“Give these people what they came to see Mal! Give them what they want!” I yelled into Malachi Bennett’s ear as he walked towards the barbell with a thousand-yard stare in his eyes.
It was event 2 of the 307 Throwdown. Three of the four athletes on the wild/STRONG Black team had already performed their lifts. I had hit a 270lb bench press for a two-rep. Heather Gammel had already wowed the crowd with her 55lb weighted pull-up for 5 reps. Josie Pettipiece had already hit a PR on her thruster at 145lbs for one rep.
Bennett was staring down a 315lb overhead squat. He needed to hit it for three reps. He had opened with 275lbs and made it look easy. He stepped under the bar, stood it up out of the rack – and split jerked it behind his neck flawlessly. One rep down, two reps – you could feel the crowd leaning in as he went into the final squat. As he stood it up – I joined the crowd in completely losing our shit as we cheered him on. It was the most weight any athlete hit for the 3rm OHS. Our combined lifts had also vaulted the wild/STRONG team from 7th place to 4th – taking second overall on the event.
While there may have been some lingering animosity toward Bennett leading up to the Throwdown, following his less-than agreeable departure from CrossFit 307 in 2015 – none of that was apparent during this lift as the fans cheered, or the rest of the weekend as old friends, coaches and fans took every opportunity to chat him up, shake his hand and even share a hug in some instances.
Bennett did what he always does – destroyed workouts and made those around him compete at a higher level. During a grueling final event of day 1 – 400m swim relay, 200 calories on the assault bike, 20 rope climbs, 5:00 AMRAP of sandbags over a wall and a 1200m sprint relay – I was struggling on the sandbags. The 120lb bag felt like 500lbs and I knew I was slowing the team down. I would squat down to use my entire body to lift the bag up, my hands grinding into the gravel underneath it. It was everything I could do to throw that bag over the wall to Malachi. He would then grab it easily and toss it right back – effortlessly. He never once stopped shouting encouragement to me. I just kept going. At the end of the event, we had taken 5th and we had edged out a 4th place in the sandbag event which was scored separately. If I wasn’t on his team, if I didn’t have him pushing me – I would have never completed as many throws as I did.
I stood there with my hands on my knees, fighting back the urge to throw up all over the gravel parking area after the workout.
“You did way better on that than I thought you would,” Malachi laughed.
Going into the final day, we were sitting in 4th place, just a few points back from CrossFit Billings, the defending 2015 champions. The first event of the day, a rowing, muscle-up, pistols and burpee hell-a-thon. We pushed hard. I ripped badly on my bar muscle-ups and had to get bailed out by Heather Gammel, who crushed the majority of the muscle-ups and the pistols. We took 4th, just behind Billings.
This meant we needed a big performance in the final in order to stand on the podium. Every athlete on our team stepped up big on the last event. In the end it wasn’t quite enough and wild/STRONG Black took 4th place at the 2016 Throwdown.
Every event at the Throwdown was a full team workout. This was different from last year, where two of the events paired half the team for each. There was no way you could hide your weaker athletes or run away from movements or weights that were not good for you. It was truly a team event, through and through. So while Malachi and Heather Gammel were the clear top athletes on our squad, that didn’t mean anything when it came to the final standings. We all had to do the work.
When you compete with athletes of this caliber, it’s easy to sit back and almost feel guilty – knowing that if they had someone better on the team, they could have stood on that podium at the end of the weekend. But it’s far better to just be content with how you performed, and be grateful that you had the privilege to work next to them and the benefit of knowing you performed at your best because of them.
So this wrap up is more of a thank you letter to Malachi Bennett, Heather Gammel and of course, Josie Pettipiece. You all inspire me to be a better athlete, a better teammate and a better person. Thank you for sharing your talents with team wild/STRONG.
Congratulations to CrossFit Omnia on their dominating performance. Their team, which many of you may have watched at the 2016 CrossFit Games, won 5 of the 7 events on their way to taking the top spot on the podium.