The 2017 Wyoming Open takes place this weekend at CrossFit Frontier in Cheyenne, Wyoming. All eyes will be on Caliber Fitness’ Malachi Bennett – who steps on the floor seeking his fifth straight Men’s Pro Division title. Last year Bennett saw a field that included a GRID athlete from Florida and a 4-time regional competitor from Colorado – and like the year before that when Games athlete Christian Lucero made the drive to Cheyenne…Bennett dominated all-comers. His lead going into the final event in 2016 was so great he could have cracked a beer and sat it out – and still would have won.
This year, neither of the athletes who shared the podium with Bennett in 2016, are returning. 2017 Regional qualifier and former University of Wyoming football player Cooper Wise was a name we had our eye on as a possible challenger this year for Bennett’s title, but injuries will keep the NorCo CrossFit star out of this year’s event.
Representing NorCo in the Pro Division will be teen sensation Logan Ewing. The 16 year old missed the Games in 2016 by just four spots, only to see that shrink to one spot in 2017. He’s hungry and he has vastly improved his lifts since 2016, where a 22nd place finish on the 1rm snatch and clean and jerk event kept him out of the top 10. He still finished a respectable 13th in the Open division last year competing as a 15 year old against a field of adults.
Also moving up from the Open Division in 2016 will be CrossFit 4982’s Garrett Villella. Villella just missed the podium last year, finishing 4th – and posting two event wins and a second place finish on the final workout.
Tyler Weber from CrossFit Scottsbluff finished 469th in the North Central Region and boasts a 330# clean and jerk and a 255# snatch. Rounding out the Pro division are two athletes from CrossFit Barkada in Denver. Mario Mancha finished 12th in the Open Division last year. Przemek Lott did not log a score in the first two open workouts this year, so his final standing is not an indicator of his skill, but his scores on the final three events were not close to Bennett’s.
Bennett will be the clear favorite to capture his 5th title in 2017. It will be interesting to see how Logan Ewing stacks up against some very good adult talent in the division. Despite his improvements on the lifting side of things, the lack of a 1rm max event this year bodes well for him, and he and Villella both stand a good chance to share the podium with Bennett.
On the women’s side – for the first time in three years, a CrossFit Games athlete will not be represented in the Pro Division. Tiffany Hendrickson dominated last year, while Natalie Newhart took the crown the year before. Both qualified for the Games in 2013 and both are absent from the field this year. Tori Alemany from CrossFit Barkada is the lone athlete back from last year, where she finished 8th. Alemany posted a 100th ranking in the South West Region in 2017, bettering her 2016 score by 176 spots. Judging from the Open performances, the Women’s Pro Division will be the most competitive we have seen in years. Following Alemany in the 2017 CrossFit Open – are Tayler Sykes from CrossFit Evolve at 204th (she also has a 220# clean and jerk and a 175# snatch that we wont get to see with the lack of a 1rm event this year) Katelyn Keith of Backcountry CrossFit at 168th and Monique Fair from CrossFit South Denver at 226th. This division appears to be a true toss-up. The lack of a pure strength event hurts Sykes and the experience from last year has us picking Alemany to win this very tight division.
Not a single athlete who qualified for the final workout in 2016 (top 8) returns to the Men’s Open Division in 2017. Only two athletes in the top 10 are back (Robert Klein – CrossFit Frontier 9th and Cory Toye – CrossFit Lander 10th). Don’t think for a second that means there are not some serious firebreathers in this division in 2017. The Open division appears to be about a four horse race for the podium. The two favorites coming in are CrossFit Endure’s Alex Casetta (402th SW Region) and NorCo CrossFit’s Ryan Barber (234th SW Region). Joining them in the hunt for the podium will be CrossFit Endure’s Brett Thomas (260th SW Region) and CrossFit Cheyenne’s young gun Christan Acosta (498th NW Region). All four of these athletes have a great shot at standing on the podium
Last year’s photo finish between champ Shala Giardini and runner-up Johnna Dioniso had us all wishing for a either a rematch or at least to see both women in the pro division this year – the fans will get neither. In fact, nearly the entire Women’s Open Division is new this year. The sole returning athlete who qualified for the final in 2016, comes in as the favorite to win the 2017 crown. Host gym CrossFit Frontier's Josie Pettipiece finished 7th last year, and improved her Open score from the 500’s to 306th in the North West Region in 2017. On paper, she is the clear favorite to win – but there are two athletes in the field that could ruin the chances of a host gym athlete taking a top spot on the Wyoming Open podium.
Brittany Jones from CrossFit Barkada finished 536 in the South West Region. She is just 23 years old and jumped nearly 1200 spots in the Open from 2016 to 2017. She’ll be one to watch this weekend.
Joining her in the hunt for the podium and with a good chance to challenge Pettipiece for the top spot is cross-town athlete Lisa Meeker from CrossFit Cheyenne. Although she did not register for the Open in 2017 – we know she did complete the workouts and looking at her scores – she is right there with Frontier’s Pettipiece. This should be a great three-way race for the podium this weekend.
For the fans: Unlike the last two years, Day 1 of the Wyoming Open will take place at CrossFit Frontier, with Day 2 being at Okie Blanchard Stadium.