Vanessa Stolarski, 41, placed first after her dynamic performance in the Master’s Women 40-49 division and Ed Halavick, 50, placed second with his strong finish in the Master’s Men 50+ division.
The state competition was the culmination of the West Virginia Open, a series of six workouts performed by athletes at their own affiliates beginning in August. The competition was open to all CrossFit members in the state of West Virginia over age 13. Gender-specific age designations totaled 10 divisions. The qualifiers with the top scores were invited to the championship. Other athletes from the Open filled remaining available slots.
The championship consisted of three WODs (Workout of the Day), and the top three finishers in each category were awarded medals.
Martinsburg’s CrossFit Lat 39 had the largest number of participants in the finals. In addition to Halavick’s second place win in a field of six, Monica Powell scored 28 out of 37 in the Women’s Open division and Dennis Carmickle placed 55 out of 57 in the Men’s Open category. Two competed in the Master’s Men 40-49 group, with a field of 16 competitors. Kyle Price earned 7th place while Harry Longerbeam placed 15th. In the Master’s Women 40-49 group fielding 13 contestants, Jen Price earned 7th place while Ann Halavick took 10th.
Extreme CrossFit Martinsburg had four of its members compete. Katie Dyke placed a respectable 6th in the large Women’s Open category. Of the two competing in the Men’s Open group, Daniel McIntosh placed 17th while Calvin Greenfield placed 56th. Mary Arnold rounded out the Master’s Women 40-49 group in 13th place.
In addition to Stolarski, Iron Musket CrossFit in Kearneysville saw Lea Pillo in a strong 5th place finish in the Master’s Women 40-49 slot.
Stolarski said she participated in the Open for a number of reasons. “I am a glutton for punishment, but I enjoy competing because these events always force you to raise the bar for yourself,” she said. “Maybe you are horrible at pull-ups, and avoid them whenever possible, but when a competitive event lists that movement as part of the WOD, then you'll be damned sure you nail those pull-ups every time.”
“As a statewide event, I figured my chances of qualification might be slim so when I saw the rest of the scores being posted, and realized I might have a chance after all, I was stunned,” said Stolarski, who finished second overall in the Open.
She said the championship event ran overtime and they were all fairly delirious by the end. Ready to break down from the sheer physical and emotional output, Stolarski didn’t realize she was in first place heading into the last leg of the competition until friends ran up to tell her.
“As for my fellow competitors, holy cow! You don't know inspiration until you sit on a sweat-soaked, chalk-dusted floor and watch women your age repeatedly lift 100-pound barbells over their heads and then run over to their kids to wipe their noses,” she said.
“I also really enjoyed working out with the other boxes in our area,” added Stolarski. “We were all bonded by the fact that we were the first-time representatives of the Eastern Panhandle for this event, and I honestly believe we did our region proud.”
Halavick originally signed up for the Open because he thought it would be fun. “I really had no illusions about making it to the state qualifier,” he said. “After the first Open WOD, I saw how I stacked up against the competition and realized ‘I got this!’” He placed second in the Open in his category.
“Going into Beckley, I had a good idea of what I had to do,” said Halavick. “The first WOD was a grueling endurance WOD and I struggled on the run, but made up time on the rower. WOD two was my specialty: weightlifting. I set a personal record in the clean and jerk. WOD three was a chipper and I got second place by one pull-up. The other competitors in my division were great guys, but they were all business at 3, 2, 1, go! I finished the long day in second overall by one point.”
“It’s always exciting to hear your name called when the awards are being handed out, and to come home with a medal,” he added. “I work hard in the box every day, try to eat well, and it’s great when your sacrifices pay off. It would not have been possible without the 100 percent support that I get from my wife Ann and my family at CrossFit Lat 39.”
Johnny Layne, one of the chief event organizers of the competition, said this was the biggest year yet in terms of participants, although it continues to evolve as it grows.
“This year, we saw the Open jump to 275 and over 140 at the championship. In 2012, I recall we had 175 in the Open and 50 at the finals and in 2013, we had around 200 in the Open and 70 in the onsite,” said Layne. “I believe the Open can get over 500 in a few short years. The key will be more diversity in the divisions. The teenage divisions and breaking up the master’s divisions have proven to be something the athletes want. It will evolve as we get more input from athletes and we examine the data after the team competition is over.”
Former championships were held in Charleston and Morgantown. This year, the organizers changed things up by soliciting Open WOD ideas from all participating affiliates in an effort to encourage participation and provide more community among the affiliates. Those selected provided a video with the WOD requirements as well as an introduction to their gym.
With CrossFit growing in popularity, more affiliates have formed in West Virginia and worldwide. Increased accessibility to the sport has spawned a number of amateur athletic competitions utilizing the popular CrossFit-style workouts.
An edited version of this article appeared in The Journal on September 30, 2014 and can be viewed on its website.