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JBLM fields ‘strong’ CrossFit team for competition

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:35PM March 6th, 2014

About 30 men and women clutched PVC pipes above their heads as they tried to remain in a perfect squat.

“Good!” coach Josh Flores shouted as he walked around the CrossFit area of McVeigh Sports & Fitness Center at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. “Strong!”

The group is practicing the snatch, an Olympic weightlifting movement common in CrossFit and rumored to be a big part of the 2014 CrossFit Open. It’s the annual, worldwide competition that seeks to find the greatest athletes in CrossFit.

JBLM CrossFit’s team of 47 is ready, said program manager Maj. Josh Powers.

“We just came off of a strength cycle,” said Powers, a brigade planner with the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division. “We started right after Christmas, and just finished at the beginning of the Open.”

The program has come a long way since its inception two years ago, Powers said. One person used to oversee the program, and group training — a CrossFit staple — was unscheduled.

Since Powers took over in November, classes meet Monday through Friday at 5:30 p.m., with workouts of the day posted on its website,

The big change for Powers, however, is his coaching roster, which is 10 people deep, and the local CrossFit Board, which helps guide the program and recruit new talent.

Everyone volunteers, Powers said: Flores is an accomplished Olympic-style weightlifter, while the other coach that night, Marcel Montoya-Wright, has years of CrossFit coaching experience. Everyone is a Level 1 trainer, Powers said.

“We could all earn a living doing what we do,” Powers said. “We do it because we love it.”

Michelle Ma loved it too that night, as she practiced the snatch with the PVC pipe. She started doing CrossFit nine months ago, but already is a Level 1 trainer with excellent form. Flores pointed it out as he walked around the room, testing people.

That night, she approached Powers about becoming a coach, even as she prepared to enter the Open, which started Feb. 27.

“There’s no gauge of perfection,” she said after helping another CrossFitter with proper form. “There’s always something to work on.”

Sergeant 1st Class Jose Caraballo agreed as he struggled to maintain form while holding the PVC above his head.

“A lot of technique to it,” he said with a smile as Flores came by and approvingly examined his form. It came in handy later, when Caraballo queued up with everyone else to practice the snatch with a 45-pound bar with 30 pounds of weights.

Carabello sank into a deep squat, came up and engaged his quads, gripped the bar with his hands far apart and lifted. Done right, Powers said, the movement is quick, with the feet spreading apart in a small jump to help stabilize the person as they swing under the bar and hold it above their head, finally standing up with it.

Carabello, who also will go into the Open, didn’t do it so well. He dropped the bar before finishing, saying he didn’t do it right. It takes practice, like any other athletic pursuit, Caraballo said, but “when you hit the tech right, it feels so light!”

Whether it will feel light in the Open is another story, but the practice turned out to be timely: the first competitive event, released Feb. 27, included snatches.

To see the power snatch as taught by Mike Burgener, weightlifting coach for the U.S. Olympic Team, go to