For action-hungry CrossFit fans and crowd-starved athletes, the Mid-Atlantic CrossFit Challenge Semifinal was a perfect starter course. Headliners Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr and Rich Froning’s CrossFit Mayhem Freedom mixed in with some fresh names created a perfect recipe to test mettle on six Games-flavored events.
While the women’s and team events saw familiar faces take qualifying spots to the 2021 NOBULL CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin, newcomer Jayson Hopper out of CrossFit Simpsonville in South Carolina snatched the spotlight — and 300 pounds — in Knoxville. The 23-year-old held on to first place after the first day of competition and finished no lower than eighth place throughout the six events, besting veterans Scott Panchik, Travis Mayer, and 2020 rookie phenom Justin Medeiros.
Note: The top five men, women, and teams qualify for the 2021 CrossFit Games. The Games qualifiers below are noted in bold.
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MACC 2021 CrossFit Games Team Qualifiers:
1. CrossFit Mayhem Freedom (663 pts)
2. Lone Star CrossFit (592 pts)
3. CrossFit Westchase (584)
4. Training Think Tank (554)
5. On Track (545)
6. CrossFit Reignited Wilmington (477)
7. Spicy Lil Mamas (438)
8. 3 Bridges CrossFit (407)
9. CrossFit Nashville (406)
10. Team Coi (324)
MACC 2021 CrossFit Games Women’s Qualifiers
1. Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr (588)
2. Haley Adams (528)
3. Brooke Wells (512)
4. Amanda Barnhart (468)
5. Jessica Griffith (468)
6. Christine Kolendbrander (466)
7. Feerozeh Saghafi (440)
8. Nicole Gibson-Burke (395)
9. Danielle Dunlap (378)
10. Kelly Clark (352)
MACC 2021 CrossFit Games Men’s Qualifiers
1. Jayson Hopper (560)
2. Scott Panchik (536)
3. Justin Medeiros s(528)
4. Travis Mayer (516)
5. Zach Watts (425)
6. Tyler Eggimann (397)
7. Angelo DiCicco (391)
8. Hunter Holifield (373)
9. Mark Hutchinson (371)
10. Ben Smith (368)
Day 1 Recap
Athletes received a MACC baptism by fire in the first event with a one-rep max snatch for individuals and a snatch and clean & jerk max event for teams, with one man and one woman on each team taking one of the lifts for combined totals by gender. Individual rookie Christine Kolenbrander set the bar for the women, hitting a 210-pound snatch. Toomey-Orr, who had hit 200, jumped to 215 for the win, but missed twice, tying for third at 200 pounds. On the men’s side, Zach Watts of CrossFit Conjugate took the top spot with a 310-pound snatch over a crowded second-place tie, with six men topping out at 300 pounds, including veterans Ben Smith and Scott Panchik.
Event Two, in keeping with CrossFit’s appetite for surprise, introduced a new implement: the Torque Fitness TANK push sled. On eye test, it looks like a push trolley, with four wheels and forked handles on either end — and notably, no place to put weights. That’s because the TANK replaces friction with magnets for resistance. Rookie Jayson Hopper drew eyes his way with an event win, overtaking Medeiros and Panchik. Toomey-Orr pocketed the event win for the women, followed by young phenom Haley Adams. Thirteen women hit the time cap on this aggressive grinder of an event.
The second event for the teams welcomed back their old friend, the worm, in sets of clean and jerks divided by calories on the rower, ski erg and bike. Mayhem Freedom took this event handily, but still sat in fourth place overall at the end of day one, tanked by an 11th place men’s finish in the max lift event.
Day 2 Recap
Individual athletes found a new girl waiting for them at the beginning of day two at the MACC. “Grettel” is one of CrossFit’s recently announced new “Girl WODs,” and she seems to borrow from older sister “Grace,” an all-out effort of 30 clean and jerks for time. Grettel, with 10 rounds of three clean & jerks and three bar-facing burpees, may be a new girl, but it was familiar names who took the top spots in the event. Amanda Barnhart edged out Toomey-Orr by four-tenths of a second and Brooke Wells finished just two seconds later in third place. Training Think Tank’s Travis Mayer took the event on the men’s side in 2:41, just one and two seconds respectively in front of second-place Hunter Holifield and third-place Hal Fisher.
Teams were met with synchronized gymnastics movements in event 3, with handstand push-ups and chest-to-bar pull-ups along with worm thrusters. Mayhem Freedom knew they had to make a move after the day before, and winning by three minutes in this event seemed to do the trick, though they were still just out of first place behind CrossFit Westchase after three events.
Event 4, “Inception,” saw only two women and twelve men finish under the 27-minute time cap. On the women’s side, Adams pushed Toomey-Orr through most of the event, trading the lead through rounds of TrueForm running, ring muscle-ups, and heavy wall ball shots. Toomey-Orr would overtake 20-year-old Adams, who would finish well ahead of other veterans like Wells, Barnhart, Jessica Griffith, and Becca Voigt.
It wasn’t much smoother for the men, many of whom were walking mid-event on the TrueForm machines as if on a workout cool down. Rookie Hopper proved himself again on this grueling challenge, finishing at 23:38, followed by Mayer and Angelo DiCicco. Notable DNFs on the men’s side included 2020 Games second-place finisher Samuel Kwant and Watts, who hadn’t finished below 6th previously.
Mayhem Freedom finally took their usual driver’s seat on the team side after Event 4, with smooth sets of burpee box jump-overs and punishing dumbbell snatches, at 70 pounds for the women and 100 pounds for the men — yes, that’s one dumbbell.
Day 3 Recap
Fans of Mario Kart may have appreciated the first event of the last day for the team competition, aptly named Rainbow Road for the notoriously trickiest course of the video game. In this event, the teams got to meet the Torque TANKs individuals grappled with the day before. Only Mayhem Freedom completed all tank pushes to win the event, as every other team hit the time cap. Though Mayhem sat comfortably in first place, the race for a ticket to Madison wasn’t yet solidified among the final four qualifying spots — and things would get more complicated with a two-part final event. Training Think Tank jumped from fifth to fourth place following Rainbow Road after tying for second with CrossFit Reignited Wilmington, who jumped into closer contention, just a point behind sixth-place Spicy Lil Mamas.
Part 1 of Save the Last Dance, the final team event, was a chipper with ring muscle ups, snatches, and a row. Mayhem Freedom blazed through the event, arguably looking fresh next to other teams who were breaking up the snatches. On Track, previously in the fifth place hot seat coming into the event, finished part 1 in second place while Training Think Tank finished in eighth. Part 2 brought back the worm, in a lower-back blaster that included deadlifts and synchronized burpees. CrossFit Reignited Wilmington pulled out the event win, two seconds ahead of Mayhem, with Lone Star CrossFit behind them and Training Think Tank in fourth.
Despite the shifting leaderboard in the two-part finisher event, the standings shook out to be the same as they were coming into the event.
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MACC CEO and programming guru Luke Espe clearly has a soft spot for Harry Potter, as evidenced in the fifth individual event, the Tri-Wizard Cup: four rounds of bike calories, toes to bar, thrusters and 40-ft overhead walking lunge at 135 pounds for the men and 95 pounds for the women. Toomey-Orr pulled away to win the event handily, leaving Adams and Wells, tied for second in the overall standings, to battle it out for the event second place. Wells made a late charge for Adams on the overhead walking lunges, with the second-place spot coming down a photo finish, Wells just edging Adams out on the chip timer. That was enough to put Wells in second place overall, four points ahead of Adams. No more than 10 points separated third through sixth place going into the final event for the women.
The men’s Tri-Wizard Cup event came with slightly less drama but no less magic. Newcomer Hopper continued his quiet dominance, finishing three seconds ahead of third-fittest man on earth, Medeiros. The qualifying five spots on the men’s leaderboard remained unchanged after the fifth event, but fifth-place Zach Watts’ final qualifying spot became more endangered, as Dicoco, Tyler Eggimann and Mark Hutchinson all moved within striking distance.
Going into the women’s final event, Toomey-Orr, Wells, Adams, and Barnhart walked onto the floor relatively certain of their tickets to the CrossFit Games. All eyes were on Griffith and Kolenbrander for the final spot as the women worked their way through ten rounds of legless rope climbs, strict handstand push-ups and 70-pound dumbbell snatches — all movements we’ve seen introduced at the Games within the past few years. While Kolenbrander beat Griffith to the finish mat, there weren’t enough places between the two to shake up the leaderboard. Griffith and Barnhart ended up tied in total points, both advancing to Madison.
The men’s final event brought no surprises, though we would see Justin Medeiros take his first event win of the weekend, followed by Panchik and Hopper. Dominant throughout the weekend, Hopper punched his first ticket to the CrossFit Games and so did fifth-place finisher Wells, who was on his fourth attempt at qualifying.
The MACC is one of ten semifinal events that will take place over the next four weeks which will send qualifiers to the 2021 CrossFit Games taking place July 27-Aug.1. Individuals finishing within three spots of a qualifying position from each event will qualify to compete in the online Last Chance Qualifier event that takes place June 28-July 4.
Featured image: @crossfitgames on Instagram, photo by @flsportsguy