These Girls Grew Up in the CrossFit Gym; And They’re Primed to Take Over the Sport
We focus so much on the “teen take-over” in the Individual division, we sometimes miss the trickle-down effect in the Teen division itself.
Long gone is the generation of Mallory O’Brien, Emma Cary, and Dallin Pepper in the teen division, but now the leaderboard is populated by new names. In fact, some of these new up-and-comers have practically been training for the Games since they could walk.
Two girls–14-year-old Stella Atwood and 16-year-old Brooklynn Sittner–grew up with the sport of CrossFit. And now that they’re finally eligible to compete for a spot at the Games, they’re not holding back.
Atwood stumbled upon the 2017 CrossFit Games documentary “Redeemed and the Dominant” when she was 8 years old. She was immediately sold. While she started out in CrossFit Kids classes, she and her mother, Meredith Atwood, quickly decided that she needed higher-level training to fulfill her goal. Which, even at the age of nine, was to win the CrossFit Games.
The family moves often but has settled in Georgia where Atwood trains under two-time Games athlete Griffin Roelle. Now in her first year of official Open eligibility, Atwood’s drive has only intensified. For her mother, her passion for the sport is impressive and almost unbelievable.
- “I was thinking, ‘this is a phase, she doesn’t really want to win the CrossFit Games’ but she’s been more and more passionate,” Atwood said. “It’s just really fun to watch. She’s not playing around!”
For Stella, it’s been admittedly hard balancing being a kid with her CrossFit goals. She makes sure to hang out with her friends (and her mom) on the weekends to stave off any burnout she might feel, but it’s a difficult balance.
However, despite these growing pains, Atwood is completely sure that she’s going to have a long career in CrossFit. Since she knew what the CrossFit Games was, her goal has always been to win the Games (in the “big dog” division, she says). This year, she competed in her first official Open and came away in 59th place in the Girls 14-15 division. She couldn’t be happier with her results.
- “I think I crushed it,” Atwood said. Her highest finish was in 23.2b, where she placed 56th and logged a 136-pound thruster. “I did way better than I thought, and I’m so happy with my performance and how well I paced the workouts.”
With her first Age Group Quarterfinals fast approaching in less than a month, Atwood reflected on her already six years of the sport. She says that she’s glad she’s in the sport for the long-run and knows it has contributed to her happiness and longevity in the sport.
- Atwood: “The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that you don’t have to be the best right now, I want to be in this for the long run. I want to be doing this sport for the next 15 years, so I’ve got to know whatever happens, happens, and it’s okay. So just enjoy the process of it.”
Two years older than Atwood and with nearly a decade of CrossFit experience under her belt, 16-year-old Brooklynn Sittner has eaten, slept, and breathed the sport for as long as she can remember. She placed 43rd in the 16-17 Girls Open this year, and much like Atwood has dreams of standing on top of the CrossFit Games podium.
- “When I was little, I was like, ‘yeah, I’m gonna go to the Games’ but now every year it’s like working harder and harder,’” Sittner said. “Every year I learn more. I thought I was dedicated more last year and now I realize there is much more I can work on. So every year, I think I’m working hard but every year I realize I can work harder.”
Having started CrossFit at seven-years-old, Sittner says the sport has changed every aspect of her life. She’s homeschooled and spends her days at Yellowstone Fitness Training Center in Billings, Montana, the affiliate her father owns.
She’s grateful for her close relationship with her father, Corey Sittner, because she says she knows she can trust her goals with him and always has extra support. She says her father compares it to basketball–if she were training to be an elite basketball player, he couldn’t be there during practice to rebound her shots. For CrossFit, though, he’s always around to encourage, pick up the pieces, and strategize.
Being surrounded by her gym family has led Sittner to a mindset she says is completely different than an “average” teenage girl.
- “I have a lot of self-love and self-worth, and self-worth is definitely the biggest thing,” Sittner said. She says she feels completely comfortable not going to parties or drinking alcohol because there’s no pressure from the people she surrounds herself with. Plus, she doesn’t feel like she’s missing out on the high school experience. “Obviously prom looks cool, but traveling and training seem like so much more fun to me.”
Sittner, who placed 43rd in the 16-17 Girls division in the Open, has also amassed over 58,000 followers on Instagram. While this could generate lots of pressure for a young person, she says she uses every opportunity she gets to inspire people.
- Sittner: “I want to leave a lasting impact on the world, and if I can do that through something I love, which is fitness, and if I can show young girls especially that you can be yourself and it doesn’t matter what people think of you and live true to yourself, that would make me so happy.”
Some day, Sittner hopes she can say she wishes she could go back and tell herself that all the hard work she put in over the years was worth it – that she reached her goal of winning the CrossFit Games. For now, though, she knows she could tell her younger self one thing:
- Sittner: “The magic of CrossFit feels the same now as it did when (I was) seven years old.”