The transition from the teenage division to the elite Open division can appear to be easy when athletes like Mal O’Brien, Haley Adams, Emma Lawson and Olivia Kerstetter make the jump look effortless. But for every Mal or Emma, there are dozens of top teen athletes who don’t find instant success.
In fact, only about one in three teen athletes are still competing in the CrossFit Open five years later.
This year’s 16-17 year-old age group division had several really talented athletes compete for the last time as a teenager. Athletes like Ty Jenkins, Trista Smith, Hugo Jansson, Kaiden Hogan Kaiden Myers, Jenna Michelotti all did well at the 2023 CrossFit Games. And now, this off-season they must prepare to face the best athletes in the world next season.
So I reached out to some of these athletes to find out what their plans were for the off-season, from training to competitions, and what their goals are for the 2024 CrossFit Games season.
Ty Jenkins is undefeated at the CrossFit Games. In the three years he has competed, he qualified for the CrossFit Games each time and has finished the weekend in 1st place all three years. Now, Ty is graduating to the Open division in 2024.
“Our plan will be to crush as many weaknesses as possible between now and Semifinals in the coming season. I am working with Sonny Webster to help get stronger this year,” said Jenkins about his training plan for the off-season.
He added that he will be targeting strength, running, pressing capacity and barbell cycling in order to be better prepared for the Open division.
As for competitions, Ty said that he and his coach, CrossFit Games veteran Jessica Cahoy (formerly Griffith), have not yet finalized any plans for competing this off-season.
Trista Smith has been to the CrossFit Games three times in the teenage age group division. With two 4th place finishes and a 2nd place at the Games in 2023, Trista is the highest ranked female to graduate to the elite division next year.
And while there may be less expectations for Ty Jenkins to make a statement in 2024 since no male athlete has made it to the Games in his first year in the Open division, the same likely doesn’t hold true for Trista. Fairly or not, women have had much more success in the year following teen division “graduation”.
But to put everything into perspective, Trista is just entering her senior year of high school. “I am trying to enjoy high school for the last year, going to all the events and really just trying to look back and have no regrets but have all the fun,” said Trista when asked about the off-season.
She added, “I’m not 100% sure what I want to do after high school so I am planning to literally pour my hear and soul into becoming the best athlete I can be this year. Essentially, my goal is to work hard, have fun and see what happens!”
So with her goals to do her best, she is working on becoming stronger and a “monster” on the machines this off-season. Trista is also eyeing TYR Wodapalooza as an off-season competition and might consider joining a team, but those plans are still a little up in the air.
Based out of Sweden, Hugo Jansson has probably received the least amount of attention this season. But in his first year of competing in CrossFit, Hugo made to Madison and finished on the podium taking 2nd place overall.
While still relatively new to the sport, Hugo has his sights set on making Semifinals next season. But between now and then, he is competing at the International Functional Fitness World Junior Championships at the end of this month.
As for training, Hugo said, “This off-season I will mostly work on my weaknesses such as lifting and swimming as well as dig into more technique of all elements.”
Kaiden Hogan has been to the CrossFit Games twice, once as a 15-year old and then this past season when he was 17. Kaiden finished just off the podium in 4th place this year.
As he looks towards the 2024 Games season, Kaiden’s primary focus will be on strength. “My goal in training this off-season is to get as strong as possible so I can catch up to the strength of the individuals!” commented Kaiden.
All of this training this year will be centered around his goal of qualifying for Semifinals in 2024.
Jenna is probably another athlete who you haven’t heard about, but that you should. Jenna has been competing since 2020 and has qualified for the CrossFit Games each of the last three years. During those years, she has finished 5th place each time.
Jenna enters this fall as a freshman at Penn State University and is looking forward to settling into her new environment and life. “Penn State has an AMAZING CrossFit Club that I am a part of and coach at so I have been working out there and at a CrossFit affiliate downtown! I’m keeping up with my fitness and enjoying working out with like-minded students here and plan on doing some smaller comps or even going team again at Wodapalooza,” shared Jenna.
Last year, Jenna competing on a team with two other teenage athletes, Hailey Rolfe and Emily Meyer. Jenna said all three are now in college and they might team up again as college students this January.
Jenna considers herself “pretty well-rounded” (likely true after three years of 5th place finishes) and is just focusing on increasing her base with her coach Matt Sherburne of Misfit Athletics.
As for goals, Jenna is not putting too much pressure on herself. She will be doing the Open and Quarterfinals with the PSU CrossFit Club. She hopes to make a Semifinal within the coming years, but is not putting too much pressure on herself, especially this year, as she really wants to enjoy her college years and focus on longevity in the sport.
If you just looked at the teenage leaderboard, you might think that it would help if your name was ‘Kaiden’. While it’s likely just a coincidence, Kaiden Myers and Kaiden Hogan both made it into the top 5 of the 16-17 year-old age division at the 2023 CrossFit Games.
For Kaiden Myers, his primary focus, similar to others graduating, is to increase his overall strength. Myers spoke on the necessity of increasing strength, “Because our bodies, have yet to mature, it’s hard to uphold strength numbers compared to the men. Therefore, getting stronger on a barbell will be my largest focus to be prepared.”
Of course that doesn’t mean Kaiden will be ignoring gymnastics and metabolic conditioning. Kaiden said he still needs to put some extra attention on his running this off-season and continue to drill high-skill gymnastics.
As for off-season competitions, Kaiden competed at the Freedom Games hosted by CrossFit Greenwood last month. The competition honors a fallen Hero of South Carolina each year and last year they honored Kaiden’s father who was in the Air Force and killed in action.
Kaiden will be at Crash Crucible next month and will also be doing the TYR Wodapalooza qualifier also. His goal for 2024 is to qualify for Semifinals. While he admits it might be a little far-fetched given the strength of North America East, he wants to make a run at it regardless and see how it pans out.
Qualifying for and doing well in the teen division is not an easy feat. But graduating to the Open division and competing amongst the best in the world is even more difficult. For athletes like Ty, Trista, Kaiden (both of them), Jenna and Hugo, they understand what lies ahead. And while they may take different paths, all have the ability to make it to the big stage once again…whether it is in 2024 or a future season.
Regardless, it will be fun to watch to their journey as they progress within the sport.