Lifting Large in Aromas

By Mike Warkentin


The big show opened the show.

Last by more than 2:30 in the run that opened the 2016 Reebok CrossFit Games, Sam Dancer was the first male athlete fed into Ranch Deadlift Ladder, the much huskier cousin of the ladder athletes faced as the second event in 2009.

Games fans were well aware of Dancer’s strength after he pulled 655 in the team competition in 2014, and he was expected to do well in the second event of the day.

Dancer indeed cleared the ladder, but he had to work just a little for the last bar, grinding his way through 615 with nary an athlete near him in the final row of five heavy bars.

A few bars to his right, Brooke Wells was rolling in the deep weight with relative ease. Even 415 was a sure thing when it left the ground, locked out after a few small bounces off her thighs at the top.

Brooke Wells cleared the Ranch Deadlift Ladder with a 415 lb. lift.

After Dancer and Wells ran the table, the big bars were left mostly untouched as the bulk of the field athletes bowed out before stepping forward to the rows starting with 575 and 395.

Dancer said he was certain he could finish the ladder and so he took it very slow on the run. Knowing running is not a strength, he paced himself even more than he might have with the knowledge that he could balance a last with a first if he was fresh enough.

“I knew the last couple of bars would be a little sticky,” he said in the warm-up area.

He pointed to the conditioning of the CrossFit athlete as the reason for PRs in the ladder format, though the lift was well below his listed PR of 665.

“You’re not taking appropriate rest … but those short rest periods aren’t the worst for us,” he explained.

Wells hit a PR despite the preceding run and the ladder format. Her 415 was 10 lb. above her previous best, set not too long ago.

“It was my goal to clear it today. … It was my goal to PR, but I wasn’t sure if I would.”

That sentiment wasn’t due to a lack of confidence but rather the physical effects of the run.

“The run was very hard,” she said. “My legs were still pretty shaky going into the ladder.”

Wells believes the many increments help rather than hinder CrossFit lifters who might be prone to make larger jumps if left to their own devices: “I just think the smaller jumps make it not so hard to pull the weight.”

Lucas Parker was the first male to lock out 575 after Dancer’s devastation, and he broke 585 off the floor but couldn’t take it to the end. Still, 575 was good enough for third in the event.

Alex Vigneault, with a listed PR of 600, came close to matching it today, pulling 595 to take second.

As fate would have it, Annie Thorisdottir was but one bar ahead of countrywoman Sara Sigmundsdottir. While the former locked out 375, the latter was bested by the 370-lb. barbell after a savage fight no doubt motivated by the success of her rival to her right. Thorisdottir pulled twice on 380 but didn’t get either lift. She finished fifth, while Sigmundsdottir was ninth.

Annie Thorisdottir in 2009 (left, 305 lb. final deadlift) and 2016 (right, 375 lb. final deadlift).

Tia-Clair Toomey, who finished third in the event, and Candice Wagner, who took second, both blasted past the Icelanders. Toomey came within inches of 395 but lost her balance forward. Just behind her, Wagner looked confident on 390 and said she felt confident on 395, 5 lb. under her PR of 400, which came about two years ago when she was 5–7 lb. heavier.

As with all things in CrossFit, the effort didn’t come without some sacrifice.

“I peed my pants,” Wagner said.

She paused for a moment.

“It was worth it.”

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