'Philadelphia Winter Warmer' CrossFit event draws hundreds

During a CrossFit workout, a woman tries to put her toes through the rings.

The popularity of CrossFit has grown nationwide in the past few years. This past weekend was proof that the movement has reached Philadelphia.

Some 200 athletes and over 500 spectators converged on Northeast Soundstage and Studios in Port Richmond for Saturday’s event, featuring the best of CrossFit on the East Coast. The event was put on by CrossFit Novem, a CrossFit facility in Northern Liberties, and Trap Door Athletics, a company that specializes in organizing and planning fitness-focused events and excursions.

“We were pleasantly surprised by the turnout,” says Cassie Grassia, who co-owns Trap Door Athletics with Emily Record. Grassia and Record are both active CrossFitters who endeavor to popularize the sport by capitalizing on its inclusive nature and by incorporating workouts into events, adventures, and vacations.

All 200 athletes competed in the first two events before the field was cut to the top 50 males and females. The fourth and final event saw only 10 participants from each gender. The events were as follows:

●     Cluster Ladder: Athletes must squat-clean barbells ranging from 45-225 lbs. (women) or 85-285 lbs. (men), then “thruster” the barbell overhead in one, continuous motion. There are 15 bars in all.

●     10-Minute AMRAP (as many reps as possible) testing Speed, Agility, Accuracy: This event combined ‘double-unders’ (a rope-jumping technique) and burpees, with one-arm, ground-to-overhead kettlebell lifts.

●     8-Minute AMRAP testing Strength and Gymnastics: Athletes performed a movement on gymnastics rings, ‘toes-through-rings,’ followed by ‘hang power cleans’ with barbells, walking lunges with a 45-lb. plate held over their heads, and 16-ft rope climbs. “This one was particularly brutal,” laughed Grassia.

●     1,000 Meter Row, Infinity Ladder: This final event combined a 1,000 meter row followed by overhead squats and ‘muscle-ups.’ Muscle-ups—one of the most advanced movements in CrossFit—involve a pull-up to the sternum on the gymnastics rings before transitioning into a dip movement.

When all was said and done, the winner of the female division was Kylee Claxton, representing CrossFit Dynamix in Astoria, Queens, N.Y. In fact it was a clean sweep of the female division for CrossFit Dynamix, as Tracy Hutt and Christina Gloger claimed second and third place respectively.

First place in the men’s division went to Gary Helmick of CrossFit ReVamped in Columbia, MD. Tim Paulson of CrossFit Pallas in Ithaca, N.Y. took second with third place going to Michael Penta of New London (Conn.) CrossFit.

But for Grassia, the highlight of the day was giving out the Virtuosity Award—an honor that she claims is ‘what CrossFit is all about.’ This year’s honoree was Sheri Walsh of Williamstown, N.J. of CrossFit Off The Grid.

“In any sport, you find the powerhouse athletes who are just elite at what they do—and they’re great to watch,” says Grassia. “But then you have your athletes that are just true to the sport in terms of sportsmanship, camaraderie and technique. For me, that’s just as beautiful to watch.”

The event was a celebration of a fitness movement gaining momentum among males and females, young and old—anyone with an interest in fitness. Cassie Grassia attributes the sport’s popularity to its’ wide-reaching nature.

“It’s the sport of general fitness,” she summarizes. “Athletes who are extremely talented in one area—weightlifting, gymnastics—get to test their skills in other activities. The training, based on functional movement, thrives on the idea that as an athlete, we should be prepared for any physical challenge.”