CrossFit Oakland and San Francisco CrossFit

2010 CrossFit Games Finals

Affiliate Epic Matchup 2: CrossFit Oakland and San Francisco CrossFit

The Battle of the Bay Area

Five of the eight teams that qualified at the Southwest Regional hail from Northern California (North of the San Luis Obispo Countyline). CrossFit Oakland and San Francisco CrossFit already faced off at the Southwest Regional qualifier, but as both coaches will readily tell you, it could be anyone's game at the Home Depot Center next month. What's most interesting about this matchup are the close ties that they possess to one another. These are the two oldest gyms in the Bay Area. In fact, five years ago both affiliates were founded in the same month. They possess an enormous respect for one another and a symbiotic training relationship that both drives and inspires one another.

Coach Kelly Starrett describes the relationship, “Oakland is our sister gym. I have worked on all of their athletes as a physical therapist. We possess the kind of competition you see in something like NASCAR. When two cars racing together, they go faster. We take turns drafting. It's not necessarily a competition, but challenging each other to be at our best. In Decathlons or heptathlons all of the athletes feel like they're competing against a standard, not against a person. I'd say it's similar to this. You have a chance to do better than the standard. We're not competing against them, but we can't do our best without them. The only way we will succeed is if Oakland brings their best and inspire us to do our best. We are invested in them as a team."

Coach Mike Minium of CrossFit Oakland added, "We're fortunate in that one of the other best teams in the field, San Francisco CrossFit, is right across the bridge from us here in the Bay Area. They provide a lot of motivation for us, and we'll be sharing a tent with them at the Games."

This "coop-etition" is clearly fueling a strong fire. It lead to Oakland and San Francisco securing the top two spots at the Southwest Regional from a field of 76 teams in one of the toughest regions worldwide.

Oakland has had the trophy on the mantle for winning the A-Cup in 2008, but failed to make it to the final after a rocky start in last years competition, even after an 8th place finish on the run. They were disappointed, but turned the frustration into energy to drive their training. San Francisco CrossFit finished in the middle of the pack last year also (still ten spots in front of Oakland). They posted an impressive second place finish in the stadium WOD, but it was not enough to keep them in contention for the cup.

When the 2010 CrossFit Games Southwest Regional qualifier rolled around both teams dominated. San Francisco had an astonishingly powerful presence. They placed first, fifth and second in the three events for the weekend. Oakland also had an impressive showing at Regionals. Their worst finish was 9th place in Sunday's event. They bested San Francisco on event 2, which involved sprints around the track, one-arm dumbbell snatches, double-unders and pull-ups, and thus placed third on that event. To illustrate how tight the race was, that difference (3rd to 5th) was only 8 seconds. Their other finishes were 4th in Event 1; and 9th in Sunday's Event. When the dust settled at UC Irvine, San Francisco was the overall leader by 8 points.

Oakland looks far stronger this year with a reinforced team that has extended to include big name Games veterans. All three of Oakland's women, Candace Hester (formerly Hamilton, was 2nd in NorCal last year), Tamara Holmes (4th in 2008 with the top snatch at last year's Games at 140lbs), and Polly Helm, competed in the individual competition at the 2009 Games, so there is plenty of experience on that end. The men bring a lot to the table as well. Brandon Banks has competed in every CrossFit Games (2007-2010) as either an individual or as part of a team. Daniel Hester and Manwell Gali round out the squad. They will be fielding the same team we saw compete at regionals, even though each member had to earn their spot again. The slate was wiped clean after Regionals, and the spots went up for grabs.

In addition to Games veteran Angel Orozco, San Francisco brings athletes who are experienced in a myriad of athletic pursuits with past history in competition. "The group as a whole are all very good competitors, they train hard together. They don't freak out. They just know how to compete. When you take really good athletes and put really good programming on them, it's a recipe for success. They trust the preparation and are ready to turn that into practice." said Starrett. JD Cafaro has a past in D1 football at Cal (he was a freshman when Welbourne was a senior), and Corrine Brenner completed an ultramarathon before setting a state powerlifting record on the backsquat separated by just months. "It takes luck to ‘happen’ to get six terrific athletes together at a parking lot canopy gym," muses Starrett on his blog about the event. "It takes even more luck to have an incredible coaching staff that is obsessed. And it takes freakish good fortune to have a community of training partners that show up day-in and day-out literally for years."

Oakland's elite also have a background in high-level competition. "Both Tamara and Candace competed in numerous team sports at a very high level prior to starting CrossFit (Tamara played volleyball in college and professional baseball; Candace played rugby and was part of the Team USA squad). The team concept is very familiar and a source of great enjoyment for them. Tamara had to deal with a number of health and injury issues throughout the early part of 2010, so she just couldn't dedicate enough training time to get her game where she needed to be competitive in the individual competition. Candace, on the other hand, is super busy with school (working on earning her PhD from UC Berkeley) and recently got hitched. So the team competition made sense for her (she still managed to finish 5th in the NorCal Sectional, winning two of the four events, without any special preparation for the event)."

As the Games approach, the teams have adopted similar attitudes with different approaches. "We actually have a year-round team of 12 members (7 men, 5 women)," explains Minium. "By being on the team, each member is committed to competing at any competition that comes up. I expect this number to potentially grow even bigger over the next year. Our gym has an affinity for group workouts, team competitions, and the like, and it permeates the culture here at CFO. We've been doing a lot of outside-of-the-gym training. We recently finished up a month of track workouts (Wednesdays) and hill workouts (Saturdays), in addition to the work we do in the gym. The track workouts ranged anywhere from 100m efforts to 600m efforts. The hill workouts involved a 320m hill, lots of sprints, and use of sandbags, dumbbells, and kettlebells when it made sense and it when it wasn't overkill. We didn't do this because we think stuff like this might come up at the Games, we did this because it's just good old fashioned conditioning work. We've since finished with the hill work, but have kept up with the track workouts. Other than Wednesday, we're now at the gym for the rest of our workouts. We do team workouts on Saturdays, and during the rest of the week, the team works on shoring up skill-based deficiencies, building strength, and maintaining the great base of conditioning that we worked to develop after the Regionals.”

Starrett is putting more faith in the process of what has worked this far, “We get together and train as team one time a week, but we didn't change anything that much. These are all experienced athletes at this point, so they work on the things they know they need to work on as individuals. Why would we change after the success we saw in the hardest test there is? We have a good track record of competing at very high levels. The formula is really simple. We are just continuing to work on our ‘core values.’ Every once in a while, WODs will naturally present themselves as a team effort (where the load is distributed), but we don't create that artificially. Everyone can do everything as individuals so by bolstering that we are confident that the team strategies will come easier. I trust that really good athletes training in the same room is what makes the change, that's more important than the team scenario. Sometimes I think when you enforce ‘team WODs’, the intensity is dropped and my athletes need more, they're like, ‘What's next?’”

The experience of both coaches shines through as they ponder on the outcome at the HDC. "Just like Oakland, we're in our 5th year. We've had time to see what works really well and also to attract some good athletes. In the run up to the Finals, we're subjecting ourselves to the worst conditions possible… Running in the hottest weather, etc. It's anyone's game, you can't count on anything. So now you can prepare the best way you can and it's a level playing field again. Everyone here is good, everyone is fit. Comes down to what comes out of the pipe. What's fun, with the Games (even Regionals for that matter) is that everyone is fit. We were able to perform well at this event. If you're keeping an eye on developing powerful athletes, it comes down to who is really good on that day. The team we took to Regionals did not have a chance to exhibit their full potential. There wasn't even a barbell or a rower and we didn't even show what we could do well. This was all stuff we sucked at and we did that well."

Minium concludes, "We're extremely excited about competing in the upcoming CrossFit Games at the HDC. It's been a goal of our team for the better part of the last 6 months to be competing on the Games stage, and it feels great to have achieved that goal, but we're not satisfied with simply participating in the Games. I'm really pleased with how our training has gone leading into the Games. My confidence in our squad was buoyed by our performance in the Regionals, especially since only one of the three events we competed in was truly in our sweet spot (event 2). We're ready to compete, and will compete to win. That being said, we want our spot on the podium at the HDC.”

Team CrossFit Oakland
Brandon Banks - Public Defender, competed as an individual in ‘07 & ‘08, and a member of an affiliate in ’09
Daniel Hester - Bay Bridge Project Manager, competed as an individual in ‘08
Manwell Gali - Bartender, competed as a member of an affiliate in ‘09
Candace Hester (formily Hamilton)- PhD Candidate, competed as individual in ‘08 & ‘09
Tamara Holmes - Firefighter, competed as individual in ‘08 & ‘09
Polly Helm - Environmental Consultant, competed as an individual in ‘09

Team San Francisco CrossFit
Corrine "souljah" Brenner - Attorney turned coach. Ran an ultra marathon in November then set state powerlifting record in March.
Damian Morano - Independent CrossFitter for a long time and brought it to SFCF. Works for Coca-Cola, in law school AND trains.
JD Cafaro - Brother of medalist Erin, D1 football at Cal (defensive end). Freshman when Welbourne was a senior. House record for squats@315 = 23reps. Marathon time is also admirable.
Catherine "Viking princess” Gravelle - 2-Time All American Baskeball player (Dominican University).
Juliet Starrett - Full time attorney, mother of 2. Runs SFCF. 37 Years young. Is a 2-time world champion paddler. Rower at Cal.
Angel Orozco - Competed as an individual in ‘09, finishing 5th in the NorCal Regional.

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1 comments on this entry

1. Adam Kayce wrote...

Beasts. You are all beasts.

Great write-up, by the way - most entertaining one I've read yet, even without factoring in my man-crush on K-Starr.

Knock 'em dead, y'all!


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