If you watched the South Regional back in May, the coverage focused on the “new” guy Brandon Luckett and how he continued to hang inside the top 5. But Luckett was not the “new” guy. Luckett is only 23, but this is the fourth year he has competed at Regionals – twice on a team and now his second consecutive year as an individual.
And most of you probably did not know this, Luckett finished 7th in the South Regional last year. So when he was in the top 5 it should not have been a huge surprise. Luckett would ultimately outlast last year’s South Regional winner, Logan Collins, and Games veteran Tommy Vinas on his way to 3rd place overall.
It has been almost two months since Luckett claimed his spot at the 2018 CrossFit Games so we reached out learn a little more about the Games rookie.
The Barbell Spin: This was your 4th time competing at Regionals (2x on a team & 2x as an individual) and you’re only 23. What was your background before CrossFit to allow you to be so successful at an early age?
Brandon Luckett: Before I started CrossFit, I wrestled for 8 years. It was the only sport I did in high school aside from running cross-country as a freshman and swimming as a senior. It was pretty much all I thought about in high school. I believe the sport of wrestling is one that teaches sacrifice and dedication, possibly more so than most sports. I was also incredibly dedicated to the sport. I was up every morning working on conditioning before school, and was staying after practice to drill with partners. I had a pretty successful high school career- 3x city champion, 2x D1/5A state champion, and 30th in the nation as a senior- but it stopped in high school. I decided not to continue wrestling in college because I wanted to switch my focus to studying physics. But I believe more than anything wrestling taught me to be dedicated and make sacrifice.
TBBS: Last year you finished 7th at the South Regional and then had wrist surgery later that summer. What caused the need for surgery and how did you alter your training during recovery?
BL: I had ganglion cysts in my wrists that were causing some really bad pain leading into regionals in 2017. I couldn’t snatch or handstand walk three weeks out, so I got cortisone shots and planned surgery for after regionals, just in my left wrist. There was a lot of scar tissue surrounding the cyst so it was the right choice to get the surgery. I was in the middle of a squat cycle when I got the surgery so training actually didn’t change much. I was still able to squat, and I altered a bunch of accessory work so I wouldn’t put pressure on my wrist. For conditioning I was able to row, run, and bike.
TBBS: You are part of the Misfit Athletics’ crew right now. When did you hook up with them and their training?
BL: I started Misfit Athletics when I moved to Houston in August 2017 and started training with Alexis Johnson who is a Misfit athlete. I had met Seth, one of the owners, at regionals the year before but that was it. Around November, Alexis got me in contact with Seth and he became my remote coach.
TBBS: Outside of a 24th place on Linda, you finished every event in the top 4 (with two event wins). Once you knew the workouts, did you have an idea it would be a successful weekend?
BL: I wasn’t actually excited about any of the workouts. I didn’t think any particular one would be really good for me. However, I knew Linda would not be a good workout for me. Most workouts went better than expected.
TBBS: There has been some talk about the times from the South Regional. How did the altitude in Salt Lake City affect you?
BL: It’s funny you ask how the altitude effected the South Regional scores, because I just watched the Road to the Games episode 18.04 where some really good athletes were trash talking our scores [TBBS: this is where the question came from]. Kinda made me laugh… it’s the first year the South Regional has had this much talk about how bad we all are…the effective oxygen content at 4,500 feet is around 17.6% compared to 20.9% at sea level. We had 80% of the effective oxygen…I was three minutes slower in competition on Triple Three than in practice. I finished Linda with a couple minutes to spare, not a good workout for me anyway, but I got capped at regionals. The rest of the workouts I tested at altitude, so there wasn’t anything to compare to there. Aside from that, there were slight effects from altitude such as nausea and migraines. Most athletes were getting severely dehydrated which is easy at altitude. I will say that the South Regional occupied 10% of the top 40 in the world in the Open, with 9 total regions represented. So I don’t think the South is just less fit than everyone else.
TBBS: How have you changed up your training now that you are preparing for the Games? Is there a particular focus on anything specific?
BL: Since regionals, my volume has picked up quite a bit. Even for regionals, the volume isn’t that high, although the intensity is through the roof. However for the CrossFit Games, both are exaggerated.Wwe do a lot more running, trail riding, open water swimming. Things we will never see at regionals but always at the Games.
TBBS: On your Games bio page it says you are a graduate student at UT Health of MD Anderson Cancer Center studying Applied Physics in Medicine. Can you talk a little bit about what that is and how you have been balancing studying and training?
BL: Medical Physics is the study of how radiation interacts with the human body. In cancer treatment, we are concerned with killing tumor cells, and saving as much healthy tissue as possible. In cancer detection or medical imaging, we are concerned with producing quality CT, PET, or X-Ray images without delivering too much radiation dose to a patient (medical imaging is very safe). The physics is in understanding nuclear processes that produce radiation and how that radiation interacts with other atoms. The medical aspect is understanding the biological effects of radiation.
Balancing school and CrossFit is probably one of my biggest challenges. School has to be a priority because it will lead to my career. CrossFit is a passion and training four hours a day is much easier than studying for four hours. In order to get training in, I train early in the morning for about an hour, go to school all day, whether it’s research or studying, and train for three hours in the evening.
The hardest times are around exams. I usually have to start preparing for exams much earlier than my peers because I can only dedicate a couple hours outside of class and training to studying. I try to take advantage of weekends and spend as much time as possible at the library after training sessions…so other athletes have full time jobs, and I have full time studies.
TBBS: If you could see a repeat of any event from last year’s CrossFit Games, what would it be and why?
BL: I would love to go to Aromas and do the trail run. I think it would be a blast. Or maybe the burden run from a few years ago. I wouldn’t do so well on that pig, but that’s ok.
TBBS: What achievement are you most proud of in your life?
BL: I think my biggest achievement is actually academic. I got accepted to the best school in the nation for Medical Physics. I never considered myself very intelligent but I studied my butt off getting my bachelor’s degree in physics and was able to get accepted to MD Anderson. Second to that would definitely have to be qualifying for the CrossFit Games. I dreamt about that for five years and made a lot of sacrifice to make it happen.
TBBS: What do you enjoy doing when you are not in the gym or studying?
BL: In my spare time, I try to spend quality time with my girlfriend, who moved to Houston, TX from our home town in Louisiana. We are both in grad school here, she’s getting a master’s in accounting, so our schedules don’t line up that well very often. But she usually finds things to do in the Houston area and I do my best to go along for the ride! Usually it’s food, which I’m always down for.
Make sure to follow Luckett on Instagram (@bluckett123) and watch him compete at the CrossFit Games beginning August 1.