History of the Turtle: Paradiso CrossFit’s Competition History

This post was written by coach Jessica Suver who was one of the first members at Paradiso CrossFit, and has been a part of the competitive group since day 1.

A History of Paradiso CrossFit in CrossFit Competition

By: Jessica Suver


A note: This is from my point of view and although I try, I cannot remember all that occurred over the years in competition. The following are my memories of our history in official CrossFit Competition. In two parts.




In the Fall of 2009 the doors officially opened to Paradiso CrossFit. The gym was in the back of a lot on Glencoe and without giving specific dimensions, it was small. Small enough that if you dropped a bar in some spots it would inevitably blow through the thin wall separating us with our neighbors.

Bands constantly littered the bars (not for mobility), and I remember getting my first pull-up that fall after almost a year of bands and assistance.


We followed CrossFit.com’s programming, and daily we would hold our breaths until 5pm waiting to see what would be posted for the next day’s WOD. There were no “female bars” or Oly bars, and muscle ups were still daily miracles mostly performed by a few of the male athletes.


2010 First Regionals

regionals 3

In November of that year CrossFit announced that Sectionals would take place throughout the world to have a precursor to Regionals (an event that previously had been a first come first serve sign up to try to get to the Games).


Sectionals was now an event that anyone that wanted to compete in could (much like the current Open process) and our Sectionals would take place at UCLA. Two of PCF’s females (myself and Sondra Jovel) were brave enough to sign up along with three of our males (Ben Hopkins, Matt Aporta and Zeb Pascual).


My main memory from this competition was the “heavy” 95lb thrusters the females had to do, I proudly did singles and doubles and was one of 20 girls who could actually do them, and the handstand push-ups against the track wall with 1 abmat that after countless attempts I couldn’t complete.


This was the first time I met Dave Castro, and of course I didn’t really understand who he was or what he was doing there (at this point affiliates ran the Sectionals not CF HQ). At the end of the day 20 women and 20 men were selected to go to Regionals.  Ben Hopkins qualified in 2nd and I got 22nd just missing a spot that day.

Weeks later there was an open registration for the first time team competition at the SoCal Regionals. In that same week I got an invitation to go as an individual but declined and signed up with five other gym members for the team. Our inaugural 2010 Paradiso CrossFit Regional Team consisted of Karen Feiner, Eddie Malone, Zeb Pascual, Matt Aporta, Me, and Gretchen Helt.


Karen boasted the feat of being the only female who could do ring dips and she and Zeb completed a two person event that involved an alternating couplet of ring dips and dumbbell thrusters. There was also a run with double unders, dumbbell snatches and pull-ups and a final event of a tire flip and a log.

Regionals 4

Anyone around at this time remembers watching the almost indescribable suffering that was the log. This was not a “worm” like apparatus like we see today at the CrossFit Games it was a single, stiff, extremely heavy log. This means that if your team has disparages in height whatsoever the shorter person will be inevitably crushed by the weight of the log.


The workout involved a heavy tire being flipped by two team members while the log was carried by the other two, with a finale of 50 shoulder to overhead passes with the log and 50 squats. This involved a lot of no reps and a lot of heads being smacked with the log.


Needless to say after 6 and a half years of CrossFit this is still the worst workout I have ever been involved with. When the logs settled at the end of the day I think (the data is hard to find) that we finished in the 20’s and we all went home and broke our strict Paleo diets with cake and ice cream.


2011- A Near Miss


In 2011 CrossFit announced that Sectionals would be done away with and replaced with the online worldwide Open. This would consist of five workouts over the course of five weeks that would culminate in 60 individual invites and 30 team invites to respective Regionals. Unfortunately at the end of this open I finished in 64th and the team in 32nd just missing our invite to Regionals.


2012 A return to Regionals


Just missing Regionals in 2011 our team was reinvigorated by some new membership and a new gym. At this point the gym was in MDR’s current home on Redwood, and some new athletes joined our gym and brought with them competitive Open Scores. James McCoy, Joseph Dieguez, Lara Erlank and Courtney Rose Keller (now Chung) all became important contributors to our 2012 open scores, and although we were becoming competitive this year, we still only screeched out of the Open at 29th place by only 3 reps on any given workout.


We had a large group contributing to our success and scoring in the open this year and besides those mentioned above our other Open scorers were Neal Oku, David and Martina Paradiso, myself, Cara Cooney, Red Magpantay, Alex Boyce, Gretchen Helt, and Kamran Mustafa.  


That means we had 13 people all whom contributed to our qualification to the 2012 regionals. This created a dilemma, for the first time we had a major deliberation on how we would choose the eight people for the 2012 regionals roster (we wouldn’t know the workouts until the roster was submitted).


I had just recently had wrist surgery and was barely recovered at this time not making me a prime choice for regionals (beyond the fact that I STILL couldn’t do a handstand pushup). Yet, when it was all said to done and after we stressfully deliberated for a week the roster was set with the males as James McCoy, David Paradiso, Joe Dieguez, and Shaun Cooney and the females as Martina Paradiso, Lara Erlank, Gretchen Helt and Myself.


Now we would wait the few weeks until the workouts were announced. At this time there wasn’t really team training. McCoy and Joe would often train together and the guys would often get together on the weekends. Lara and I would train together when we could but mostly we were all just working out like normal with no real programming beside that which CrossFit HQ provided.



When the workouts were finally announced we had a problem, one workout involved one male and one female snatching heavy dumbbells. These dumbbells were 100 for the men and 70 for the ladies. McCoy could easily snatch the 100 pound dumbbell so he would clearly do this workout but with the ladies it wasn’t so simple. Daily the four girls would attempt to snatch 50lb pounds, then 55 pounds, then finally 60 (occasionally). None of us seemed close to getting the 70 and if your team did not complete at least two rounds of this workout you were disqualified from the rest of the competition.


The next three weeks involved a lot of dumbbell snatching. We didn’t have a 70lb dumbbell so for a while we would build a dumbbell with plates taped to a sixty or with a small build your own dumbbell with adjustable weights. I’m telling you we snatched this thing for weeks. Diso allowed me to bring a dumbbell home, and if you’ve ever seen me work on handstand push-ups you know I was snatching this thing all the time. In my living room, to warm up, to cool down, in the morning, after coaching, ALL the time.


We finally got a 70, and after a good amount of time I got it with my left arm but not my injured arm, and it felt impossibly heavy.


One sunny afternoon outside at MDR I remember Martina coming in to work on it with me, we both were exhausted and truth be told Martina really wanted me to get it so she didn’t have to compete. However, to her chagrin that day she snatched the dumbbell with both arms, not easily, but again and again she was able to consistently drop under it and stand up. At regionals beyond the exciting snatch ladder, the dumbbell snatch event was one of the most exciting and impressive events I’ve seen at a regional. Martina not only made it through the two rounds but we almost finished and moved up from an Open finish of 29th to a regional finish of 23rd.


2013- GAMES


This was the year. The big heads. The Games. But how did it happen?


In the fall of 2012 Paradiso CrossFit Venice opened. With this opening also came a change in our programming. Since Regionals we had realized that just doing Main Site workouts was not enough training and those that desired to be competitive decided to follow The Outlaw Way. The programming was written by a coach out of Virginia, Rudy Nielson, and many teams and individuals who had made the Games the previous year had been following his programming.

The programming looked similarly to what you see today as PCF’s general programming with a strength component and a conditioning. We quickly learned to clean and jerk and snatch and those of us that desired to be competitive at CrossFit now had to decide which gym we would compete at- MDR or Venice. At the time we didn’t realize what an important and sometimes controversial decision this would be, because at the time the decision seemed easy- James McCoy worked out midday at Venice because he coached the night classes there Monday-Friday and he started inviting people to workout with him.


The growth of the midday competitor training was natural. At first it was Lara, McCoy. Others would train with us once and awhile but for a short time it was just us. Next came Jesse. He was a transplant from NorCal who was actively looking for a gym with a team. He started training with McCoy, and seemed impressed enough with his lifting to keep coming back and training with us throughout the winter.


The final addition to our midday training group came when Lauren Gravatt entered the gym one day that December looking for a coaching position. McCoy invited her to do class and the next day I remember him telling me about this girl who came in and did a five minute Diane. I told Lara and we knew we wanted her. We were actually, for the first time, actively making a team. Lauren started to coach some classes and began joining us for our midday training session.


We had a core five people that trained daily together from 1-5. We were dedicated to competing but above anything else, it was fun.


When the Open came around the five of us, and Joe D, scored as the top 6 in every workout. For the first time, the regionals team was uncontested and clear, and we wanted to go to the Games. I’m a freak about numbers and stats and leaderboarding and as the workouts came out I knew one thing, we had a chance to make the Games.


There was a triple overhead squat max, burpee muscle ups, heavy deadlifts, two person jackie (which was Joe D and Lara’s jam), and a chipper which had db snatches to finish (which you better believe I figured out how to get darn good at).


We had a large community in attendance and we executed all the workouts as best we knew how. When Sunday finished there was a quite ugly number staring at us on the screen FOURTH.


As we partied that night we joked that we were one failed pee test away from making it but discussed our plans moving forward. Some people wanted to train right away. Lauren was going to do a triathlon, I planned on going home to Seattle for a while and doing a running race, and unfortunately Joe would have to get his knee looked at as he was injured on our last event.

Weeks went by and we didn’t see each other much. I wasn’t even thinking about the 2014 season when I got a cryptic text from Jesse while running a Ragnar in Utah with Martina.


“Games!” it said.


“Stop joking.” I said.


Then silence as were out of reception.


Then Martina got a similar text from Diso. We didn’t know what to think. We weren’t in range for reception. Finally another text, this one from McCoy.


“We made it to the Games, third place got disqualified!”


I didn’t know what to do, stop running? Get on a plane immediately and come back? None of us had been really training, we certainly hadn’t been training as a team, and one more thing- Joe D was injured. Badly injured. Who would go in his place?

To be continued…..

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