Good morning and welcome to the Morning Chalk Up. Our fifth installment of the National Champion Series features Mel Rodriguez of Argentina as she makes her third trip to the CrossFit Games. And, we highlight a Canadian High School that has been teaching CrossFit for a decade. Today:
Rodriguez seeks redemption.
CrossFit Carleton Place High marks a decade of teen fitness.
Hard2Kill CrossFit opens with an inspirational story.
Mel Rodriguez hopes her third trip to the CrossFit Games is her best one yet.
Qualifying for the Games this past November was a relative breeze after what Rodriguez went through in 2017. That year, she performed well at a local competition and was invited to join a team in Buenos Aires — if she beat the other three women competing for the one open spot.
Rodriguez: “I showed up ready to prove that I really wanted to be part of the team. I even quit my job to be there.”
Though Rodriguez was just 20 years old, she already had a long history of grit from her career as a gymnast.
At 12-years-old, she fractured her elbow, which had to be re-set surgically.
At 14, she tore her supraspinatus and her labrum.
Nine months later, she returned to training, only to tear the bicep of the same arm. Still, she continued competing.
These injuries still haunt Rodriguez. Her elbow hurts during rope climbs, and when she’s fatigued, she loses feeling in two fingers. However, she’s learned to cope with the pain, which is one aspect of her mental strength. The other is how she handles stress.
Rodriguez: “Gymnastics is a really precise sport, which teaches you how to overcome pressure. You train for months for a routine that’s a minute and a half long, so you have to trust in what you’ve done, the work you’ve put in. You have to trust in the process and in your coach.”
Ultimately, Rodriguez became the sixth and final member of BIGG FRIENDS, a decision that was made only a week before they flew to Regionals in San Antonio. It was her first time outside of the country.
After three events, the Argentines were in a position to qualify for the Games, but when they heard the next workout, their chances seemed to dim.
The workout was six rounds of 30 worm push presses and one legless rope climb for each team member.
Though Rodriguez had done rope climbs in gymnastics, she knew it was still a weakness of hers, especially under fatigue.
To give her maximum rest time, Rodriguez was the last to tackle the movement.
The strategy paid off. BIGG FRIENDS qualified for the Games, where they finished 18th. However, two years later in 2019, Rodriguez returned to Madison as an individual, and she wasn’t so fortunate when legless rope climbs appeared in the first workout. She finished only two in 20 minutes and was cut after the first round.
Rodriguez says that, since then, she’s been confronting her weaknesses, and the results from the Open agree with her.
Had she hit above the target on all of her wall balls for 20.5, the choose-your-own-adventure, she would’ve beaten Kara Saunders and Laura Horvath. She didn’t, though, and was penalized a minute.
She finished in 28th overall, four spots ahead of Haley Adams, last year’s Games Rookie of the Year.
Despite this success, Rodriguez has a surprisingly modest goal for her trip to Madison: to survive the first cuts. That’s a common goal among the national champions, and one that might be prudent considering the differences between the Open and the Games.
On the one hand, the Open is more comfortable both physically and mentally.
Rodriguez: “In the Open, I have my entire team with me — my coaches, my friends, people who bring out the best in me every competition. Plus, you know that you always have the option to redo a workout.”
On the other, the Games has exactly the kind of pressure under which Rodriguez thrives.
“During competition, if you make a mistake, that’s it. You and your mistake are headed home.”
Canadian High School Clocks A Decade Of Coaching CrossFit Classes
A standout example is Brian Dickie, a PE teacher and coach, at Carleton Place High who has been running his CrossFit program for high schoolers for the past decade.
CrossFit CPHS affiliated in 2010, but the truth is they’d been using the CrossFit methodology in their school-based strength and conditioning program since 2004.
Brian Dickie said “It was a game-changer! Even though the program was very popular in our high school, the number of students wishing to take the course exploded with the change in the structure of programming and equipment.”
FUN FACT: As of the summer of 2019, there were only 804 10-year affiliates in the world.
Mr. Dickie sought out any CrossFit related education he could find, which at the time wasn’t easy living in Canada.
After completing his L-1 Certification, Dickie, “pitched [the] idea for a school credit CrossFit course combined with a non-profit community program before and after school — they were hyper-supportive!”
Fast forward 10 years, CrossFit CPHS still offers a program that’s completely free; 1500 students have gained high school credit through the CrossFit course, not bad for a small box, just 1100 square feet!
Drop-Ins have included Four-Time World’s Strongest Man, Mangus ver Magnusson, Paul Tremblay and Pete Shaw.
CrossFit Seminar Staff have also popped in over the years for inspiration and to fortify other school programs internationally.
“In Canada, there is little funding for athletic programs in schools, so we have to work creatively to find the money for equipment … We are proud of what we have accomplished with the lack of corporate support,” Mr. Dickie said.
While Mr. Dickie will retire later this year after 35 years as a PE teacher, he’s vowed to continue running the not-for-profit program “until I hit the pine box.”
Or stay up to date with their community program, known as DICFIT.
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Dead on Arrival, Hard2Kill CrossFit Owner Survives
Just last month, a new affiliate, Hard2Kill CrossFitin Arden, NC, opened boasting an inspirational story. The owners, Donnell and Nicki Burch have experienced incredible adversity and in the end, hope to give back to the community that has meant so much to them.
In November 2012, Donnell Burch began his CrossFit journey, he trained hard and fell in love with the community and programming. Then, in early 2013, he was hit, head-on, while riding his motorcycle. Launched airborne, he came to rest in on-coming traffic and was run over by a truck.
Emergency room doctors announced Burch DOA, but he survived and after almost a month in a coma, began a miraculous recovery. His doctors and nurses said that he never would’ve survived had it not been for his great health and conditioning. He learned to talk and walk again, and as soon as he could be, he was back in the gym.
Burch endured 11 surgeries to repair his body, and now, seven years later, he and partner Nicki have opened Hard2Kill to help prepare people for the unexpected — a negative health diagnosis, an accident, a mental health breakdown, any unforeseen situation.
Hard2Kill CrossFit will be managed by Carey Blanton, an Appalachian State graduate and hometown athlete. He will compete this spring in Egypt at the ELFIT Egypt CrossFit Championship. Blanton will manage programming, create training plans and support members with sports nutrition guidance.