No Senior-itis For The Invictus Boston Invitational

June 18, 2023 by
Photo Credit: Kay Wiese
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Four years ago, Bern Prince had a mission. To bring inclusivity and diversity to the sport of fitness, an area that had been severely lacking. This need only became amplified as CrossFit experienced a major shockwave over the summer of 2020, as thousands of athletes and affiliates began to abandon the CrossFit brand after former CEO Greg Glassman’s racially insensitive comments.

One big thing: Despite the heavy imposition of COVID-19 restrictions around social gatherings, Bern Prince knew that he had to pull something big off, not only to make a statement, but to once again unify the CrossFit community and continue to create a space where all were welcome regardless of their identity.

Remind me: In July of 2020, Bern Prince and the team at Invictus Boston hosted the first Invictus Boston Invitational. 

  • The event featured not only local athletes from the Boston area, including CrossFit Games athlete Tola Morakinyo, but also athletes who were able to make the journey to compete despite COVID-19 travel restrictions.

“In the summer when Greg Glassman showed his true colors and made insidious comments that almost destroyed our sport, we created the Invictus Boston Invitational where athletes, judges, volunteers, and just cool human beings gathered in unity to not only compete in a competition but show what real CrossFit is when all people are included and welcome,” said Prince.

  • In 2021 and 2022, the event continued to grow, including the introduction of an online qualifier to help bring athletes from across the country, as well as bringing in sponsors to offer athletes a cash prize purse for podium athletes.

Senior Year: This year, is the fourth and what organizer Bern Prince is dubbing the senior year of the Invictus Boston Invitational.

  • On Saturday June 24th, the fourth annual Invictus Boston Invitational will commence, bringing together several dozen talented athletes and hundreds of fans.
  • “This year is the fourth year, so it’s the senior year. I feel like we’ve grown up a bit. We’re trying to make it as classy and as tight as possible,” said Prince.
  • “It’s always been classy, but I want to tweak it and make it tighter,” he continued.

This year, the Invictus Boston Invitational will not only feature top athletes but also some incredible sponsors.

  • “The sponsors have been off the charts,” said Prince. “I’m happy to say that most of our sponsors are not even CrossFit brands. They’re brands that people usually use,”
  • Sponsors for this year’s Invictus Boston Invitational include not only a number of financial institutions and real estate agencies but also big names, such as the Boston Red Sox and Celsius.

The heart of competition: If the CrossFit Games are meant to be a spectacle to witness the tip of the spear and the affiliates and the community are the shaft, then events like the Invictus Boston Invitational compose the piece of the spear the Japanese call “Mekugi” (the small metal peg that holds the blade to the shaft).

  • While people attend the Games to see the fittest of the fit, there still needs to be that space to showcase your athletes sitting in the top 30%.
  • “The 70th percentile is getting lost,” said Prince.
  • “If you made Quarterfinals or Semifinals, but didn’t make the Games, you’re probably one of the best athletes in your gym,” Prince elaborated.
  • Prince continued to explain that the 70th percentile of athletes has lost their showcase moments over the years.

In the mid-2010s, the Regionals stage of competition provided an outlet to feature these athletes.

  • While CrossFit has brought back a similar model with Semifinals, many athletes still have to travel or even fly long distances to compete in these events, making it inaccessible for local affiliate members to show up and cheer on their fellow gym members.
  • “Our marketing team figured out that 90 miles is the maximum distance people will travel to show off their hard work and watch their friends compete,” said Prince.
  • With a number of semifinal competitions falling well outside that range for the athletes competing, a large local throwdown gives athletes and affiliates a chance to come together, cheer their friends on and celebrate fitness.
  • “I’m giving the athletes a place to showcase their hard work,” said Prince,”
  • Even with the feel of a regionals-style competition, Prince still has athletes traveling substantial distances to compete. 
  • For those athletes, he will also be providing a live stream so their friends and family can tune in to cheer them on.

The stars of tomorrow: Not only does the Invictus Boston Invitational give athletes in the 70th percentile a chance to showcase their hard work, but it has also become the starting ground for a number of Games athletes.

  • Looking at the roster of the Invictus Boston Invitational over the years, one can see a number of familiar names that while now big names on the floor in Madison Wisconsin, were once competitors in the Invictus Boston Invitational.
  • “In 2020, Tola Morakinyo was our first-place winner,” said Prince. Look at his career since. It’s his hard work, not because of us, but it’s definitely taken off.

Prince is not wrong. Since its start in 2020, the Invictus Boston Invitational has featured athletes like Sierra Cameron, Colette Casey, and Devin O’Neill. All of whom would go on to make Games appearances.

  • “We’re catching these people on the cusp of the 70th percentile and when I see them next year, they’re that much better and that makes me happy and they’ve graced us with their presence at our comp,” Prince concluded.

This year will continue to feature up-and-coming stars on the competition floor.

  • This includes Ugandan national champion Derek Mwanje, who Bern discovered while competing at a local competition in Burlington, Vermont.
  • “He had 10 of his Ugandan friends at the competition with him and when I say they were cheering, they cheered when he did a double under, they cheered when he did a burpee,”
  • That’s the kind of energy Prince hopes to bring to the Invitational this year to foster the future athletes of tomorrow and create a diverse space within the sport.

Crafting the perfect competition: Four years of experience has not only allowed Bern to continue to create an inclusive space for athletes, but also create an incredible experience for both fans and spectators.

  • “Wodapalooza does a great job with this [creating an incredible experience],” said Prince.
  • “They create a festival feel. I want more of a concert feel. I want a big-time concert where the athletes are the headliners and the rest of the stuff is the warm-up act,” Prince continued.
  • Beyond the competition, the Invictus Boston Invitational this year will feature a vendor village complete with a beer garden and a number of top-notch vendors.
  • “I’m in the sport because I love the sport. I’m in this and I do this because I love competition,” said Prince.

The big picture: As the Invictus Boston Invitational comes into its senior year, the competition not only gets tougher but also more exciting. As Prince continues to grow and shape the event, it’s clear that the Invitational has become a stellar example for large-scale, but local competitions and throwdowns.

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