Last year, Josh Bridges and Lauren Fisher failed to qualify for the CrossFit Games. The year on the sidelinesmade them focused, hungry, and above all, determined.

Bridges and Fisher claimed the top spots early in the competition and never relinquished their lead. Neighter won the last event, but their dominant performances over the weekend made an Event 7 victory unnecessary, and both finished the California Regional in first place.

Fisher, who took ninth at the 2014 Games, said she made some changes in the last year. “My strategy was to focus on myself. To stay off social media and not stress out about what the other girls are doing,” Fisher said. “I have been focusing more on my cardio foundation, rowing two times per week and running.”

It worked. Fisher spent most of the weekend at the top of the leaderboard, earning only one first-place finish (Event 3), but performing consistently enough to finish on top.

As for Bridges, he said the difference between 2015 and 2016 (other than a stylish mustache) was his training. “Volume is higher, less days off,” Bridges said. He said he has fewer distractions, now that he’s not in the military.



In her fourth year at regionals, Hagiya finally qualified for the Games, which she said she accomplished by living a more relaxed, balanced life. To qualify, Hagiya beat out last year’s California Regional champion, Brooke Ence. There were no major missteps or errors for Ence. She went into the last event just 1 point behind Hagiya, but Hagiya’s second-place finish on Event 7 was enough to give her the fifth ticket to the 2016 Games.

Alessandra Pichelli started off the weekend with a 31st-place finish on Event 2, Regional Nate, but a first and a second place on Events 5 and 6 pushed her up the leaderboard and she finished in third place, qualifying for her fourth consecutive Games.  

Pichellli said her strategy throughout the competition was to “always stick to my game plan and not rely on others to push me. It’s up to me to fight to the end”. “With the last two years being injury free, it’s been the longest that I have been able to stick to my complete programming.” Pichelli said.



Nuno Costa is one of only two athletes to compete in each of the seven CrossFit Games team competitions. This year, instead of joining Invictus for a possible eighth trip to the Games, Costa chose to make his individual debut at age 37.

“I decided to go individual this year to address my weaknesses. Plus, I’ve done team for seven years and it was time for a new challenge, and a way to test myself as an athlete." He said there’s more freedom competing as an individual. “You don’t have to worry about six other people,” he said, but he admits there is more pressure, standing alone on the competition floor.

The last time Costa competed as an individual was at the sectionals (which were held as first-stage qualifier for regionals) in 2010.

A recovering cocaine addict and alcoholic, Costa has been sober since 2007 and he credits CrossFit with helping him stay on that path.

His goal for the 2016 California Regional is to do the best he can, “with no regrets,” he said. “You can’t control the standings, so the only thing I can do is give it everything I have,” he said.

The oldest male athlete in the regional, Costa said he’s holding up well after two days of competition, and he’s looking forward to the last two events.



Team Invictus has some new faces this year. With longtime team members Nuno Costa, Rasmus Andersen and Bryan Miller competing as individuals, Heather Hippensteel and Bryce Smith are the only two returning teammates from Invictus’ 2015 CrossFit Games team. The changes might throw some teams for a loop, but not Invictus.

The team was a well-oiled machine in Team Event 1 on Friday, taking an early lead and holding it to finish almost 2 minutes ahead of second-place Diablo CrossFit Anejo.

The teamwork and camaraderie are not an accident. The Invictus athletes take the concept of team spirit seriously. Wesley Rethwill, who competed as an individual in the West Regional in 2015 (he took 34th), said the team members are together constantly. “We are all best friends, we all work together. We’re together 24/7—the camaraderie is amazing,” Rethwill said.

Invictus earned two first-place finishes on Day 1, with the three women clearing the snatch ladder first in Team Event 3.

A familiar face on the Invictus team is Hippensteel, who is competing for Invictus for a fourth year. “It’s definitely different than working with the typical veterans, but we’re all used to training and working together. It’s been great to bring on some new people to the team—it has renewed the energy and excitement for me,” Hippensteel said.

During Team Event 4 , Hippensteel talked her teammates through the workout. “I’ve taken on the leadership role on the team since I know what it’s like,” Hippensteel said.

Like every year, the vocal Sea of Green—members of the Invictus community—threw their full support behind the team, cheering loudly from the stands. “We had a great start yesterday and we have the best community behind us to come out in full force,” Hippensteel said.

Invictus held on to its second-place spot at the end of Day 2 despite taking ninth in Team Event 6, laying the groundwork for an eighth consecutive Games appearance. 



For the third year in a row, Gabe and Kirstie Subry, who married in 2014, traveled from Stockton, California, to compete as individuals at the California Regional (in 2014, they both competed at the NorCal Regional).

Many married couples say working out together gives them a common interest and brings them together, but balancing the needs of two high-level athletes competing in the same sport is not always easy.

At 5 feet two inches, 120 lb., Kirstie is one of the smaller athletes at the California Regional. She knew the heavy snatches in Event 1 would be a challenge. “This is the one I was most nervous for. I am small and the snatch weight was heavy, but I got seven (at 135-lb.), which is more than I gave myself credit for,” Kirstie said.

Kirstie said having two high-level CrossFit athletes under one roof can be a challenge. “It gets exhausting, and it’s hard to have a ‘normal’ life and go out with friends, but I wouldn’t change it for anything,” she said.

“(Training together) makes our relationship stronger because we understand each other,” Kirstie said. “We look forward to waking up on a Saturday and going to the gym together, which takes the pressure off of both of us so we get to enjoy it.”

Gabe, who is a three-time Games athlete, said they both compete for fun and try not to take it too seriously. They try to train together when they can, but both work full-time—Gabe runs CrossFit 209 Sport and Kirstie is a speech therapist.

Unlike many regional-level athletes, Gabe and Kirstie don’t have coaches. Gabe programs for both of them.

They do share the same sport, but make an effort to retain their independence. “We have our own lives, we hang out with our own friends,” Gabe said. “We are independent, but together we are strong.”


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