Open Placings vs Regional Winners

The Games have been amazing thus far.  It’s been so exciting already, and the Finals haven’t even happened yet.  There’s something awesome about whittling it down from 26k competitors, to 2k competitors, to 50 men and women at the Games.  Getting it down to number 1 is going to be epic!

So Cal Regional Winners – Jeremy Kinnick, Josh Bridges, Jon Pera

While we’re all anxiously awaiting the Final throwdown, I decided to take a moment to reflect on a topic that kept popping up in the wake of the Regionals.

One thing a lot of people noticed about the Regionals, myself included, was that the Open placings didn’t seem to be a very good predictor of Regional winners. Many of the top Open finishers in each region did very poorly at the Regionals. For example, of the 17 men who finished first in their Open, 7 didn’t make it to the games. Likewise, many athletes came out of nowhere and took top spots at the Regionals.  Looking at the numbers, 21 of the 43 men that qualified at Regionals did not finish top 3 in their Open. That’s nearly 50%. Here are some of the most dramatic cases:

Qualifying Games Athletes’ Placings

Athlete Open Placing Regional Placing
Nick Urankar 42nd 3rd
Andy Lewis 36th 3rd
Spencer Hendel 21st 3rd
Jared Davis 15th 1st
Tommy Hackenbruck 15th 2nd
Jesse Disch 14th 1st


There were many factors at play. Here are the primary reasons that Open placings weren’t a better predictor of Regional winners.

1. Some People Cheated

As much as we all wish that it weren’t true, there is a good chance that some athletes/affiliates outright cheated.  Unfortunately, identifying these cheaters is all but impossible, so for the time being they remain known only to themselves and their small circle of co-conspirators.  The nice thing to remember is that I think we’re all pretty confident that a rightful games athlete wasn’t kept out by Open cheaters taking their spots.

2. Some Athletes Cruised through the Open

As Graham Holmberg openly attested to, some athletes decided not to kill themselves during the Open.  In light of the bigger picture, the Regionals and the Finals, some athletes decided to try to keep their training programs as uninterrupted as possible. So instead of hitting the WODs multiple times per week, as hard as they could, they just inserted them into their programs and tried to keep to “business as usual” as much as possible.  This makes some sense for top athletes who felt like they were in no risk of not making it to regionals, and given the fact that your Open placing had no bearing on the Regional outcome.  On the other hand, I think this approach can turn into a cop-out.  “I finished poorly in the Open because I didn’t go that hard.” Seems kind of convenient to me.

3. Some Gyms’ Standards weren’t as strict as the Regionals

Range of motion has always been a major focus in CrossFit, and a major source of contention.  This is especially true when it comes to competition.  Standards of movement, or the lack thereof, can make a huge difference when every second represents potentially dozens of places.  This is tough at an actual competition, where slight variations in interpretation between judges can have a substantial effect on outcomes.  It becomes unwieldy when you stop and think about the disparity among boxes around the world. For many gyms, the Open was a wake-up call of sorts in regards to standards.

It’s hard to tell your members that the push-ups you accept everyday at the gym won’t count for them in competition.  This might elicit questions like “Why didn’t you tell me this before?  I’ve never done them this strictly before, and as a result, it turns out I suck at them.”  It’s much easier to let it slide in favor of “house rules”.  No one at your own gym is going to complain, because they don’t know any better.

It’s hard to call back reps. Period.  It’s even harder to call them back on people who barely agreed to compete in the first place.  Who wants to discourage a newer/older athlete who is already questioning whether they have any business being a “competitor” in the first place.  Who wants to face a top athlete at your gym as you “no-rep” them rep after rep. This can not only be hard on relationships, but it can be bad for your business.  Calling on affiliates to no-rep their own members will oftentimes cause a conflict of interest that is stronger than their integrity and willingness to hold to what is right.

And what about the gyms who not only have poor day-to-day standards at their gyms, but are also oblivious to the fact?  The problem is, in all honesty they believe that they do uphold standards.  How many videos did we see submitted with terrible range of motion?  Obviously they thought they were upholding the standards, or they wouldn’t have submitted it for the whole world to critique.  Furthermore, what about the gyms/judges that never bothered to watch the standards videos.  Unfortunately, there is a big difference between what an average gym accepts during daily workouts, and what would be counted in competition.  The good news is that this has been getting better and better over the years, and I believe with more competition awareness, we will see higher and higher standards being upheld at affiliates.

4.  They tested different things

Day 1 of the Regionals tested things that were not seen in the Open. There was no running or rowing in the Open.  There were no HSPUs in the Open.  There were no max lifts in the Open (Thruster Ladder).  Any athletes with deficiencies in these areas were not punished for them in the Open.  At the Regionals, they were punished severely.  Even muscle-ups, which were featured in both the Open and Regionals, played a much different role.  You could still do most of the Burpee/OHS/Muscle-up workout in the Open without having strong muscle-ups.  At the Regionals, Amanda started with muscle-ups, so there was no hiding a deficiency.

Overall, I think the Regionals were a better test of fitness.  I  would put more stock in the Regional outcomes than I would in the Open outcomes.  The main problem with the Open from a “test of fitness” standpoint was that it had to compromise too much in order to be more inclusive.  I understand the reasoning behind the compromise and think it was good for our community as a whole, but I do think it made the Open a lesser test than it otherwise would have been.

The Open workouts tended to favor a lighter athlete, and definitely didn’t punish a lack of strength very severely.  In the Regionals, it was the opposite.  The first workout was the only workout without a significant heavy component.  Not that lighter athletes couldn’t do well in the Regionals, but they had to be comfortable moving some pretty heavy weights in order to do so.

This is my assessment: Some athletes are going to finish at the top, regardless of what is thrown at them.  Some athletes have holes that were exposed in the Regionals, and not in the Open, and vice versa.  And at the Games, other holes may be exposed as well (think rope climbs, swimming, etc.).  As time goes on, CrossFit is figuring out better and better ways to more fully test fitness.  And that is no easy task.

Which of these do you think was the strongest factor?  Or did I overlook something that was really important?  Let me know in comments.

Feel free to hit me up on twitter @jmkinnick. Ask us questions about anything via twitter(@btwb) and our Facebook Fan Page.



  1. July 21, 2011 / 3:51 am

    I couldn’t agree more with all of your points. Although I don’t think that this had a huge bearing in the overall top 3 in the So Cal Region, the standards implimented during the Regional Events were not consistent in many ways.

    First, they are not consistent with what Crossfit has allowed during many of their past competitions. Example: Kettle Bells. If the first time you hear about a standard is the regional event, it is often too late for an athlete to adapt. A solution would be a series of videos direct from HQ that broke down the fundamental CF movements. I want to be clear here: I am not saying that the standards weren’t fair. I am just trying to point out that even if an affiliate did everything in their power to promote good ROM, there are too many sources out there with bad info. Many of them are valid CrossFit training programs.

    Second, and you mentioned this above, but I think it is a pretty big deal; Judges… I appreciate how difficult it is to judge an athlete that you have no familiarity with, but the desparity in what was, and was not, allowed was just too big to overlook. Some judges were letting horrible reps count (case and point in the men’s thruster ladder), and other judges were handing out no-reps like it was an AM-NOREP-AP. If crossfit is going to hold the athletes to a high standard, which is the only fair way to handle this, they need to figure out a way to train their judges as well as convince the same team of judges to travel to the different regional events. I know that many of the regional events fall on the same days, but 3 or 4 dedicated teams of judges would have made the entire competition more universal. I know that this would cost much more money, but increase the cost of the Open by $5 OR $10 and cover it that way.

    Lastly, and this is more about the overall culture of Crossfit, but we’ve never been a pretty bunch because we’ve never had to be. Our muscle-ups wouldn’t pass in any gymnastic competition. Many of our Olympic Lifts make Olympic Lifters cringe. We get the job done though. We specialize in not specializing. 3.2.1.go… Ground to Overhead.go…

    Once again, I am not saying that ROM is not important. It is of vital importance in every movement. However, if my feet are outside of the width of my shoulders in my HSPU’s, that counts as a NO-REP?? Especially when my hands can be just about as wide as I want them to be?? That was just silly. Some guys literally had to move their body 4″ up and down for a full rep.

    You can’t ask the bad-ass softball chick who is built like a Mack truck to Prom an expect her to come down the stairs looking like Jessica Beal on the night of the dance. REASONABLE STANDARDS would be the solution here. Did you move the LARGE LOAD A LONG DISTANCE QUICKLY?

    I am not in any way advocating a lower bar. On the contrary, I think we should raise it. Clear communication of ROM standards, more universal methods of holding athletes accountable in competition, and standards that make sense.

    I love Crossfit, and I think that this year’s Games is gonna be off-the=hook. I can’t wait. I just hope that in the years to come, as Crossfit grows into the more commercial sport it is becoming, we don’t lose sight of how we all came to love this thing. It was always ment to be harder than anything you’ve ever done. I’m not sure it was ever meant to be complicated.

    Great job on the blog by the way. our whole gym uses BTWB, and it is an invaluable tool. Thanks for all you do for our community.

  2. Mark
    July 22, 2011 / 3:38 am

    Very interesting and nonpartial observations by both Jonathan and Bobby.

    I personally suffered at my regional competition because of the stricter than normal standards.

    Is this a bad thing for Crossfit? Definitely not.

    Is it a new challenge for boxes worldwide to encourage their athletes to refine their form? Oh yeah.

    I’m playing devil’s advocate against myself when I say the emphasis on strict movement standards is a good thing; I’m more of a “grind it out however you can” kind of guy, but in terms of both efficiency and consistency, the new regionals standards are an excellent step in a positive direction for the community.

    Of course there are complaints and flaws each year in every event from local throwdowns to the Games, but as far as I can tell, each successive event HQ has held has come closer to truly testing pure athleticism in its competitors.

    And that’s really the point of the CF Games, right?

  3. Joris
    July 22, 2011 / 6:53 pm

    Please take a moment to take a step back. Did it matter for the top-3 that qualified for the final? Could it be that because someone cheated, another person did not make it to the top-3 at the regionals? No. The three best from the regionals still qualified for the final. I 100% agree that standards should be met, and we all should educate people about it. However, it didn’t stand in the way of the people who qualified at the regionals.

    The Open was a chance for everybody to compete, and to feel what CrossFit is as a sport. Many people learned to go beyond what they thought they could. Many PB’s, first muscle ups, etc. It gave a positive vibe to the crossfit community and it attracted attention from other people. I am all positive about the Open, and the way it worked out.

  4. July 26, 2011 / 12:19 am

    @Bobby: I think CrossFit does an amazing job with making the movements more standardized every competition. A judge will make a bad call now and then, but that’s the reality of any sport( I think I discussed that in my AJ Moore Blog). However, I agree with Mark’s sentiments about how stricter standards are better for the sport.

    @Joris: I think Jon actually said that anyone who cheated didn’t move on, so I”m a little confused with your first point. Good point about the Open. It was def a great way for people to learn and fall in love with CrossFit.

    Thanks for the comments guys.

  5. July 26, 2011 / 12:20 am

    @Bobby: I think CrossFit does an amazing job with making the movements more standardized every competition. A judge will make a bad call now and then, but that’s the reality of any sport( I think I discussed that in my AJ Moore Blog). However, I agree with Mark’s sentiments about how stricter standards are better for the sport.

    @Joris: I think Jon actually said that anyone who cheated didn’t move on, so I”m a little confused with your first point. Good point about the Open. It was def a great way for people to learn and fall in love with CrossFit.

    Thanks for the comments guys.

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