Photo Credit: Will Branstetter
Nearing the halfway point in terms of off season CrossFit competitions and events, and this one (stop #9 of the world tour) is very close to home. Crash is only about 90 minutes driving distance from me, so no airplanes required, no major packing decisions needed, just load up the car and get ready for what I knew was going to be a great weekend.
I have spent more time and had more conversations with J.R. Howell, the owner of CrossFit Crash and director/organizer/programmer for Crash Crucible than most of the other competitions I’ll work at combined. The idea for the “Re-Tour” (all events are rewritten versions of old Regional and Games workouts) is something he shared with me a year ago. The workouts have been tested and retested, the order of them was written and then rewritten, and before any other broadcast jobs were on the books for this offseason, we already knew Sevan and I were going to broadcast Crucible for the first time on the Sevan Podcast YouTube channel.
“Small Local Comp”, Big Comp Feel
There have been many positive things posted about how elite Crucible was in terms of planning, organization, timeliness, programming, and the list goes on and on. It’s worth noting a few things when labeling it as such, and especially when drawing comparison to other competitions in doing so.
3 Days, 5 Divisions, 7 Scored Events
This year Crash Crucible ran from Friday to Sunday. It featured elite men (33), elite women (30), masters men (12), masters women (8), and elite teams (6) as the five divisions. Each division took to the competition floor six times, or twice per day, with the opportunity to earn points seven times (one time was a back to back scored event opportunity). It’s just over 120 athletes total who competed across three days. All the events were done on the Crash property (which is an affiliate). He did have two fields of play, and on Sunday both were in use simultaneously for a couple hours. All of this is to say that from the logistics side of things, Crash is somewhere in between a small local comp and a big time competition.
Games Level Programming, Semifinal Volume
As mentioned above, three days and seven events is very much comparable to what you would see at a Semifinal. Additionally, each of these events were rewritten (and meant to be harder) than the original Regional or Games workouts. Some of them come from as far back as 2011 and 2012, the overall ability and capacity of the athletes competing is much different now.
Masters Can Do Them Too
As mentioned in our preview, and discussed throughout the weekend, the Masters divisions did the exact same events as the individuals. And to speak to the level of ability in this Masters field, both the champions in 35-39 year old divisions of the Masters Fitness Championship from a couple weeks prior were in this Masters field.
On the women’s side Jamie Latimer actually celebrated her 40th birthday during the competition. She also PRed in almost every event as she told us she had never done peg boards, flip sleds, or handstand obstacles before. She then went on to PR her thruster during the thruster ladder on day 2. She’d end up taking 6th out of 8 women as the only women who will age into the 40-44 division next year.
Travis Flannigan, the male masters 35-39 champion from MFC would do similarly taking 7th out of 12 on the men’s side. If these two were winning at MFC, a notable large offseason competition for masters, why were they in the bottom half of the field here? It’s possible it has to do with competing so closely together, but more likely is because of who else was in this field.
On the women’s side, what Caroline Klutz did was arguably the most impressive performance across the board from any athlete male, female, elite, or masters. This was Klutz’s first ever individual competition. She usually competes on the CrossFit Grit Haus team. It’s notable that she did place 5th in the Masters Semifinals this year, so it’s not unprecedented for her to do very well individually.
The thing is, Klutz didn’t just win the Masters division, she would have been in contention to win the elite women’s division too. Her event finishes against the elite women would have been 2nd ,1st, 6th, 8th, 1st, 28th, and 15th. As compared to 5th, 4th, 6th, 11th, 2nd, 14th, and 1st from the elite women’s winner. Might not have been enough with those last two events, but through five events Klutz would have been right in it with women 10 and 15 years younger than her.
On the men’s side it was a Crucible regular, Mark Hutchinson, emerging victorious after a wild battle all weekend with another regular at the Crash competitions, Hudson Fricke. The two put over 100 points between themselves and the rest of the impressive field which included familiar names like Kyle Ruth (3rd), Chad Kackert (4th), Irving Hernandez (5th), and Elijah Muhammad (6th). Hutchinson’s best finishes would have been 4th (event 6), seventh (event 4), and 8th (event 3) against the elite men.
Future Games Athlete Amongst Them?
In each of the previous three years at Crucible one of the two elite champions has gone from never previously making it to the Games, to qualifying as a rookie in the next year or two. Coming into the weekend we thought we’d be looking at only having one candidate for that since Games veterans Colten Mertens and James Sprague were in the men’s field and were the likely favorites to win. Austin Hatfield had other plans.
Hatfield narrowly missed making the Games this past season coming one spot short at the North America East Semifinal. He stood on the floor and watched as Sprague qualified two spots ahead of him. That semifinal was Hatfield’s first ever live CrossFit competition, Crucible would be his second. So, it wasn’t a surprise that Hatfield did well at Crucible, but taking the “W” ahead of Mertens, who has made three consecutive CrossFit Games and was coming off a career best 18th, bodes extremely well for the likelihood of the streak continuing. Hatfield is now firmly on the radar as a potential Games rookie next year in North America.
For the women, there were no games veterans in the field of the caliber of Mertens or Sprague, but Kloie Wilson seemed the likely favorite having narrowly made it herself each of the last three years. That would not end up being the case however, and ultimately the women’s race came down to one point between 27 year old Crash athlete Lindsay Lane and 19 year old Training Think Tank athlete Lydia Fish.
Fish was 4th and 2nd to Lane’s 5th and 4th on day one. Fish also got the better of Lane in event 3 taking 1st to her 6th. Both women had their worst event of the weekend on the thruster ladder that was event 4, Lane took 11th, Fish was 19th. Sunday morning on event five Lane edged out Fish taking 2nd on the long chipper to Fish’s 3rd, setting up for a two part final. Fish took 7th to Lane’s 14th on the first part, while Lane took 1st to Fish’s 2nd on the second part. With the performance based scoring model in place, and the points being so close, it wasn’t entirely clear who had won.
If it feels like Fish outperformed Lane after reading through that, you may be surprised that Lane actually came away with the overall win. However, the “P-Score” model distributes scores based on performance, relative to the field, and the difference in placement isn’t actually what’s being measured, it’s the difference in score. This is a great case study for performance based scoring, so we wanted to take a closer look:
|Crucible 2023||Lindsay Lane||Lydia Fish|
In particular we want to highlight events 4 and 6. On event 6, Fish beat Lane by 7 spots, but the margin she beat her by was only :29. Those 29 seconds accounted for a difference in just under 15 points.
Contrast that with event 4 where Lane beat Fish by 8 placements, but the margin between the two was 2:46. That is a much more significant margin, and not surprisingly yielded a much bigger difference between the two, in this case just over 37 points.
This is more or less the argument for using p-score rather than points per place. There are certainly arguments to be had on both sides of the debate.
For example, if you are looking closely at the grid above, you may notice that a 2:00 difference in event 3 on a relatively short event (Fish getting the better of Lane), yielded about a 15 point difference. This is because after Lane in 6th place there was a massive drop off with regards to the rest of the field. In other words, Lane’s finish of 5:39 was still extremely impressive against this field whereas Fish’s performance on the thruster ladder was much less impressive against the field.
Crucible Closing Thoughts
What Howell has created in South Carolina is something major competitions should be taking note of. He does many things well in the build up (which has already begun for next year by the way) that set himself up well for a clean and professionally run competition experience for every group of people on site, or at home watching, during the weekend.
The feedback I have personally received from athletes, coaches, and media members who have attended, competed in, coached at, and covered competitions all over the world for many years is exceedingly and notably positive.
Speaking of the Broadcast
This is the first time Crucible has put on a full broadcast of their competition. We were able to do it with primarily cell phones and computers via Streamyard and Youtube. Friday and Saturday we were able to cover every heat of every division. Sunday, since competition was happening on both floors at the same time, we covered as much as we could focusing on the finales in every division when we had to choose.
I know there are many other competitions out there who are curious about pursuing ways to broadcast their events. We will get somewhere around 100,00 total views for this relatively “small, local” competition when everything is said and done. That’s a lot of friends, family, training partners, coaches, gym members, or just plain old fans of CrossFit who are able to watch, cheer for, and follow along because of the commitment of a few. We did something similar at the Zelos Games in 2022, and I believe have upped the ante at Crucible 2023.
The next stop on the tour will be stop 10, perfect timing, because it’s the Rogue Invitational.