The inaugural Rogue Invitational wasn’t short on star power, from defending CrossFit Games champions Mat Fraser and Tia-Clair Toomey to returning legends Rich Froning, Jason Khalipa, Sam Briggs, and Kristan Clever. It was some of the event’s lesser known competitors, however, who faced the highest stakes.
For the athletes still looking to qualify for the Games this summer, the CrossFit-sanctioned Rogue Invitational offered a golden opportunity to punch their tickets. By the closing ceremonies on Sunday, two athletes from the Individual competition had done just that; gaining a legion of new fans in the process. If you didn’t know them before, you’ll certainly remember Chandler Smith and Rachel Garibay from here on out.
For the men, West Point grad and U.S. Army officer Chandler Smith was arguably the story of the weekend, finishing fifth overall and easily outperforming six other accomplished hopefuls, not to mention a lot of guys who’ve already qualified for the Games.
Two years ago, Smith was an up-and-comer prepping for the Atlantic Regionals when an accident during an Army training exercise severed the end of his left ring finger, leaving his CrossFit future in doubt. While he vowed to come back, a long military deployment in Bulgaria pushed the 2018 season out of reach, as well. Smith continued to eye the year 2022 as his realistic target date for finally reaching the Games, which makes this ahead-of-schedule accomplishment all the more incredible. It’s no wonder the crowd in Columbus was cheering Chandler’s every move, particularly when he raced off to a pair of runner-up finishes in the Mule and Chipper events, beating out the likes of Mat Fraser.
“I spent the last few days trying to process the events of the @rogueinvitational last weekend,” Smith posted to Instagram after earning his spot, “and trying to think of what to say to adequately thank everyone who’s helped me on this race of making one of my life dreams a reality. I honestly don’t think I can ever individually thank everyone enough, but if you’re one of the thousands of people who’ve helped along the way, then know that I couldn’t be more grateful for you.”
There were similar sentiments coming from the equally deserving women’s qualifier, El Paso’s own Rachel Garibay. A member of Team Don’t Stop at last year’s CrossFit Games, Rachel will be making her Games debut as an Individual competitor after sealing her spot with particularly strong efforts in Sunday’s Snatch & Press (8th) and Squat Clean Ladder (5th).
“This is it guys!!! Games bound!” she posted on IG. “Training starts as soon as I get back home! Wanna say it has been such an amazing experience competing with everyone this weekend! I had so many difficult challenges thrown at me! . . . Thank you everyone for your lovely support and comments!”
A place at the Games was also claimed in the Team division at the Rogue Invitational, with CrossFit OC3 Black of Davenport, Iowa, putting on a master class from the opening GORUCK to the Tug of War finale, taking home the $20,000 First Place prize to boot. Team members Colin Cartee, Joe Piersanti, Luke Schafer, Taylor Williamson, and Andrea Nisler helped OC3 defeat seasoned squads including Team Invictus Back Bay and Rich Froning’s Mayhem Freedom.