Day 1 with Wodapalooza's Elite
Recap of day 1 with the Elite
By: Brittney Saline
That’s how much Wodapalooza has grown since its debut in 2012, when just 125 athletes gathered to test their fitness in Miami, Florida’s downtown Bayfront Park—and that’s just counting the athletes. Since then, the festival has ballooned to nearly 1,500 athletes from more than 30 countries gathered to throw down across three full days of competition, with more spectators, sponsors and divisions piling on each year.
“It’s obviously grown in size, structure and the amount of people that are here, but I think it’s grown in the professionalism too,” said Noah Ohlsen, the reigning two-time Wodapalooza champion (2015-2016). “It looks really good; put together well and very professional.”
Adding to the fray of Elite, Rx, Masters, Scaled, Youth, Adaptive and Team divisions, 2017 brings three new Masters divisions (35-39, 40-44, 45-49), the International Cup as well as Adaptive Seated Scaled/Rx and Adaptive Standing Scaled/Rx divisions. And if you got here on Thursday, you could even throw down with the athletes in the inaugural Miami Fitness Festival.
This weekend, we’ll see veterans return to break records—Ohlsen wins the Elite Men’s division, he’ll be the first three-peat champion in Wodapalooza history—and rookies stake claims. But champions are just one aspect of the spectacle flooding Bayfront Park with sweat and pink neon lights; it’s the community that gives the festival its soul. The stands packed with spectators who know each rep is earned, not given; spectators who are represented by divisions as diverse as themselves.
“It makes me want to compete,” said spectator Marissa Volanon.
It began on Friday morning, the sun high and the air sea-soft, as athletes braved the weekend’s first wicked challenge: Assault on Fran, which takes the classic CrossFit benchmark workout Fran (21-15-9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups) and ratchets up pull-up range of motion, tossing in calories on the Assault Air Bike to make it even more interesting.
Teams were the first to test the Assault, in a follow-the-leader style workout wherein each athlete had to finish his or her work before the next could go on. The bike’s effect was evident as athletes who would normally breeze through Fran unbroken were forced to drop the bar to breathe.
ELITE TEAMS — WOD 1
Elite team Zevia was the first team to finish the work before the 13-minute time cap.
“It feels great,” said team member Irvin Hernandez.
The team took an early lead, the first to send its second athlete to the floor at around the three-minute mark. As he progressed to the rig for his set of 15 chest-to-bar pull-ups with a shallow and effortless-looking kip, final teammate Brent Fikowski paced steadily behind him.
Though Zevia had a seemingly insurmountable lead, Fikowski worked faster than his partner ahead could burn calories on the bike, creating a bottleneck in the final key moments. For a few moments that lasted almost forever, the crowd worried. Would Fikowski have to stand and watch his team’s lead slip by? Instead, he sauntered almost lazily over to the bike, taking a sip of water and arriving at exactly the moment his partner stepped off. The crowd roared its approval as he crossed the mat first at 11:46.
On the Elite Women’s Team side, there was no contest. Though CrossFit Villeray’s Team XPN-Rx Lab took the early lead, Team Progenex’s Emily Bridgers it over with slower but steadier, unbroken reps in the first round of 15 thrusters. The team never relinquished its lead.
Built of veteran athletes with celebrated careers in the CrossFit Games—Stacie Tovar and Chyna Cho joined Bridgers to make the trio—their victory pleased all but surprised few.
“It’s awesome, we don’t feel like we have to do too much strategy because we’re all pretty well rounded, Bridgers said of competing as a team.
And the verdict on Assault on Fran?
“It hurts like the first time you did Fran,” Tovar said.
ELITE INDIVIDUALS — WOD 1
“Nice and loud,” Ohlsen instructed his judge before he began his Assault on Fran, nearly mowing a photographer over as he shot down his lane when the buzzer sounded.
For the better part of the event, the reigning champ held the lead, fending off Alex Anderson and Cole Sager with about a five-rep lead.
Though Ohlsen was first to his bike for the second calorie burn, Anderson—a taller, heavier athlete—was the first to finish. By the time Ohlsen started his final round of thrusters, Anderson had finished his. Zak Carchedi passed them both and widened the gap even further, and Ohlsen could not recover the distance, landing in third as Carchedi took the WOD win.
Still, Ohlsen maintained his cool after the event, unworried about the target that comes free with titles.
“I’m trying not to put too much pressure or expectation on that,” he said. I do think (becoming a three-time champion) would be pretty cool, but I’m just gonna keep high confidence, low expectations and go out and do my thing, try to pull it off.”
On the women’s side, Camille Leblanc-Bazinet and 2016 Wodapalooza champion Brooke Wells commanded the floor. Though Wells took an early lead, the first to return to the rig for her round of 15 chest-to-bar pull-ups, her blazing speed burned out too early. Dropping the bar on the thrusters, Leblanc-Bazinet seized a chance to slip ahead.
While Wells moved faster overall, she continued to break, and Leblanc-Bazinet’s steady, controlled pace earned her the event’s top time, 7:13—faster than many everyday athletes can finish regular Fran.
Though she showed little pain as she smiled and waved to the crowd, Leblanc-Bazinet remained on the bike for minutes after the event to recover, exclaiming “It’s mine now!” while staff cleared the equipment away.
ELITE TEAMS - WOD 2
Climb. Jump. Walk.
The instructions are easy to understand, less so to carry out, as teams accumulated 30 rope climbs, 600 double-unders and 300 feet of handstand walking (the first two movements split up among the three, the handstand walk doled out at 50 feet apiece) in the now-dark Bayfront Park, stage lit with flashing pink spotlights and beach balls skittering across the heads of the giddy crowd.
For all heats of elite men and women, the floor was a constant cluster of flying ropes: Some for skipping, some for climbing and all for fitness. Athletes appeared to be making a dive for the bay as they hurled themselves onto the ropes, swinging near the stage’s edge.
As if anyone had questioned, Team Progenex proved once again their salt among the elite women’s teams, taking second in the event to end the day in first overall. But in WOD 2, the glory belonged to team Probably Fitaid, of Allsport CrossFit.
With most teams demonstrating similar technique and pacing on both kinds of ropes, it all came down to the handstand walks. Reaching for long, narrow strides, the women of Probably Fitaid wasted no time with waddles or wobbles. Teammates’ precision and dexterity took the the final athlete to the finish at 9:19, good enough to finish the day in second overall.
Team Soul, of CrossFit Soul Miami, wrapped up third overall with a sixth-place finish in the second event, performed in front of a stand full of their friends and family.
The Smith family came out to play when the men took the floor.
After a respectable ninth-place finish in WOD 1, brothers Ben, Alec and Dane Smith reminded the crowd they’re one fit family with a first-place finish and white-hot time of 8:03.
“This is a really cool event,” Ben said of Wodapalooza as a whole. “The opportunity to do this with my brothers is pretty awesome. Normally I’m competing against them at the gym or in the Open, so it’s fun to be able to compete with them.”
Though the men’s top teams began neck and neck on the climbs and the skips, once the Smiths hit their hands, the game was over. Sure, Ben and Dane can walk upside-down. But Alec can run.
“My parents put me in gymnastics before I could walk,” Alec explained. “Even when I stopped gymnastics I handstand walked everywhere; growing up my parents would have to tell me to stop handstand walking in the grocery store.”
The crowd crooned with glee as Alec sprinted down the floor on his hands at the same speed others were sprinting back to their start points on their feet. Even with an extra lap—he was no-repped for “stepping” on the white line bordering his lane—the team finished with more than four minutes before the cap and a WOD win in the bag.
The win tossed the brothers into third overall at the end of the first day, though Ben said they’re not counting points too closely.
“We’re here to win, but we’re having fun,” he said. “We just want to do our best in every single event.”
Another trio of brothers stood in first after Day 1: Team Panchik, made of brothers Scott, Saxon and Spencer.
ELITE INDIVIDUALS — WOD 2
Like a rock star in a revival appearance, Ohlsen reminded the crowd why he was champion in WOD 2. Under the strobe lights and spotlights, he burst from within a pink fog machine cloud to dominate the triplet of ascents, skips and walks with his first win of the weekend, taking the top spot overall.
While he, Alex Anderson and Cole Sager were neck and neck for the first set of climbs and double-unders, Ohlsen was the more efficient on the handstand walk. Though shorter than the others, he reached further with each “step.” As the rep count dwindled, he seemed only to pick up speed, the first to hit the mat at 8:03, finishing the day in a great place to become a three-peat champion.
As for the women, Leblanc-Bazinet and Wells weren’t done racing after WOD 1, Leblanc-Bazinet establishing an early lead—which she never relinquished—and leaving Wells to chase her.
Though neither showed what a mortal, human athlete might consider to be struggle, when you’re elite, you’ve got to split hairs, and it was Leblanc-Bazinet who had the more refined technique.
She took the rope in large scoops while Wells took shallower steps, forcing Wells to make more pulls her arms. On the walk, Leblanc-Bazinet showed the gymnastics prowess she’s famous for, with a near-vertical trot that looked the same when she finished as when she started.
The pair crossed the line in the same order they started: Leblanc-Bazinet in first at 9:54, Wells taking up second at 11:21, the duo holding the top two spots overall at the end of of Day 1.