Powell River athletes excel in international competition

Jessa McLaren and Leo Head compete in global CrossFit contests

Two young Powell River athletes have made their presence known on the world stage in an international fitness competition this week.

Jessa McLaren, 14, and Leo Head, 15, both made it to the top 200 in their age group in international CrossFit contests. It is especially inspiring considering both athletes just took up CrossFit a little over a year ago, according to PowTown CrossFit coach and owner Eddie Charlton.

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“It’s amazing to see what they’ve accomplished in one year,” he said. “We get these two kids who didn’t even know what CrossFit was 14 months ago and have taken them from not even knowing how to hold a barbell to doing weights that would blow your mind.”

CrossFit is described as a high-intensity fitness program that incorporates many different forms of exercise, including weight lifting, gymnastics and calisthenics. It is practised by millions of people at more than 13,000 gyms worldwide. As a competitive fitness sport the Crossfit Games have been held every summer since 2007.

“The CrossFit Games is the big stage where all the elite athletes go and prove to see who's the fittest in the world,” said Charlton. Qualifying takes place through the CrossFit Open, online competitions that attract roughly half a million competitors. Head and McLaren both finished in the top 200 in their age group in this stage, and were invited to participate in the next level of competition, the CrossFit Games Age Group Online qualifier. Five workouts were announced on Thursday, May 2, at 5 pm and participants had until Monday, May 6, at 5 pm to complete them. The top 10 athletes from this group will go to the CrossFit Games this summer. Head is currently ranked 42nd in the world for his 14 to 15 aged group and McLaren is 19th.

“There are kids who they’re competing against who have been doing this probably since they were seven years old,” said Charlton.

Both McLaren and Head were involved in other sports before discovering CrossFit, but have found this program is something they feel passionate about.

“What I like is it’s all different every time so you never know what you’re going to do at the gym,” said Head. “It’s really fun.”

His mother, Leah Head, said the excellent coaching and kind atmosphere of the gym has contributed to the success Leo has been able to achieve.

“It’s a very community oriented place,” she said. “It’s like being part of a team; our whole family comes.”

McLaren said she was initially attracted to CrossFit because of the gymnastics component.

Next up, both she and Head will be competing in the CanWest Games, a CrossFit competition taking place in Coquitlam this July. Without question, the membership of the gym will be proudly supporting the young athletes progress, according to gym member Chris Roddan.

“On Saturday about 25 of us took time out to go cheer them on,” he said. “Eddie has built an amazing community that absolutely supports each other, to the point where our youngest members are now ranked in Canada and the world.”

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