50 compete in intense fitness tests

Angelo Archuleta of Grand Junction strains to pull himself up on the rings Saturday during one of the heats at the SouthWest FireBreather CrossFit Competition at Stocker Stadium.

Just three months after having a baby, Sarah Francis demonstrated explosive strength, pulling herself up and over high-hanging rings and pressing a 115-pound bar over her head.

She was one of about 50 competitors tackling the SouthWest FireBreather CrossFit Competition on Saturday at Stocker Stadium. Francis, who surpassed her goal on the first day’s challenges, described CrossFit as a fast, intense workout and even more than that, a lifestyle and a community.

“It’s for everyone, not just for super athletes,” said Francis, who got involved with the local CrossFit gyms about four years ago.

This weekend’s competition for the five-state region of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Wyoming is the third of 10 being held throughout the country.

In January, the top five athletes from each event will be invited to the championship in Denver.

Saturday competitors completed up to three rounds of muscle ups, hang power cleans and front squats in under 20 minutes.

Today, they will be back to complete as many sets of pullups, pushups and squats in a timed format and will face a run and burpees, explained Amy Milyard, owner of CrossFit Junction.

“The definition of CrossFit is constantly varied, functional movement, executed at high intensity. The talent from the local gyms is amazing,” she said.

Grand Junction competitor Nate Beard, leading Saturday, enjoyed seeing the competition in his hometown for the first time. When he first walked into a CrossFit gym after hearing about it through a friend he had high blood pressure. Now he says he feels younger and more mobile than when he was in college.

“It’s motions that simulate the way you live your life,” he said, giving examples of how functional exercise movement can even help with the simple life tasks like carrying groceries.

CrossFit Junction coach Angelo Archuleta, who was getting ready for his heat with Beard, added, “It’s not just CrossFit, it’s living healthy, being healthy.”

These gyms are one of the fastest-growing, with 6,000 worldwide, said Kyle Zajac, of Aspen, one of the founders of this challenge series.

“CrossFitters are very competitive,” Zajac said. “They beat their previous time and get better and better.” 

Blaine Guenther, of Boulder, who played football in college, backed that sentiment, saying, “It satiates your competitive drive.”

Anyone interested in watching the competition today can visit Stocker Stadium from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $6 and proceeds go to the Wounded Warrior Project.


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