A competitive community of CrossFitters

Team from Highlands Ranch gym competes in world competition

Robbie Wright
The Backcountry Black team, from left, Dalton Spanbauer, Becky Conzelman, Stephanie Brady, Dave Foster, Meredeth Smith and Chris Dozois, compete in an event called the "worm" at the Reebok CrossFit Games in California. The team placed 15th out of 43 in the overall world competition.
Robbie Wright
Chris Dozois of Castle Rock competes in the mens deadlift at the Reebok CrossFit Games in California. Dozois was one of seven members of Highlands Ranch's Backcountry CrossFit that competed in the world championship competition.
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CrossFit is a community.

“CrossFit is not easy,” said Steve Hartle, owner of Backcountry CrossFit gym in Highlands Ranch. “It's the motivation from the group that helps drive you. That sense of community that we're all in this together.”

Recently, seven Highlands Ranch athletes from Backcountry CrossFit competed at the Reebok CrossFit Games, a worldwide competition to “find the fittest on Earth,” which took place July 25-31 in Carson, Calif.

According to the CrossFit Games website, “the goal is to find the fittest athletes, not to produce an easily replicable workout program.”

Although only seven people affiliated with Backcountry CrossFit qualified to compete in the games, Hartle said it was a group effort that got them there. He said just qualifying for the games is a big deal, and over 45 athletes from the local gym went to spectate and cheer on their team.

“We're (only) the second team in Colorado to ever qualify for the games,” he said, adding that the competition has been around since 2007.

Each CrossFit gym is independently owned, and there are about 10,000 in the world, Hartle said.

From those 10,000 gyms, 217,000 people began the process of qualifying for the CrossFit Games with the Open, a competition that took place at the end of February. Hartle said the Open consisted of five weeks of different judged workouts. Each week, the scores are compared to others from throughout the region.

There are 17 regions around the world. Teams competing in Backcountry CrossFit's region come from Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada.

After scoring high enough in the Open, the top 30 teams from the region went on to Regionals in May, which took place in Salt Lake City.

The Regional competition is a “three-day competition of head-to-head workouts,” Hartle said. Of the 30 teams that competed in Regionals, the top three qualified to compete in the CrossFit Games.

The Backcountry CrossFit team, called Backcountry Black, won second place at Regionals. The team consists of three women, Stephanie Brady and Meredith Smith of Highlands Ranch, and Becky Conzelman of Denver; and three men, Dalton Spanbauer of Highlands Ranch, Chris Dozois of Castle Rock and Dave Foster of Denver.

Backcountry CrossFit also had a master in the competition, Mike Egan of Highlands Ranch, who competed individually.

Backcountry Black competed in 13 different scored workouts, Hartle said, eventually placing 15th out of 43 teams. Egan competed against 19 other athletes, and was required to do eight different workouts. He finished 12th in the men's 45-49-year-old division.

“CrossFit, in general, is competitive,” Egan said. “You're competing every day — either against yourself or others in the gym. But, everyone is there, still encouraging you.”

A definition of CrossFit is “constantly varied, functional movements (that are) performed at high intensity over a broad time and modal domains.” Hartle said the workouts have to encompass certain things, but can be anything from Olympic lifting, gymnastics and cardio.

CrossFit is known as a general preparedness program because it “specializes in not specializing,” Hartle said.

“One of the beautiful things about CrossFit is that anyone can do it (because) it can be scaled to people's different abilities,” Hartle said. “You challenge yourself every day (and) the better you get, the harder it gets. The appeal is that you never plateau.”

Egan said the hardest part about getting involved with CrossFit is showing up.

“When you first walk in the door, it's intimidating — people doing strange workouts,” Egan said, “but it's geared from entry-level to advanced. If you do the work, you see progress.”

Hartle's wife, Ashley, who is co-owner of Backcountry CrossFit, said there is no limitation with CrossFit because everything can be modified. She said people who do it gain a new outlook on what they can accomplish.

“CrossFit is core-centric,” she said. “It starts with the core and works out. It makes you stronger for everything you do in life.”