Regionals: Is Less More?

By James Toland ,
Credit: Image courtesy of The CrossFit Games

When the Open started, athletes only had to be one of the top 60 athletes in their region to advance. In 2013, it was reduced to 48. In 2015, the range is being cut again to a mere 20 men and 20 women who will individually qualify for Regionals.

I have waited to discuss this topic until I had some time to gather my thoughts and read through what others had to say. My initial reaction was that of shock mixed with sadness because I have been working closely with Regional athletes the past two years in my jobs with the CrossFit Games media staff.

My heart breaks for the 21- through 48-place athletes for sure. These men and women have some difficult choices to make. Do they “go team?” Do they try to push harder than ever before to make the illustrious top 20? Or will they simply forgo competing and just work on their fitness goals outside the Open or Regionals. Regardless, it’s becoming clear they are being forced to make some tough calls.

My concern is for the ones who rely on endorsements from companies as part of their income and training gear. I’m fearful that they might now miss out on those dollars because they won’t be able to promote their sponsors on the Regional stage. Likewise, it will impact companies using that exposure to help get the word out about their gear.

I know it’s an anomaly for an athlete who finishes the Open workouts ranked outside the top 20 places to then go to Regionals and advance to the Games from there. Cody Anderson did it last year, but I believe there has only been something in the neighborhood of seven athletes over the past couple of years to make that leap.

While I don’t like the idea of people I have gotten to know on a personal level missing out on Regionals, I am very excited as a fan to see what trimming back the field will do to increase the level of competition. Furthermore, reducing the number of Regionals from 17 to 8 and pitting two sets of regional qualifiers against each other (such as the North Central versus the Central East in our case) really brings a lot of star power to each weekend of competitions.

I love the stories of people picking up CrossFit training in the past year and making it all the way to Regionals. I love the stories of the athletes training at their homes in garages or with gymnastics rings tied to tree limbs outside and then crushing people during the Open.

Who doesn’t?

But the more the Open and subsequently the Games tests fitness around the world, the less these stories are likely to be a reality. At this point in our evolution of competition and increase in prize money, more and more athletes set on making Regionals or beyond are becoming full time in their training and nutrition.

While this creates an extremely difficult challenge for the 21- through 48-place athletes from a year ago, ultimately I believe this is the right direction in order to ensure that the best of the best make it to the 2015 CrossFit Games.

What do you think about the Regionals being cut to 20 athletes for men and women?

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