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Intense CrossFit a perfect fit for Faith Academy student

DANIEL CLIFTON • PICAYUNE EDITOR

Faith Academy of Marble Falls junior Katherine Golladay works on her muscle-up at CrossFit Marble Falls as she prepares for the CrossFit regional competition in Dallas. Golladay recently finished as the No. 1 teenage girl age 16-17 in the CrossFit South Central Open contests. The region includes all the CrossFit affiliates in Texas and Louisiana. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

Faith Academy of Marble Falls junior Katherine Golladay works on her muscle-up at CrossFit Marble Falls as she prepares for the CrossFit regional competition in Dallas. Golladay recently finished as the No. 1 teenage girl age 16-17 in the CrossFit South Central Open contests. The region includes all the CrossFit affiliates in Texas and Louisiana. Staff photo by Daniel Clifton

MARBLE FALLS — Katherine Golladay looked at the bandages. The 16-year-old’s hands were bleeding — skin torn from her second CrossFit workout just a few hours earlier.

As a violinist — something she planned to pursue as a career — her hands play a critical role in her performance. She didn’t cry at the thought of what her torn-up hands meant to her violin performance. She just smiled.

“I’m an athlete again,” Katherine thought.

As much as she loves the violin, Katherine said that during her first couple of trips to CrossFit Marble Falls, she knew something was missing from her life. Those bloodied hands reminded her of the athlete she had been several years ago as a figure skater.

Still, a CrossFit workout, no matter how hard she pushed herself, didn’t quite equate to an athletic competition. Or did it?

“CrossFit has become one of the fastest-growing sports around,” said Robertlee Vidal, the manager and head coach at CrossFit Marble Falls. “Now, not everybody approaches it as a sport. A lot of people use it to get in shape for whatever life throws at them. But for some, like Kat, it’s definitely a competition.”

And she’s on the cusp of becoming a major player in the sport after recently earning the No. 1 spot in the South Central Region Open competition for 16- to 17-year-old girls.

Kat, as she’s known at CrossFit Marble Falls, jumped into the workouts of the day and CrossFit with an abandon with which she tackles most things, including skating and violin.

“I can get a bit obsessive,” she recently admitted.

Her mother, Jean Golladay, agreed.

“She’s almost all or nothing,” Jean said.

As sports go, CrossFit is fairly new to the game. Though CrossFit started in 2000, the sports aspect of it didn’t come about until 2007 with the first CrossFit Games.

Even as a workout, CrossFit differs from many traditional activities.

Vidal explained that CrossFit’s design isn’t to create a routine for the trainee but to change things up each day with each workout. The philosophy, he added, is to get people prepared for life outside the gym.

CrossFit uses a mix of bodyweight exercises, plyometrics, Olympic lifts, running, tractor tires, kettle bells and numerous other things to do this. Coaches keep it mixed up by changing up the workout of the day, or WOD.

Kat found this style of training fit her personality.

She recalled the first workout more than a year ago. It featured a strong running component.

“Which was one of my strengths, so I felt I did pretty good,” Kat said.

The next one, however, was a “21, 15, 9” workout. She and other participants had to do 21 pull-ups (modified if they couldn’t do full bodyweight pull-ups), 21 toes to bar (hanging from pull-up bar and then pulling their toes up to touch the bar) and 21 burpees. Once that round was completed, they did 15 of each exercise and then nine of each.

“My hands just started to bleed,” she said.

Looking at her hands later that day after the workout, when many people would have put CrossFit in their past, Kat began to see it as her future.

“I was hooked,” she said.

The blood, the pain — it all meant she had found her athletic endeavor again. At 8, Kat took up figure skating at a serious level.

She loved the athleticism of figure skating and the competitive nature. She definitely had the drive, her mom said.

At 9, Kat began playing the violin.

“I fell in love with the violin,” she said. She figure skated and played violin for the next several years. Since her parents homeschooled her, they could work in the times for figure skating and violin. But at 12, Kat began focusing on the violin, intent on pursuing it as a career.

Eventually, the violin squeezed out figure skating.

But after a time, Kat realized something was missing.

“I would watch a Nike commercial about being an athlete and burst into tears,” she said.

Last year, Kat’s parents enrolled her at Faith Academy so she could get more social interaction as well as other classes. But they also encouraged her to try CrossFit.

Vidal, who took over CrossFit Marble Falls earlier this year, knew of Kat last year after she competed in a couple of Austin-area events. He saw that she had the makings of a great CrossFit athlete.

In March, everybody else realized it as well during the CrossFit Open.

The open is basically the preliminaries for the CrossFit Games. During a five-week period, every CrossFit athlete goes through the weekly same workout and posts their times, scores and/or reps on the CrossFit site. CrossFit Marble Falls falls in the South Central region, which includes more than 750 CrossFit affiliates.

Typically, the workout had to be completed in a certain amount of time (as in minutes) once the athlete started. The first workout consisted of 15 toes-to-bar, 10 deadlifts and five snatches. CrossFit officials gave competitors nine minutes to get in as many rounds and reps as possible.

After the first week, Kat finished ranked No. 13 and then moved up to No. 11 after the second week.

When officials released the third workout March 12, Kat became a bit concerned.

The workout called for seven muscle-ups along with two other exercises.

“I had never done a muscle-up in training before,” Kat said.

A muscle-up is one of the toughest bodyweight exercises. A person starts by hanging from a set of gymnastic rings (for CrossFit’s Open), then pulls himself or herself up to so the chin comes above the height of the rings. At this point, the person must continue going above the rings and basically transition into a dip.

“It’s like the Holy Grail of CrossFit,” Kat said.

After looking over the workout and strategizing a bit, Kat set up next to the gymnastic rings one day at CrossFit Marble Falls and waited for the “3-2-1” countdown. And then, with other members watching, attempted her first official CrossFit muscle-up.

And without much doubt in her mind, Kat executed her first-ever muscle-up. She couldn’t spend any time celebrating, however, because she still had to complete the remaining exercises and do as many rounds as possible in 14 minutes.

Her third week score bumped her up to No. 3 in her division, and she kept climbing to No. 1 the following week, which she held onto after the fifth week.

Now, Kat must wait to find out if CrossFit will include a teenage division in the South Super Regional competition May 15-17 at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas. This was the first year CrossFit had a teen division for the open competition, and Vidal said officials hadn’t announced a decision on if they will continue it through the regional event.

Whether CrossFit opens a teenage division at the next level — and even the CrossFit Games in July — Kat isn’t letting up with her training.

She just focuses on the next workout.

Go to crossfitmarblefalls.com or www.crossfit.com for more information on CrossFit.

daniel@thepicayune.com

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