CrossFit Games

Olivia Kerstetter Took the Scenic Route to the Individual Division, and it Paid Off

August 31, 2023 by
Image Credit: Ava Kitzi
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In the spring of 2022, conversation arose from the CrossFit media space about whether or not then 16-year-old Olivia Kerstetter would forgo her 16-17 Girls division invitation in order to try for a spot in the Individual division. 

After a lot of chatter and both Individual and Age Group Quarterfinals, Kerstetter chose the teenage division. 

At the time, she was going back and forth, wondering if she made the right decision. Now, though, on the other side of her Individual Games debut in the 2023 season, she knows she was right to wait one more year. 

  • “One of the major takeaways (from the 2022 season) was don’t try to rush it because I could’ve declined (my teen invite) and tried to go individual that year, but I think it would have set me back even further,” Kerstetter said. “I think just not rushing it, and knowing that I was so young and still had so much time left in the sport that I could stay in the teen division for another year and keep getting better, getting experience so I could qualify this year.”

Of course, the patient waiting and extra year of build-up and hard work paid off for Kerstetter. 

At the Games, she placed 16th overall and took home the Rookie of the Year award as the youngest athlete in the field. She also racked up an event win in the last event of the competition, Echo Thruster Final. 

Image Credit: Ava Kitzi

Kerstetter says competition wouldn’t be possible for her without the help of the friends, family, and support team standing beside her. This includes her parents and sisters, who are there to get food, pick out outfits, and provide moral support. Coaches, programmers, agents, and a plethora of other figures are also on-call for competition week. 

And of course, Jacob Heppner. 

Kerstetter’s long-time training partner and chief of support, Heppner was actually the one that pushed her to switch to PRVN after Wodapalooza last winter. She had been programmed for and coached in-house at Cobra Command CrossFit and Heppner’s garage gym since she started CrossFit (at eight-years-old), and Heppner has been there every step of the way. But the pair decided together that as her goals shifted to qualifying for and competing in the individual division, she needed to look elsewhere for programming. 

  • “It was mostly his decision to have me join a different programming system, so I’m super fortunate to have him and that he always just wants the best for me,” Kerstetter said. In fact, when it comes to Kerstetter’s summer training in Nashville with the PRVN crew, she says Heppner might have even been a little relieved. “I think he might’ve been happy that I was gone for some of the Games training. Otherwise he would’ve been talked into doing it with me!”

Though Kerstetter has only been with PRVN for six months, she’s happy with the decision she made and is looking forward to the future with the team. 

  • Kerstetter: “I’m definitely excited to have a full year of programming in the offseason, working on weaknesses with them, because sometimes you can’t do that during the season with all the competitions.” 

Kerstetter says training on-site with the PRVN camp for a month in Nashville leading up to the Games made a world of difference for her. She says that while everyone is there to work and they do take training seriously, it was such a fun environment, and she felt fully welcomed and content. 

  • “I felt like I wasn’t missing home or homesick or sad or anything like that because they were so welcoming and I was always having so much fun,” Kerstetter said. “I think we all got better because of each other. Just that group aspect is so much more helpful than if I would’ve been at home training by myself.”

Now starting her senior year of high school, Kerstetter is still going to full-time, in-person classes. Unlike many of her teenage counterparts who are homeschooled or do a hybrid-method of schooling to focus more heavily on training, she says it’s been integral to making sure she still has a social life. 

  • Kerstetter: “I think it creates a good balance between having a social life and being in the gym working out. (School) keeps me balanced for sure.”

While she admits that juggling schoolwork, a social life, and training is challenging, Kerstetter knows that the balance is important. With so many of her peers and competitors struggling with burnout, especially at a young age, she says she’s lucky to be surrounded by so many supportive people that make sure she’s having fun.

“People are reminding me constantly to have fun, make sure that I’m still loving it and enjoying what I’m doing so I don’t get burnt out is a big thing nowadays,” Kerstetter said. “Obviously it’s not worth doing if you’re not having fun.”

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