Rich Froning has stood atop a CrossFit Games podium for the last six years, four times as an individual and the last two years as a member of CrossFit Mayhem. It is hard to imagine seeing Froning not in 1st place, but with the team competition getting better and better each year there is always that possibility we see another team take the title.
We take a look at the team competition this year and some reasons why (or why not) CrossFit Mayhem could win the Affiliate Cup for the 3rd straight year.
The CrossFit Mayhem team has changed each year and 2017 is no exception. In 2016, Lauren Neal, a masters athlete, stepped down after competing in 2015. Neal was replaced by two-time CrossFit Games veteran Lindy Barber.
And this year another there was another roster change. James Hobart, another CrossFit Games veteran, moved back to the Boston area. In Hobart’s place is now Darren Hunsucker. Hunsucker is Froning’s cousin and has been training with him for years now. While Hunsucker might have the best abs of the Mayhem crew, he is not quite up to the level of Hobart. In this year’s CrossFit Open, Hobart finished 33rd in the world while Hunsucker finished 541st.
That is a big drop off on the men’s side. However, after seeing them compete in person at Froning’s charity Mayhem for Mustard Seed Ranch competition and at the Central Regional, Hunsucker has certain areas where he really helped the team.
On the women’s side this year looks the same as 2016. Lindy Barber, Kristin Reffett and Elly Kabboord are back. Barber moved down to Cookeville to train full-time in 2017 and Reffett quit her job to focus solely on competing with the team.
CrossFit Mayhem walked away in 1st place in the Central Regional, but it wasn’t quite as dominating as we saw last year. Mayhem won the first two events and never finished worse than 4th all weekend. Sounds like they blew the field away, right?
Actually, no. CrossFit 417 was only 15 points back heading into the final event. Mayhem would edge 417 out by 2 seconds to solidify the regional win, but it took all six events to win this year.
Last year there were 9 scored events, but Mayhem beat 417 by a comfortable 96 points. And that 417 team included this year’s individual Games athlete Jessica Griffith.
Watching Mayhem compete in person, however, it did appear that the team was not clicking on all cylinders. Barber struggled on bar muscle-ups, something that is uncommon for her. It’s likely that Mayhem trained right up to regionals and were not tapering, which might be why other teams appeared to make ground on them.
According to Wodfollow’s Cross-Regional leaderboard, CrossFit Mayhem had the third best performance against all other teams around the world. CrossFit Fort Vancouver looked really strong all weekend in the West Regional and Team Back Bay’s week 1 performance held up through all three weekend competitions.
In fact, both CrossFit Fort Vancouver and Team Back Bay had more consistent finishes on the Cross-Regional leaderboard than CrossFit Mayhem. And Wasatch Brutes were right behind Mayhem with almost identical finishes across the board.
These three teams along with CrossFit 417, OC3 Black, 12 Labours Lions and NorCal all provide stiff competition to the reigning team champs. And that list doesn’t even count Timberwolf CrossFit, Reebok CrossFit ONE and CrossFit Milford, all of which could make a run at the podium.
The team competition has definitely gotten a lot better and a lot more competitive over the years and 2017 looks to be continuing the trend. In the past a bad performance didn’t mean the end of the world because there were not enough good teams to make a move. This year that might not be the case.
Rich Froning is still Rich Froning. At times during the past two years at the CrossFit Games, Froning could be seen taking over, putting his team on his back and willing Mayhem to victory. It was seen more so in 2015 during their comeback win, but Froning has that ability to dominate when it’s necessary and depending on the events that come out this year, it could mean we see him go full-throttle once again.
Lindy Barber’s Back
By now everyone should know about Barber’s back injury and how it can occasionally lock up on her. She has mentioned that she sometimes has to take things easy when her back flares up during training or reduces the volume of overhead squats and GHD sit-ups as much as possible.
All of this is fine during training, but some difficult programming at the Games or just an unfortunate bad timing of a random flare up could mean Barber is unable to compete at 100%. Without being able to replace her once competition begins, something like this could take the competition out of their hands. It happened to Miranda Oldroyd and NorCal two years ago with a freak ACL tear.
So can anyone beat Rich Froning and CrossFit Mayhem? With the competition in the team division getting better and better each year, nothing is a given. The roster change, increased competition and the reliance on Barber’s back staying healthy all four days makes it up for grabs.
While CrossFit Mayhem is still the favorite heading into competition, don’t be surprised if the leaderboard is a lot closer than you might have thought.