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Naval Academy CrossFit Club Gets Competitive

Posted on: April 18, 2013 10:00 EDT by Lt. Cmdr. Jack Ryan

Walk the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy at 5:30 a.m. and you will often find young midshipmen actively engaged in various physical activities. Some participate in self-led running and calisthenics protocols, while others compete as varsity athletes squeezing in those necessary morning workouts to support a full day of academic studies and professional military training. 

However, tucked away in a small racquetball court, deep in the bowels of a 1960s-era athletic building, a few dedicated members of CrossFit Blue and Gold are Olympic lifting, sprinting, pulling, pushing and rowing their way to building what Midshipman 2nd Class Benjamin Herbold calls “a community of like-minded individuals who always want you to do your best.”  

Officially recognized as an extracurricular activity at the beginning of the 2012 academic year, the Naval Academy CrossFit club gained status as a CrossFit military affiliate in late October of that same year.

Named after the academy’s alma mater, CrossFit Blue and Gold’s self-stated mission of teaching midshipmen to be as fit as they can be for as long as they can be within a positive and productive environment supports the Naval Academy’s moral, mental and physical missions and motivates its members in their daily pursuit of general physical preparedness. But over the past year, they have accomplished so much more. 

In just eight months, the midshipmen coaches and athletes who manage the program have introduced the basic strength and conditioning benefits of CrossFit and have developed healthier living habits for more than 400 of their academy shipmates. In addition to the daily morning workout of the day, or WOD, the midshipmen offer afternoon classes on a first-come, first-served basis to any member of the brigade who has attended the club’s foundations class.

With humble beginnings as an “underground” workout club, the leaders of CrossFit Blue and Gold have grown their small following into a community that continues to develop in and outside of the Naval Academy walls. 

Recently, members of the CrossFit Blue and Gold Competition Team travelled to Philadelphia to compete against a group of Army cadets from West Point’s Black and Gold CrossFit. The 2nd Annual Army/Navy CrossFit Throwdown was hosted by CrossFit 215 and did not disappoint the athletes or spectators on hand to watch. 

Micah Macbeth, co-owner of 215, designed a series of workouts that tested the full range of each team’s fitness. 

“I knew the academies were going to bring some good ­­­­athletes, but I wasn’t sure what to expect in regard to their CrossFit skill level,” said Macbeth, when asked about how he came up with the programming. “I’ll tell you what, these guys and girls are legit.”

Jumping out to an early lead, the CrossFit 215 team set the bar high for the midshipmen and cadets. However, the midshipmen showed their tenacity, stamina and overall skill level, taking first place finishes in workouts two and three.

Workout four proved to be some exciting “controlled chaos,” with each member of the three teams participating in a series of increasing repetitions of various exercises that used every barbell, bumper plate and pull-up bar in the box.  Army and Navy swapped the lead no less than three times, and in a dramatic sprint to the back wall of CrossFit 215’s gym, Army edged out Navy by a few seconds.

In the end, Navy took the day with Army coming in second and CrossFit 215 finishing third. 

Overall, the event showcased not only the impressive physical conditioning and athletic skill of these competitors, but demonstrated the impact that the Academies’ CrossFit programs have had for their members and for the CrossFit community at large.

“What I liked best about competing against Army is that although they were our competition, we were both cheering each other on throughout the entire day, despite who was winning,” said Midshipman 2nd Class Jackie Barnum. “That is the true nature of CrossFit and what it is all about.”

A former Naval Surface Warfare Officer and local affiliate owner who competed for the CrossFit 215 team made the statement that he wished he had known about CrossFit while he was a midshipman. 

“I can’t believe we didn’t have a club like this when I was there.  I would have loved to have had the opportunities to improve my skills like these kids have now,” he said.

As the members of CrossFit Blue and Gold move forward, their goals include more classes for their members, better equipment and facilities, and improved performances at various competitions. They will close out the spring semester with a few more team competitions and some dedicated training prior to going their separate ways for summer military training commitments.

“The best part of my CrossFit experience is having the opportunity to coach other midshipmen during the week, said Barnum. “Seeing them try so hard to get out of their comfort zones is incredibly inspiring. Often after class, they’ll thank me for helping them improve, when in fact they help me improve.”

Whatever the future holds for the academies’ CrossFit communities, one thing is certain - the two teams from Army and Navy will meet again this fall for a third go-round. 

“We get to compete against them but then we come together as equals who just went through a lot of pain,” Midshipman 2nd Class Ben Freedman, with a smile.

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