Every athlete can look back at their competition and find an event where a second or two cost them valuable points on the leaderboard. While many times those lost points don’t have a material impact on the final standings, it’s those few times where it does make the difference between winning and losing.
For Pat Vellner, two failed reps on Heavy Grace cost him the championship at last year’s Rogue Invitational. This year looked to be a different story, until it almost wasn’t.
Pat Vellner entered Sunday with a 90-point lead over reigning CrossFit Games champion Jeff Adler. After the first two events on the final day, however, Adler cut the lead down to just 65 points with one event remaining, The Cleanup. The lead looked unsurmountable, but those familiar with the scoring at the Rogue Invitational know that 65 points can be wiped away in an instant, especially with the strong field of top athletes. Add on a wheelhouse workout for Adler and it was anything but a walk-off championship for Vellner.
Adler would do what many would expect on the event featuring cleans and clean and jerks – he won the event and earned himself 100 points. When Adler jumped over the bar to stop the clock, Vellner still had three 225-pound clean and jerks remaining. Sound familiar?
With a short event like The Cleanup, every second that passes could mean an athlete’s time in a previous heat beats you. With this in mind Vellner could not take his time on those last three reps.
Adler held the tie breaker over Vellner thanks to his now two event wins. And with Adler’s 100 points in the event, Vellner had to finish 13th or better to secure victory.
Vellner hit his 3rd and 4th clean and jerks, leaving just one left. By this time, Roman Khrennikov and Brent Fikowski had finished. Additionally, Dallin Pepper’s time from a previous heat was now ahead of Pat. But all Vellner had to do was complete one final clean and jerk.
Vellner powered cleaned the weight and as he went to lock out his final jerk, he failed. The clock now showed 4:22. Had he completed the rep, he would have taken 6th in the event and it was an easy final event to secure the victory.
But it wasn’t easy. The bar was on the ground and seconds were ticking by. As the seconds counted up so did Vellner’s potential finish. Noah Ohlsen, Ricky Garard and Lazar Djukic’s times from previous heats all fell between Adler and Vellner.
Vellner had to collect himself and finish the final rep quickly so as to not let more men between him and Adler’s 1st place time. Unlike last year, though, Vellner was able to get the next rep and successfully hop over his bar to stop the clock.
The no rep cost Vellner 18 seconds and five spots on the leaderboard, Vellner’s time was good for 10th in the final event. It was just good enough to hold off Adler…by nine seconds. A look at the leaderboard shows that another failed rep or had Vellner taken a few more seconds before retrying the final rep could have meant déjà vu.
The Cleanup Results
10. Pat Vellner – 4:41
11. Garrett Clark – 4:41
12. Bjorgvin Karl Gudmundsson – 4:45
13. Jayson Hopper – 4:47
14. Tudor Magda – 4:50
As you can see in the results above, Vellner was only nine seconds better than Tudor Magda in 14th. For his 10th place finish Vellner earned 45 points, enough to stay ahead of Adler and his late charge. Vellner, while making it much closer than he wanted, still stood on top of the standings to become the 2023 Rogue Invitational champion.