History of the Turtle Pt. II: Paradiso CrossFit’s Competition History

Read Part 1 HERE. These posts were 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 one.


Jessica’s 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. 

2013- The Games Continued…

Throughout that day and night texts flooded my phone and by the next morning we had our top two choices for Joe’s replacement.

First was Steve Sudell, a member who had been around for about a year, and had the strength we needed for Games style workouts. Second was Shaun Cooney, a staple in our community who had always been willing to compete and whom had trained with the Regionals team before.

The biggest question was who could train with the team and dedicate their midday time with us? Cooney was a member of the SMPD and couldn’t alter his schedule as drastically as we needed him to, but Steve was willing to dramatically reduce his hours in order to meet the needs of the team. So we had it, our Games team. Now we had two months to train as hard as we could to prove we deserved to be there.


During these two months we trained harder than any of us had trained before. We went on hikes with 40-60lbs on our backs. We dragged sleds around the block over and over again. We did 3-4 conditionings a day. We were the fittest any of us had been in our lives. When July came around we were nervous, but we were ready. Never for a moment was it questioned that we deserved to be there.

This was one of the most exciting times to be at the gym; all the members were unified in their enthusiasm, and due to pure geographic luck, the Games were at the Stub Hub Center in Los Angeles. This meant we won the honor of being the closest gym to the stadium, therefore daily we had the biggest fan section. I think I can speak for all of us and say competing at the Games was one of the best moments in our athletic careers.

Some highlights include the athlete briefing on Thursday night where the demo team walked out with a giant log- “the worm.” I was the only one left from the 2010 team but my jaw certainly dropped when I saw that miserable thing.

All I could think about was that nightmare of a workout from three years ago and the worm ended up living up to its predecessor. If you have seen the current version of the worm it is covered with a nice soft padding.

This was not the case in 2013. The worm was regular log sections, each at a different weight, and if your team had vastly differing height you were sure to find it difficult to carry. If you look closely at my left shoulder you can still see scars from carrying the worm from the track to the soccer stadium. We not only had to carry the worm, but we had to squat the worm, do burpees over the worm, and the final event even involved squatting the worm, again.  

We dragged sleds, got to do an event in the tennis stadium, and even moved up a heat at one point. We left the Stub Hub center knowing we wanted to make it back there, but it wouldn’t be easy.


2014- Things Fall Apart

Shortly after the CrossFit Games Lara moved back home to South Africa and again we found ourselves with only two female competitors. McCoy and I were a little tired of metcon after metcon and decided to both dedicate our time to weightlifting and qualifying for the American Open. Jesse dedicated a lot of time to getting stronger overall, and Steve had to rush back to work no longer able to spend countless hours a day training. The midday enthusiasm just wasn’t what it was before and that Fall we found ourselves isolated in our individual training plans.

When December finally rolled around everyone started to fall back into place. We all went back to following Outlaw Competitor programming but instead of six or seven athletes midday we only had four. Yet, through Jesse’s relentless competitive spirit, one day Kat Leone showed up at our front garage. She had been on teams with other neighboring gyms before therefore we knew she could compete, he also found Mike Stevens who coached at another smaller non-competitive gym. Lindsay Stoddard (now Sudell) also joined our team, and before we knew it we had a roster of eight.  


When the Open rolled around we performed as we had in the year past, this year with a seed of seventh, but without the same consistency as the year before. Instead of a clear six scoring for all of the Open workouts, this year only McCoy, Jesse and Lauren scored for all six. Stevens, myself, and Kat scored for five, Lindsay two and Steve one.

This was the first year real decisions would have to be made once the workouts were announced. If anyone thinks these decisions are easy or clear, they never really are, especially with teams. It’s hard to time someone at a workout, when there are things like communication, rep speed, and the general ability to perform under pressure at stake.

Your Open scores are not necessarily a clear indicator of your ability to perform at Regionals. When the workouts were released one thing was clear, if your girls had not been heavily training at gymnastics, your team had no chance of making the Games. The opening workout of regionaks in 2014 had the girls performing 36 muscle ups and none of us were very good at muscle ups.

We hadn’t needed them in the Games in 2013, and if you could do a couple you were set in the Open, but now your girls needed to be able to do 15-12 and 9.

You couldn’t hide anyone. In years past, not every member had to do every workout. You could highlight some of your athletes strengths, and you could avoid things you weren’t great at. This year was different, each athlete had to participate in all eight workouts.

The other heavily gymnastics based workout was the strict handstand push-up workout, and a max effort handstand walk. Only Lauren could handstand walk out of the girls, and I found myself again, in a position with the strict handstand push-ups, not being able to do one.

After countless hours of arguing we chose our team. The team stayed identical to our Games team, with Kat replacing Lara. We trained, we were upside down for hours, we worked as hard as we could with only three weeks before our Regional, but it didn’t feel like the year before, we just weren’t great at any of the events (except of course the max snatch).

As the competition week approached members were enthusiastic to say the least, most looked at Regionals as just another stepping stone back to the Games, and we were expected to qualify again this year.

Standing in the corral at 9 in the morning for heat three (the top teams heat), a feeling of dread began to sink in. I could hear the announcer calling out times for the first event, an event we had never finished in practice, and not just one or two from the heat before us, FIVE teams were called out with times. I knew I had to go last, and for the first time ever I was not excited to walk out onto the competition floor.

When the top heat started men were flying through their 15 muscle ups as expected, but then the first women jumped up to start theirs. Lauren was our first girl, and she was going to do a triple and then doubles, which was great for us, but out of the corner of my eye I could see Kris Clever (2010 Games Champ) doing 9 and 6 reps unbroken, I could see a girl on Brick’s team doing 10 and 5 unbroken, their barbells were clanging on the second part of the workout and we were on muscle up number six. SHIT.

When Kat jumped up to do our set of 12 many teams third girls were starting. More dread. We would not only do poorly at this workout, but I would be alone doing muscle ups (my least favorite movement) with everyone else watching. When it was finally my turn we had four minutes to the time cut off.

There was only one other girl on the rings and as I started my third muscle up she was finishing her eighth. When the timer went off we were in 18th. Almost the bottom of the second heat.

The weekend went by very much like this, it wasn’t just the gymnastics, it was the thruster speed, the rope climbs, teams were better at almost everything. In one year we had spent so much time training for the slow and heavy Games, that we weren’t ready for high rep, high speed, gymnastics based workouts.

Although we didn’t end where we wanted to, it wasn’t a complete disaster. Event Two, was a max hang snatch, and not only did we get third but McCoy snatched the event record, 295 pounds.

We went home, a little defeated, a little injured (I tore an intercostal between my ribs during the snatch workout), and a little unsure of what the next year would hold. We placed 15th overall, which by no stretch is a bad placement, but after last year it didn’t feel anywhere near good enough.


2015- The Center Cannot Hold


Many things changed in 2015 as the Open approached. McCoy, our team captain for the past three years, began the process of becoming a police officer. Ths took a lot of his attention away from the team and our success in the Open.

Jesse injured his hamstring, and Steve found himself concentrating on starting Prehab2Perform, opting out of competing with the team this year. The leaderboard was littered with many different names with no one consistently scoring in all six workouts except for Lauren.

Improve at Sport

For the first time Lauren found herself seriously considering going individual, and after discussion with each of us, she decided to try, after qualifying for it over the past three years. Without Lauren’s scores we placed 21st in the Open, which was six places out of qualifying a team. Lauren went to the first California Super Regional as an individual and represented the gym well. Her highlights were getting second overall on Event 3, and sixth on Event 2. She placed 29th overall.


2016-The Second Coming… of the Turtle


In 2016 we had some our most dramatic shake ups on our Team. We lost two of our athletes, Kat and Lauren, to other SoCal teams but in return four Regionals athletes moved to our gym: Rachel Szakmary, Chelsea Mckinney, Taylor Shramo, and Keith Johnson.

Not only did we have these new additions, but we had four of our newer athletes, Patrick Madaj, Matthew Walrath, Margot Mandel and Lindsay Sudell getting better as well.  The old team was completely gone, but now was the year to build.

Our number one goal this year was to qualify for Regionals and this was no easy task. Like in 2012, we needed every member of the community to participate. Again, we had a large number of contributors to the Open qualification. Katie Suhadolnik, Margot Mandel, Lindsay Sudell, Chelsea Mckinney for the women and Matthew Walrath, Keith Johnson, Patrick Madaj, Max Goldak, and the return of Jesse Baz for the men.

We also had many people close to scoring spots: Taylor Shramo, James McCoy, myself, Mike Nielson, and Rachel Szakmary. That’s fourteen people all in contention for a team spot, and for the first time we had a coach who would ultimately have to make that decision… me.

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I didn’t feel that this year’s Open adequately tested Regional level strength and skills. There was nothing extremely heavy and no one-rep max lifts, and that made the decision making process even harder.

Being around the game for seven years now I knew there would be a max lift or some sort of ladder and I knew the weights would be harder than a 65# thruster and 65# walking lunge. There would also be the high skills of handstand walking and strict handstand push-ups. Yet, for the first time in two years there was a solid team training together and as a team we decided to make the decision of who would be the eight members on the team.

The roster was solidified at the end of April (just three weeks before our Regional), the members were Chelsea, Rachel, Margot, myself, Matt, Patrick, Keith and Taylor. We had some holes, and we all knew that, but again our t-shirt was designed, that old familiar turtle was on the back, and we would all be competing for the first time together.


The workouts were announced with only one weekend to practice. This was the first time we had so little time between the announcement and the competition. There were two glaring work requirements for day 1 of Regionals this year. Each individual had to snatch 135 (for the females), 185 (for the males), and each individual had to do at least one strict handstand push-up. If one member could not complete this minimum work requirement, the whole team was disqualified.

Immediately (because of the handstand push up) I was out. It had been two years since I had stood on the floor, embarrassed on a Saturday afternoon, unable to complete a strict handstand push-up. I had pressed, used bands, and done body building, and pressed some more, but facts were facts and I still couldn’t do one.

With little to no time to decide, the team was set- Taylor would be the male alternate, I would coach,  and the rest of the team was working on their snatching, rope climbs and overhead squats.

As regional’s week approached, the team was very excited to compete. For many of them it would be their first Regional and for ALL of them it would be their first time at the California Regional.

We had our game plan, and we were ready. That is until Tuesday night, when we all got a text message from Margot. She had been in pain over the last few weeks, but had continued to train, and now we knew what the pain was: she had broken a rib and it was dangerously close to her lung. She was out. I was in. It was Tuesday. We would compete on Friday. I had just finished a four hour training session.

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The glimmer of hope in all of this was somehow, on the same day we found out this news, CFHQ removed the minimum requirement standards so we would get to finish out the weekend. There was a trueform (many of us had never run on before), there were legless rope climbs, and partner toes to bar. We didn’t place well on the workouts that we hadn’t practiced, but we fought until the end.

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After the dust settled on this year’s Regionals, many members and friends may have thought we were disappointed or unhappy with our placement or performance, but this couldn’t be further from the truth. We finished the weekend in 27th. We sat in a heat with other Games’ teams, with other individual Games’ athletes; the bar just continues to be set higher.

Of course winning and placing highly is our goal, but we did what we came to do, we worked as a team, we represented our gym, and we will only train harder for next year. Actually, we already are….

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