CrossFit Games

CrossFit Bison Athletes Showcase Strength and Resiliency During 23.2 Open Announcement: “Keep fighting the good fight”

February 23, 2023 by
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2023 NOBULL CrossFit Open 23.2 wasn’t just another workout for Kathleen Staunton and Joel Trella, it exemplified for each of them, in their own way, a new lease on life. 

CrossFit Bison located in Midland Park, New Jersey hosted the live announcement of 23.2 and two of its athletes completed the workout just a few moments before the elites took to the floor. 

Staunton is a survivor of breast cancer, while Trella battled mental health issues that led him to become suicidal. They each have their own unique story and reason for CrossFit being a mainstay in their lives and are an example of the heart and soul of what the sport is all about. 

Staunton, a nurse practitioner, wife and mother, started CrossFit nine years ago and characterizes herself as a very healthy and active person, so when she found out she had breast cancer she was shocked. 

  • “I felt that I was the strongest and in the best shape of my life at that time,” said Staunton, who shared that she found out she had breast cancer just a day before she did the first Open workout in 2022. 
  • “I was really angry because I take such great care of myself, but I really had to keep moving through.” 
  • “The treatment I think was the hardest part to keep coming in here [the gym],” she said. “My [CrossFit] coaches that knew were great, they never let me feel sorry for myself. I have a son in highschool and I had to keep going for him.” 

Saunton is now in remission and while she isn’t the same athlete since her cancer diagnosis it isn’t stopping her from living her life to the fullest and continuing her fitness journey, including being one of the first athletes to give 23.2 a go. 

“I’m never going to be exactly where I was, but that’s okay, so I just have to keep rolling and keep fighting the good fight,” she said. 

Separately, Trella found CrossFit Bison in 2019 during one of the darkest points of his life and when given the opportunity to share his story with the CrossFit community he couldn’t say no. Trella shared he has been dealing with untreated PTSD, severe depression, and at his worst wanting to end his life.

  • “This is kind of like my airing to the world,” said Trella, a husband and father-of-two. “I immediately said yes, regretted it, and then was like  ‘you know what’ I’ve got to take advantage of the opportunity.”
  • “There’s so much stigma involved with mental health and I think that to get that out there a little bit was really important for me.” 
  • “I know there’s a lot of people who are going through the same thing and they just suffer in silence, don’t know who to turn to and feel like they’re alone. There are healthy ways to cope with it, I wasn’t coping with it in a healthy way and that was my issue.”

Trella, who is a New Jersey State Trooper, said his unit at the time was dealing with missing people and he ended up taking on a lot of the grief some families were feeling. Trella says it was one of the main reasons that he broke down and led him to severe depression and suicidal thoughts. But a push from a coworker he confided in finally gave him the kick he needed to get help. 

“I was so resistant to it, I didn’t want to admit to anybody that I had a problem especially in my work where it’s looked down upon if you have a problem,” said Trella. 

He was in an outpatient program when a friend finally convinced him to join CrossFit and to do something for himself. Trella also gave up drinking and has been sober for three years. He sees himself continuing CrossFit for the long run as it’s been an integral part of his journey through mental health. 

“I’m just looking to be as fit as possible. I just want to be able to see my kids grow up and carry my daughter up the stairs when she falls asleep on the couch and go camping with my son and the Boy Scouts and be able to go hiking and carry a backpack,” said Trella. 

“It’s really just fitness, lifestyle, and just ensuring that I can have the best life from here on out.”

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