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Teams Grind Through The Open To Help Others


There was no local competition or special workout going on, but the parking lot was packed.

While attendance at Capital City CrossFit (C3) in Springfield, Illinois, had continually increased since it opened in 2010, it would be fair to assume that arriving at 8:00 am on a random Saturday does not usually require one to seek a parking spot across the road. Although the parking was an issue on this cloudy, cold March morning, the energy and camaraderie inside the box was in full force.

What had drawn this crowd today? A picture.

Let me back track a little. . .

Before the start of the 2014 Open, owner and head trainer Brian Chandler had an idea to get more people involved and maybe boost the enthusiasm for the five-week-long competition. Chandler explained, “We wanted to give all of our athletes the Crossfit Open experience, whether they were competing in the CrossFit Games Open or not. Separating the competitors into two teams created a healthy rivalry throughout the gym. It helped keep everyone engaged throughout the five weeks. Not only were the athletes competing for themselves but also a team who relied on them weekly.”

The decision was made to pit two teams against each other and the goals would be friendly competition combined with raising money for charities. Team Paula, captained by Paula Ryan selected the Gary Sinise Foundation, which raises money for a program designed to construct custom Smart Homes for our nation’s most severely wounded veterans. Team Jake, led by Jacob Von Behren chose Fisher House, a group that provides military families housing close to a loved one during hospitalization for an illness, disease or injury.

One hundred members, roughly 60% of Capital City’s membership, signed up for either the C3-based “Open” or both the CrossFit Open and C3’s competition. This was the biggest level of affiliate-wide involvement that Capital City CrossFit had ever had for the CrossFit Open or any single event. As a box, $1500 was raised and split between the two charities.

Each week the total scores were calculated and then divided by the number of members on the team who completed the workout (based on the weekly Open). Registered Open athletes had to complete the workouts as prescribed and submit their results online on the CrossFit Games site. For everyone else, they had the choice to give the Open workouts a go at the RX level or they could scale based on a system Chandler and coach Zack Serrano developed to make the workouts challenging but more manageable for all the members who were participating.

In addition to the excitement of the money raised for these great causes, team captains Von Behren and Ryan said that the competitiveness and buzz around the box as almost palpable.

Ryan, whose son is currently a student at West Point, picked the Sinise Foundation because of its support of military families. She was in awe of the atmosphere generated by the C3-based Open.

“It has been amazing to see all of our people, regardless of the team they were on, coming together. Watching people talk about the workouts and seeing people move more weights and push to do more than they usually do was just so inspiring,” Ryan said.

Ryan herself had a very productive Open, finishing in the Masters Women 50–54 Division 130th in the Worldwide standings and 7th in the North Central Region. She will move on to the next round of Games’ qualifier workouts, which will be completed April 17through April 21.

Von Behren loved the military family–based focus of Fisher House, and in doing his research was very impressed that the organization gives around 96% of profits directly to their programs.

In regards to the impact this competition has had at C3, Von Behren said, “One of the most unbelievable things was the 47 people were in here (C3) before 6:00 am on Friday to complete 14.5. It has just gotten more people working out more often. People all around this place are just excited to compete and be a part of this thing.”

While Ryan’s Team Paula took the overall title, winning three of the five Open events, everyone involved was clearly a winner. Throughout the Open, members were setting PRs, doing movements they had never done before, investing time and energy learning about movements and strategies about all the Open workouts and becoming better at CrossFit.

Next year the plan is to bump up the number of participants and increase the amount of money raised. With any competition of this scale, not only does the dynamic of the local community change for the better, but it also increases the number of members who become invested in the worldwide Open.

You can’t put a price tag on the experience that this team-based competition brought to the folks at Capital City CrossFit, but being able to raise money for these two great charities was worth it.


And the parking lot was packed on a cloudy Saturday morning.

Not for a workout, but for a celebration of what this group had accomplished and to capture that achievement in a picture. Five weeks of blood, sweat and definitely tears, but all these members of C3 had finished the 2014 Open and in doing so helped not only themselves, but some military families, too.

Did your box do something special during the Open? Share your stories with me at

Stay on the Grind.
Jamie Toland (JTol)