Phoenix Rise Beat San Francisco Fire in Closest Match of NPGL History

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Phoenix's Danny Nichols finishing final clean and jerks on way to victory over San Francisco Fire
August 22, 2016: San Francisco Fire take on the Phoenix Rise at the Utah Valley Convention Center. Copyright Melissa Majchrzak

Perhaps the biggest rivalry in the NPGL is between the Phoenix Rise and San Francisco Fire. The Rise and Fire are evenly matched and have split their four matches since the 2014 season, 2-2. Heading into this contest, both the Rise and Fire won their first match and a win would guarantee them a playoff spot.


1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 TOTAL
San Francisco 2
(2)
2
(4)
1
(5)
1
(6)
2
(8)
1
(9)
3
(12)
1
(13)
1
(14)
1
(15)
1
(16)
16
Phoenix 1
(1)
1
(2)
2
(4)
2
(6)
1
(7)
2
(9)
0
(9)
2
(11)
2
(13)
2
(15)
3
(18)
18

San Francisco struck first with two race wins, both decided by less than two seconds. The Rise, however, would not give up as they won Race 3 & 4 on the strength of Jessica Phillips in Quadrant 4, especially since Race 3 had to be replayed following a challenge of a rep on the rope climb by Sarah Estrella of the Fire.

With the score tied after four races, the men split the Men’s Echo races, again leaving the match tied, this time at 9-9. The Ladder, Race 7, came down to the final second of the 8-minute race as Cameron Pernich cleaned 310 pounds to give the Fire a 280-pound advantage for the total. Bjork Odinsdottir, the last athlete on the Grid for the Rise, ran out of time to catch the Fire, leaving them 250 pounds short for the women’s point. The Fire walked away with three points from Race 7 and were well positioned heading into Jack and Jill.

Kilimanjaro’s Jack and Jill requires 100 handstand push-ups to varying levels of difficulties. With bodyweight specialists on both teams, it came down to the 10-inch deficit handstand push-ups as Phoenix built up a several rep lead. Phoenix’s Valerie Calhoun, who subbed in for Jessica Phillips, knocked out 10 freestanding handstand push-ups in 10.5 seconds to secure the victory.

Down two points heading into the two Triad races, the Rise had to come away with wins. And they did just that. The Fire fell behind when the rings became tangled for Carleen Mathews as she attempted to knock out one final muscle-up. From there, the Rise women turned on the afterburners on the Burpee over the Box element to secure the win. The Rise men continued where the women left off and pushed through the pain on the Burpees over the Box for another win. The win locked the match up at 15-15 making Race 11 a winner-take-all.

Race 11 began as both teams bounced back and forth for the lead. The Fire’s Jolaine Undershute started the 6th element, double-unders with a 4-second advantage but Odinsdottir’s faster pace eliminated the Rise’s deficit making it a dead heat entering the Burpees to 10-foot ring.

Bryan Miller and Tyler Cummings went rep for rep as both finished their reps at the same time, but Miller with a mistake didn’t realize he was done and went down for another burpee. By the time he realized his mistake, Cummings had taken off down the Grid. Miller followed in quick pursuit, but Pernich reached the final bar seconds ahead of last year’s league MVP, Danny Nichols on the Fire.

Nichols showed just why he was the MVP. Nichols completed nine clean and jerks at 225 pounds in just 21 seconds giving him a split second lead over Pernich. Both athletes rushed back to the start line as part of their final shuttle sprint. Nichols was able to hold of a hard-charging Pernich by five feet to secure the race and match victory.

Nichols finished and laid on the floor as he teammates celebrated around him. The Rise moved to 2-0 and have secured a spot in the playoffs, while the Fire, now 1-1, will have to beat the Miami Surge on Saturday to make the playoffs and force a rematch with the Rise.

Up Next:
Phoenix Rise (2-0) vs LA Reign (0-2) // Saturday, August 27 at 6:00pm ET
San Francisco Fire (1-1) vs Miami Surge (1-1) // Saturday, August 27 at 9:00pm ET

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