The Strongest CrossFit Games Teenagers: Do Big Lifts Translate to Competition Success?

Does strength on the barbell mean these CrossFit athletes are poised for podium glory?

There have been some huge training lifts put up by CrossFit teenagers Dallin Pepper, Tudor Magda, Mallory O’Brien, and Emma Cary. Their displays of strength and power are impressive at such a young age, where typically these lift numbers are not seen by elite CrossFitters until later into their 20s, if at all.

All four of these teenagers had great success in the CrossFit Games teenager divisions. The question is: Can these teenage stars carry over their top lift success into the individual divisions at the CrossFit Games? And looking to historical data, does their strength translate to overall competition success in CrossFit?

Notable Lifts and Bios

Dallin Pepper: 360 pound Clean & Jerk, 300 pound Snatch

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Dallin Pepper (@dallinpepper)

Pepper has the best all-time career record in the CrossFit Games teenager divisions, winning three championships in all three of his Games (the only teenager to do so). Additionally, he has the second-most teenager career event wins at that Games with 12. (Haley Adams has the most with 15.)

Tudor Magda: 300 pound Snatch, 350 pound Jerk

[See more of Tudor’s lifts]

Magda has one Games teenager championship, one bronze medal, one 9th place, and was looking for more last year at the Games as the top seed out of the Age Group Online Qualifier. (The 2020 Games removed the age group divisions due to COVID-19 limitations.) He did win the Boys 16-17 Division at the Pit Fitness Ranch Elite Teen Throwdown last September, which acted as a substitute for the Games teenager competition.

Mallory O’Brien: 245 pound Clean & Jerk, 195 pound Snatch, 331 pound Back Squat

[See more of Mal’s lifts]

O’Brien took a 4th and 5th place in the two years she was in the 14-15 Girls Division at the Games; she did not compete in the 2020 Games Season. However, like Tudor, she won her 16-17 Division at the Pit Fitness Ranch Elite Teen Throwdown.

Emma Cary: 240 pound Snatch Balance with 2 Overhead Squats

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Emma Cary (@emmacaryy)

Cary has one Games teenager championship, and like Tudor was the number one seed out of the 2020 Age Group Online Qualifier.

These lifts rank right up there with top lifts from CrossFit Games athletes competing in the individual divisions. Dallin and Tudor have aged-up into the individual ranks. Mallory and Emma are in their last year of the 16-17 year-old division.

Past Games Individual Teenagers

There have been five former CrossFit Games teenager division athletes to make it back to the Games in the individual division:

  • Haley Adams, 2019 and 2020
  • George Sterner, 2019
  • Guilherme Malheiros, 2019
  • Bryan Hernández, 2019
  • Gabriela Migała, 2019 and 2020

[I]t is initially noteworthy that good strength numbers from these past Games teenagers have not translated into Games individual success — yet.

Note that a couple of other teenagers qualified for the 2020 CrossFit Games as well, but they were cut in the individual field reduction due to COVID-19 limitations. There were other past teenagers to compete at the Games as individuals, however this discussion is just looking at the teenagers who competed in the Games teenager divisions.

Obviously the most successful has been Haley Adams, who took 6th place and Rookie of the Year at the 2019 CrossFit Games. She followed that up by making the Stage 2 of the 2020 CrossFit Games, ultimately taking 4th place. Gabriela Migała took 18th place in Stage 1 of the 2020 CrossFit Games.

However, the next best past finish was 32nd place by George Sterner at the 2019 CrossFit Games. As a 17-year old, George did a 335 pound squat clean at the 2016 CrossFit Games and took 2nd in the 16-17 Boys Division. Guilherme Malheiros took 48th at the 2019 CrossFit Games. He impressively put up a 291 pound snatch at the 2017 CrossFit Games as a 17-year-old and took 2nd in the 16-17 Boys Division. Guilherme now boasts a 390 pound clean & jerk and 300 pound snatch.

In contrast, Haley Adam’s weakness has generally been her strength and Olympic lifts. However, she has compensated for this by excelling in most other areas of CrossFit as she gets stronger. Not having the big lift PRs has not stopped her from excelling overall at the Games as an individual.

The four other past Games teenagers have average to above average relative strength numbers. Admittedly this is a small sample size with just Haley and Gabriela having competed in two Games as individuals. But it is initially noteworthy that good strength numbers from these past Games teenagers have not translated into Games individual success — yet. Obviously, being a top lifter is not detrimental to elite success – see Mathew Fraser’s and Tia-Clair Toomey-Orr’s top lifts. Having the all around capacity has shown to be more important for top Games individual division success.

Who’s Next?

Two different scenarios will play out with these four current teenagers this season.

The first: How far will Dallin and Tudor go in the 2021 CrossFit Games Season? Quarterfinals have to be a given. Semifinals seem likely. Will either be able to earn a qualifying spot to the Games from what will be stacked Semifinal rosters?

As for Mallory and Emma, we will most likely be in for a treat to see them battle it out to be the 16-17 Girls Division champion at the Games this year. This harkens back to the competition between Haley Adams and Kaela Stephano who took the top two spots at the Games three years in a row in the teenager divisions. Interestingly, Kaela won two of the three battles. It will be thrilling to watch Mallory and Emma take on the strength events. However, will either be able to take the championship? There will be other 16-17 girls who will have a say in this as well.

The big lift PRs are tailor made for Instagram and capture our attention. Raw weight totals are great for comparison. However, this is CrossFit with strength and power being just two of the ten components of fitness.

All these teenagers have done well in the other CrossFit tests of fitness in the teenager divisions. Let’s see over the next couple of seasons who will be the next breakout teenager of these four (or maybe another not mentioned) to parlay their big lift PRs with complete capacity in all areas to make the jump alongside Haley and the other individuals at the Games.

Featured image: @oliviagabrielphotography, from @dallinpepper on Instagram

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated to reflect Gabriela Migała’s performance in the 2020 CrossFit Games.