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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy photos Harrison Heller has competed on the regional stage twice as an individual, but he’ll be joined by teammates at this year’s CrossFit Games Central Regional in Minneapolis.

  • The Mad Apple CrossFit team, clockwise from upper left, Shawn Sullivan, Bobby Petras, Harrison Heller, Ryan Person, Shelley Toth, Leslie Heller, Mallory Shinneman and Vicki Toth.

  • Leslie Heller is part of the Mad Apple CrossFit team that has qualified for the CrossFit Games Regional competition in Minneapolis. Courtesy photo

Wednesday, March 16, 2016 6:14 am

Fit for the challenge

Aubree Reichel The Journal Gazette

The CrossFit franchise has managed to turn otherwise individual workout activities into a competition. 

"CrossFit is basically a fitness program that’s designed to create well-rounded athletes," said Mallory Shinneman, a CrossFitter at Mad Apple CrossFit. "We do anything from gymnastics to weight lifting, running, rowing, anything and everything in between.

"It’s kind of become not just a fitness program, but a sport. So, for us, it’s a way to compete and hang out as a team."

CrossFit has more than 10,000 affiliates worldwide and bases its workouts without the use of typical machines used in gyms. 

The competition team from Mad Apple CrossFit qualified for the CrossFit Games Central Regional competition May 29-31 in Minneapolis. The qualification was based on the team’s placing in an open competition, which had over 275,000 submissions to the CrossFit HQ.

The top five men, women and teams at the regional will qualify for the CrossFit Games on July 21-26 in Carson, California.

"Everybody in the entire world can compete in the open," gym owner Bobby Petras said. "In the NFL, you can’t simulate playing the Lions, but in CrossFit, you can watch the very best guy in the entire world do a workout on a video and me, Shawn (Sullivan) and Harrison (Heller) can go do the same thing and literally try to beat Rich Froning, who’s the best guy in the entire world. 

"I think that’s why CrossFit has such a following because you literally get to do the exact same thing that the professionals are doing."

Anyone can submit videos for the open competition or do a workout in front of a judge to attempt to qualify for the regional competitions.

"You can never have done CrossFit in your entire life and you can do it in your garage," Shawn Sullivan said. "You video it, submit it to a judge – judge validates your score."

Mad Apple’s team score of its top three females and top three males in the open competition placed it ninth in the region, thus qualifying it for the competition in Minneapolis. 

The team aspect creates a different atmosphere, than if they were competing individually. 

"You have to strategize based on everybody’s strengths and weaknesses," said Heller, who has competed twice in the regional competition as an individual. "With the team aspect, I think there’s more strategy that goes into it than if you’re competing as an individual. 

"With the team, you’re trying to coordinate six people’s strengths and weaknesses versus just focusing on yourself. ... The team aspect is more stressful because there are so many different components."

All events at the regional will be based on the time it takes for teams to complete workouts with varying levels of team involvement.

"Some of them are broken up in to guy-girl partners so you’re broken up into pairs," Shawn Sullivan said. "Some of them, you are doing all three guys together and all three girls together so you can partition the work as needed."

For those on the Mad Apple team, CrossFit provides an outlet to be competitive. Many competitive CrossFitters were athletes in high school or college and still have the desire to compete.

Examples on the team include Petras’ participation on the Fort Wayne Freedom indoor football team, Shelley Toth was a club gymnast at Purdue and Shinneman was on the Saint Francis track and field team.

"I would say 65 percent of all regional athletes were, at one time, very competitive in either high school sports or collegiate sports – or even professional sports," Heller said. "And they didn’t make it to the next level, but this gives them the same competitive outlet.

"You’ll have extremely talented physical people who in the past worked hard physically. This is just the adult version of that – if you want to have a regular career, as well."

Being involved in CrossFit isn’t all about competition, however. Classes are offered throughout the day and Mad Apple allows 24/7 access to their facility.

Petras has seen three different kinds of people come through the doors at Mad Apple.

"There’s people who come here and work out, do the class and go home," he said. "There’s people that come in here, maybe they want to get better at a certain skill so they take a little extra time. There’s people that spend two hours a day and want to make it a sport."

Fort Wayne has five CrossFit-affiliate gyms, each of which provides a free trial for those interested. For more information about CrossFit and area affiliates, go to CrossFit.com.

areichel@jg.net