May 31, 2014 11:18:45 PM
Justin Wofford had an inkling of how he stacked up against the fittest athletes in the nation.
Now that the West Point native has experienced his first CrossFit South Central Regionals, Wofford knows it is only a matter of time before he makes even bigger gains.
Wofford finished first in one of seven events and was the top competitor from the state of Mississippi en route to a 19th-place finish at the annual event May 23-25 in San Antonio, Texas.
"Being around some of the fittest athletes in three states was amazing," Wofford said. "Some of those guys are so talented. The fact that I beat every one of them in one event was awesome. I thought I could do it, but some of those guys are so talented."
Wofford, who graduated from West Point High School in 2005, played baseball at Itawamba Community College in Fulton before moving on to the Mississippi University for Women, where he recently graduated from nursing school. He also owns a percentage of Forged, the only CrossFit affiliate in Columbus, which is located on Highway 45 North, and works there as head trainer.
Wofford finished in the top 10 of three events, including his win in event five, which was 10 rounds for time of one legless 14-foot rope ascent and a 200-foot sprint.
Wofford knew the competition was going to be extremely high, but he had no idea the atmosphere was going to be as intense as it was. He admitted he wasn't ready for how the adrenaline rush affected him prior to some events, but he said the competition was a learning experience for him.
"I thought I was a small fish in a big pond, but now I know I can hang with these guys," Wofford said. "I knew where I should have been going in before each event."
Wofford said he had a personal-best time by one minute, 30 seconds and finished tied for fifth. He said he nearly finished his workout in event four, which helped motivate him. He then followed that up with a victory in event five. By event seven, he said he felt the accumulation of all of the work.
"If I had a perfect weekend and did everything I did in practice I would have finished eighth," Wofford said. "The best of my abilities for this year would have been eighth, would have been great. I wanted to finish in the top 15. Had I not blown the last event, I would have. I accomplished all of my goals. I beat all of the guys from Mississippi. Every goal but one in my first time not having a clue what to do in beating previous Games competitors and winning an event, it definitely was a success."
Wofford called beating all of the representatives from the state was his biggest source of pride. He said he gained valuable training information and insight from other athletes at the South Central Regionals he feels will help him as he continues his conditioning. He said he now understands he has to shake off a lapse in concentration or a bad event and regroup quickly because the slightest mistakes can affect an athlete in such a competitive arena.
Wofford earned an invitation to compete in the regionals after finishing as one of the top 48 in the Open, a worldwide, inclusive, five-week competition that started earlier this year. He said athletes were grouped in heats and competed in two events a day, except for the first day, when the first two events were grouped together to set the stage for the third event. The first event was held in the morning and followed several hours later by the next event.
An explanation of all of the events can be found at games.crossfit.com. Each of the events is designed to test a different aspect of strength to identify the athletes who have the widest range of strength.
The top three athletes from each of the three-day regionals advance to the Reebok CrossFit Games, which will be July 25-27 in Carson, California.
Wofford hopes he can continue to work his way up the ladder and one day move into the top three. After only two years into training for the CrossFit Games, Wofford now appreciates how hard he has to work to realize his ultimate goal.
"If there is a hole in your fitness they will find it," Wofford said. "You have to work everything. You can't have any holes. You don't have to be great at it, but you can't be bad at it. I found the holes in my game and I got advice from a lot of guys there. Having the expectations of thinking, 'I have been in it for two years, I should be winning, right?' The guys there were like, 'No, you are still young.' They told me I am just laying the foundation and said I have a big future."
Follow Dispatch sports editor Adam Minichino on Twitter @ctsportseditor.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.
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