Article from CrossFit Games on May 27th, 2014, By Lisbeth Darsh
It was Sunday morning and I was sitting on the hard red benches of Section 128 at the Central East Regional. The first heat of Team Event 7 was getting underway, and I was watching Sam Briggs on my iPad as she completed Event 6 in Europe. That’s how I met Evelyn.
She was the closest person near me, and I simply had to tell somebody: “Sam is just two points away from making it to the Games!” Evelyn smiled at me like I was one of her children and had just brought home a “made with loving hands” art project. She gave me the, “That’s nice, sweetie” look. “Really?” she said. Right then I realized Evelyn was not nearly as interested in Sam Briggs as she was in the teams on that floor that had brought her to this college arena in Ohio on a chilly Sunday morning in May.
Over the next two hours, I would learn a lot about Evelyn, her friends and her affiliate, CrossFit Maven. I would meet two of her sons, cheer for her team in Event 8, and tear up with her when she talked about the heart and spirit of the CrossFit community. Most people come to the regional to witness the athletes and the competition. I was in the Fifth Third Center for that, but even more so for people like Evelyn. They’re the heart and soul of this thing called CrossFit, even if they don’t grab the headlines and we never see them on ESPN. It doesn’t matter they use a band for their pull-ups or they modify their box jumps. What matters is that they CrossFit and they care.
“We call ourselves the den mothers of our affiliate,” said Evelyn’s friend Caryn as we waited for the heat that would feature one of Evelyn’s sons as he competed on Team Maven. Evelyn proudly told me about every member of their affiliate team (“she’s a former figure competitor” and “he has the biggest heart, but he worries me”) and I realized that we all know women like Evelyn. These ladies are the moms in so many CrossFit boxes and they make the community hum. They high five us when we finish a hard WOD, they text us when we miss a class, and they hug us when we lose our jobs or our dogs die. Folks like Evelyn are the glue that hold our lives together when everything seems to fall apart.
“You want to meet good people, join a CrossFit gym,” Evelyn said. “I always tell young people, ‘Don’t hang out at a bar. That’s stupid. Go to a CrossFit gym.’”
She spoke with pride of her three sons and the three CrossFit boxes they owned among them. Two of her sons were chiropractors also. Evelyn keeps the books for one of the gyms. “My whole life is CrossFit,” she said.
When one of the CrossFit Maven team members faltered on the overhead squats of Event 8, struggling and repeatedly failing to keep the bar overhead. Caryn and Evelyn couldn’t watch. On either side of me, they directed their gaze downward and shielded their eyes with their hands. The pain of bearing witness to this man failing was too much. It didn’t matter that he was a grown adult, or that he was not one of their biological children. They both felt his pain like mothers do. Seventy-five CrossFit Maven members had traveled four hours from Rochester Hills, Michigan, to watch these moments. And Evelyn was looking at her shoes. She didn’t just have three sons anymore. Evelyn had 175 CrossFit children.
The horn blew and CrossFit Maven walked off the competition floor. Sam Briggs started Event 7 in Europe and I flipped open my iPad again. Evelyn moved closer and watched over my shoulder. We were just two mothers sitting on hard plastic benches at a sporting event, hoping a British daughter could grab a miracle and seize a spot to return to the Games in July.
When Sam’s event ended, our talk turned (as it always seems to in the CrossFit world) to Rich Froning. Evelyn’s eyes lit up. “I always tell my husband, ‘If there’s a person I’m going to run away with—it’s Rich Froning.’” Her giggle made her suddenly seem much younger than her 50+ years, and she shook her short brown hair like she was 16 again. Evelyn seemed, like a lot of us, somehow younger because of CrossFit. “He’s the ultimate stud muffin,” she said of Rich.
In front of us, another heat of competitors took the floor. Section 128 started cheering. Evelyn looked over at me. “You ever get to Michigan, you come to my house. I’ll make you dinner.”