Boise CrossFit team chases ‘Fittest on Earth’ title

Cassie Smith, a former soccer player at Eastern Oregon, and Caitlin Anderson, a former basketball player at Weber State, faced a typical dilemma after college: how to make use of their competitive natures.

Enter CrossFit, a growing fitness competition that tests athletes’ endurance, strength, flexibility and mobility. The stated goal is to identify the Fittest on Earth.

Smith and Anderson are part of a team that will compete in the world CrossFit Games this week in Carson, Calif. Verdant Green — named after their gym adjacent to the Boise State campus — finished third at the West regional.

“After (college),” Anderson said, “I felt like I was working out with no purpose.”

An acquaintance suggested CrossFit about two and a half years ago and she was hooked almost immediately.

“There were things that I couldn’t do and it made me mad,” she said.

Anderson was Smith’s first CrossFit coach, about two years ago. She only needed one workout to know the sport suited her.

“I never thought I’d be able to put 200 pounds over my head, but I can do that every day now,” Smith said. “And I never thought I could walk on my hands and I can now. CrossFit is cool because it always challenges you to do things that you just never thought you’d be able to do.”

Verdant Green’s other four members are Tara Hilgert, Cameron Pernich, Basile Beaty and Sun Chang. Pernich competed in the world games last year with Boise CrossFit, which finished eighth.

The team competes Wednesday through Sunday, with live television coverage starting Thursday on ESPN. Part of the event’s challenge is that the athletes don’t know what exercises they’ll face. They have to be ready for anything. One event Wednesday will be held at the beach.

“It’s pretty much doing a lot of gnarly workouts as a team and trying to survive the weekend,” Hilgert said.

Every member of the team will do each exercise — some individually (a one-rep max in the clean-and-jerk lift, for example), some in pairs and some as a team. Some events require synchronized movements.

Verdant Green has trained together since January. They work out six days a week and often perform an individual endurance workout, such as running or swimming, on the “rest” day.

The group is one of 40 teams scheduled to compete in California. The CrossFit Games is filled through eight regional competitions around the world. The top 40 male and female individuals will compete, too.

“We thought we would make it, but you never know,” Chang said. “We have a lot of big, strong people on our team.”

Smith called their workouts “adult playtime” — a chance to do something she enjoys with her friends.

“We’ve spent a lot of time together to where it is like a family,” Chang said. “We get on each other’s nerves and complain to each other and yell at each other.”

They also provide motivation and a support system for each other. Anderson says she feels more pressure competing on a team than by herself because others count on her but Smith — the newest to this competition — is counting on the team’s chemistry.

“It’s terrifying,” Smith said of the CrossFit Games. “But I also love that I have five people that have my back no matter what."