As debuts go, Whitney Darchuk knows how to make a splash.
The 25-year-old massage therapist entered her first CrossFit competition last weekend in Lloydminster and emerged the women’s champion in the popular but very demanding new sport.
She was one of five local athletes from Prince Albert’s Saskpro Crossfit to earn a podium spot.
“We walked out of there with some pretty good results,” she said with a chuckle. “We were the gym that everyone was ‘Where are you guys from? Who are you?’”
CrossFit is a core strength and conditioning program where athletes train using constantly varied, high intensity functional movements during short workouts that include metabolic conditioning, gymnastic movements and Olympic weightlifting.
CrossFit specializes in not specializing and aims to prepare its athletes for any physical contingency; what its founders refer to as the “unknown and unknowable.”
At Lloydminster’s Battle on the Border, competitors earned points based on their results in eight different events, with first place going to the person with the highest cumulative tally.
Three events were held on Friday evening with the other five held on Saturday.
There’s another unique characteristic to the sport; you likely won’t have a complete idea of what events you’re even doing until you show up.
While there are benchmark workouts that you can expect, you may have never done an activity before a competition like the BOTB.
When Darchuk found out what the semifinal involved, she was worried.
“I was petrified of it, right from hearing what it was,” she says. “My heart was racing pretty heavily and the adrenaline was going before the semifinals started.
“Then I nailed it.”
The workout consisted of rounds of 21, 15 and nine repitions of thrusters (a front squat with a barbell that leads into a push press where the bar ends up over an athlete’s head) and chest-to-bar pullups. The workout had to be completed in less than five minutes.
Darchuk was so far ahead of the other women that she actually rested to conserve energy for the final round.
In the finals, she learned what the event was five minutes before it began. Two of the movements were new to her.
By then, the field had been narrowed to five athletes. Darchuk knew that the only way she could lose was if the woman in second place won the event and she finished last.
Darchuk hadn’t come that far to lose.
“I’m quite competitive so in my mind I wasn’t going to let that happen,” she said.
“I battled it out in the final and one girl did end up beating me. She was in third place going into it so that moved her into second.”
With her early success, Darchuk is now targeting the Reebok CrossFit Games. In it, athletes work out for six weeks in their home gyms under the supervision of the gym owner, with the aim of moving on to the regional, national and world events.
Darchuk’s goal is to qualify for the Canada West regionals in B.C. in June.
With the CrossFit Games beginning in mid-March, she allowed herself a single day off before returning to the gym.
“I recovered really well, which was nice,” she said.
Darchuk says she now works out five or six days a week for an hour to three hours per session.
She came to the sport about three years ago when a friend told her about it. She had never heard of it.
“I went in with that friend and, one workout in, I was hooked,” she says. “I guess it’s the challenge of it. I like challenging myself and there’s a lot of challenges in CrossFit. It takes years and years to master it; there’s so many things to be well-rounded at to do really well at it.”
She trains at Saskpro Crossfit on South Industrial Drive, although they will soon be moving to a new facility just west of Canadian Tire.
The facility caters to both more advanced athletes and newcomers.
The bug apparently bit Darchuk hard. She was invited by gym owner Evan Lindsay — the former Raiders goaltender who played here from 1996-2000 — to become a partner in the business and earn her coaching certification in B.C.
She’ll be taking her Olympic lifting certification in the spring to help her with the technique-based workouts.
To widen the sport’s appeal, divisions are broken up into masters for older athletes, scaled (in which people of all abilities can compete) and the RX or “as prescribed” division. The RX division is for the most advanced competitors and features full ranges of movement and heavy weights.
The other local CrossFit competitors who earned a spot on the podium were:
• Darren Swanson: Finished first in men’s masters.
• Connie Fontaine: Finished first in women’s scaled division.
• Monica Patrick: Finished second in women’s masters 40+.
• Ryan Robin: Finished third in men’s RX division.
The other Saskpro CrossFit competitors were Evan Lindsay, Janet Berezowski, James Kapacila, Josh Kapacila, Val Borsos, Frank Borsos, and Deanna McKay.
In a sport that sounds like a lot of work, Darchuk says the appeal lies in part in the inspirational stories found in the gym.
“It’s life-changing, really,” she says. “Inside the gym, there are some pretty neat stories of people who are all different ages … People have got amazing results.”