A staple of high school physical education since 2012, the biannual CrossFit competition has quickly popularized fitness in local high schools.
Formerly known as Strength and Speed Training (SST), the CrossFit competition tests physical strength, endurance, speed and agility in two separate events held in the academic year, one in the spring and one in the fall. The spring competition focuses on strength exercises like the bench press, squat and clean and jerk, while the fall events focus on speed with such exercises as the 40-yard dash.
Students from Soldotna, Kenai Central and Nikiski high schools have made the event their playground every year, and Wednesday night provided the 11th opportunity for kids to hit new heights.
“It’s so hard,” said Nikiski junior Melanie Sexton after finishing up the night’s final and most strenuous activity, the challenging Fight Gone Bad race. “You just have to keep pushing.”
“I feel better and more physically fit,” added Kenai senior Lara Creighton when asked about the benefits of the program.
From the very beginning, the biannual event has incorporated elements of the sport of CrossFit, a speed and strength conditioning program that saw an explosion in popularity across the nation within the past decade.
But the SST curriculum received a shot in the arm from an Outside program known as CrossFit HQ during the most recent competition at Kenai Central in Oct. 2016. Several certified trainers from the HQ program joined in on the fun to help certify all area coaches involved in the curriculum while also filming the competition for an online feature.
Now, high school athletes are seeing improvements every time they compete in the event.
“I took a year off (from SST) to focus just on basketball,” Creighton said. “The last time I cleaned two years ago was at 105 (pounds), and today I cleaned 125.”
Creighton was one of at least 30 athletes from SoHi, Kenai and Nikiski that turned up Wednesday to flaunt their skills and strength. Event records were set in the 11th-12th grade boys squat, 11th-12th boys clean and the 11th-12th boys snatch, while additional records were tied in the 9th-10th girls snatch and the 9th-10th boys clean.
And while it’s no surprise that multisport athletes shine the brightest during the event, it is a head scratcher that the bench press had not previously been offered for the competition before.
SoHi coach Eric Pomerleau explained that the bench press hadn’t been included in past events due to time constraints, but Wednesday’s competition was held on a strict time limit for each event to keep the evening going.
“We finally added another event to get more kids involved,” Pomerleau said. “It’s a weekly movement we use in class, so it was an easy transition. The kids get to showcase their skills.”
Also new to the event is a PR bell, hung on the wall in the SoHi weight room, which was rung each time an athlete’s personal best was achieved.
Early in the evening, Kenai senior Jonathan Delgado hit an event and personal record in the boys squat, lifting 475 pounds to break the old mark of 455, previously held by SoHi’s Adam O’Guinn from 2015.
“My main goal was to squat 500, and I got to 490 tonight, but couldn’t finish that,” Delgado said. “I got the bar rolled down on me and it kind of disrupted my lift.”
Delgado has played an instrumental role on the Kardinals football team every fall as an offensive lineman. The 6-foot-2, 285-pound blocker is a first-team All-Northern Lights Conference member, and credited coach Jeff Baker in guiding him to greater heights, both on the turf and in the weight room.
“Coach Baker has been one of my true mentors since freshman year,” Delgado said. “It bums me out that this is the last time I get to do this.”
Another football player also made headlines Wednesday in the older boys clean and snatch events. SoHi senior Austin Schrader grabbed the CrossFit competition records of 220 pounds in the snatch and 315 in the clean, erasing the old marks of 205 and 305, respectively. Schrader had shared the original snatch record with two others, but broke the clean record that was held solely by Nikiski’s Christian Riddall from 2015.
SoHi sophomore Levi Benner got in on the bench press action, putting up 205 pounds while also lifting 225 pounds in the younger boys clean. Benner is coming off shoulder surgery from over four months ago, and said he was shooting for higher marks Wednesday, hoping a PR would help him get called up to be a varsity starter on the Stars football team next fall.
“It’s always good to have a challenge out there,” Benner said. “I think having a goal to fight for is good.”
After seeing SoHi teammates Kyle Marcuson, Brenner Furlong, Hunter Thompson and Schrader lifting PRs, Benner said the CrossFit curriculum offered by the three area high schools has given him something to look forward to on a daily basis.
“It’s an out for me every day,” he said. “They’ve put more variety into it with the bench press, and it’s great.”
Later in the evening, Kenai sophomore Jarett Wilson tied the younger boys clean record of 260 pounds, held by Kenai’s Rykker Riddall from last year.
A pair of Soldotna athletes tied the younger girls snatch record of 105 pounds, held by Kenai’s Alexis Baker and Creighton from 2014 and 2015, respectively. SoHi’s Bailey Leach and Casey Earll both tied the girls mark, now held by four different athletes.
Sexton said her time participating in the CrossFit curriculum at Nikiski has helped her keep her edge on the soccer field.
“When I was a sophomore, my coach wanted me to do Fight Gone Bad in the fall,” she said. “Then I started preparing for it the next time because I knew he’d ask me again.”
Sexton tied with Kenai’s Julieanne Wilson in the older girls FGB event Wednesday, both racking up a total of 409 reps in various stations over 15 minutes. The stations included bar raises, box jumps, kettlebell swings and wall balls, which consist of throwing a heavy medicine ball over the head against a wall.
SoHi’s Makenna Foster won the younger girls FGB with 347 total reps. SoHi’s Brenner Furlong won the older boys FGB with 444 total reps, while Kenai’s Jacob Anderson won the younger boys event with 475 reps.
Wednesday at Soldotna
11th-12th grade boys squat
1. Jonathan Delgado, Ken, 475 pounds (event record); 2. Kyle Marcuson, Sol, 370; 3. Hunter Thompson, Sol, 365; 4. Jonathan Hawkins, Ken, 360; 5. Dakota Hupp, Nik, 315.
11th-12th girls squat
1. Annie Quinn, Sol, 225 pounds; 2. Catherine Turner, Sol, 210; 2. Julieanne Wilson, Ken, 210; 4. Abby Cox, Ken, 165.
9th-10th boys squat
1. Hamilton Cox, Nik, 390 pounds; 2. Aaron Faletoi, Sol, 385; 3. Bailey Maxson, Ken, 375; 4. Tyrone McEnerney, Ken, 350; 4. Cody Nye, Sol, 350.
9th-10th girls squat
1. Megan Calloway, Sol, 250 pounds; 2. Katelynn Kimes, Sol, 185; 3. Olivia Brewer, Ken, 160; 4. Haley Maw, Ken, 150.
11th-12th boys bench
1. Brenner Furlong, Sol, 305 pounds; 2. Jonathan Delgado, Ken, 260; 3. Kyle Marcuson, Sol, 225; 3. Dawson Baker, Ken, 225.
11th-12th girls bench
1. Tavia Wilson, Ken, 140 pounds; 2. Mackenzie Lindeman, Ken, 130; 3. Annie Quinn, Sol, 125; 3. Cat Turner, Sol, 125.
9th-10th boys bench
1. Hamilton Cox, Nik, 245 pounds; 2. Jarett Wilson, Ken, 225; 3. Cody Nye, Sol, 205; 3. Levi Benner, Sol, 205.
9th-10th girls bench
1. Ituau Tuisuala, Sol, 140 pounds; 2. Megan Calloway, Sol, 130; 3. Olivia Brewer, Ken, 105; 4. Haley Maw, Ken, 85.
11th-12th boys clean
1. Austin Schrader, Sol, 315 pounds (event record); 2. Rykker Riddall, Ken, 265; 3. Hunter Thompson, Sol, 260; 4. Jakob Schmidt, Nik, 230; 5. Clayton Larson, Nik, 215.
11th-12th girls clean
1. Lara Creighton, Ken, 165 pounds; 2. Cassi Holmes, Ken, 150; 3. Annie Quinn, Sol, 145; 4. Taylor Earll, Sol, 135.
9th-10th boys clean
1. Jarett Wilson, Ken, 260 pounds; 2. Aaron Faletoi, Sol, 245; 3. Bailey Maxson, Ken, 225; 3. Levi Benner, Sol, 225.
9th-10th girls clean
1. Bailey Leach, Sol, 125 pounds; 2. Casey Earll, Sol, 105; 2. Haley Maw, Ken, 105.
11th-12th boys snatch
1. Austin Schrader, Sol, 220 pounds (event record); 2. Jonathan Delgado, Ken, 205; 3. Jakob Schmidt, Nik, 185; 4. Dawson Baker, Ken, 155.
11th-12th girls snatch
1. Lara Creighton, Ken, 125 pounds; 2. Tavia Wilson, Ken, 110; 2. Taylor Earll, Sol, 110; 4. Catherine Turner, Sol, 95.
9th-10th boys snatch
1. Galen Brantley, Sol, 170 pounds; 2. Jarett Wilson, Ken, 155; 2. Jacob Anderson, Ken, 155.
9th-10th girls snatch
1. Bailey Leach, Sol, 105 pounds; 1. Casey Earll, Sol, 105.
11th-12th boys FGB
1. Brenner Furlong, Sol, 444 reps; 2. Braden Olsen, Ken, 406; 3. Bechler Metcalf, Sol, 327.
11th-12 girls FGB
1. Julie Wilson, Ken, 409 reps; 1. Melanie Sexton, Nik, 409; 3. Abby Kruse, Sol, 369; 4. Mackenzie Lindeman, Ken, 278.
9th-10th boys FGB
1. Jacob Anderson, Ken, 475 reps; 2. Jace Kornstad, Nik, 439; 3. Hudson Metcalf, Sol, 420; 4. Chris Edelman, Sol, 363.
9th-10th girls FGB