip to the Games.
The big picture: We now have 15 of the 20 qualifying men, women, and teams out of North America, with all three United States semifinals done and dusted. Next week the action shifts north of the border to the Atlas Games in Montreal where the final North American spots will be up for grabs.
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