After the 2016 CrossFit Games Open, he is sitting an impressive 16th in the world and is heading to the East Regional as the second-ranked man from the North East region, behind the one and only Mat Fraser.
With a resume like that, it’s crazy to think this will be Chase Smith’s first Regional competition as an individual.
Truth is, though, while Smith is new to the individual scene, he didn’t come out of nowhere this season. He has competed at Regionals twice—in 2013 and 2014 with his CrossFit Free team—and he qualified to Regionals an impressive 9th last year, but had to withdraw because of a partially torn peck.
I got a chance to catch up with the 27-year-old Blonyx athlete to discuss his recent success, his Regionals training plan and his goals for this season.
Smith was 15th at the prestigious Wodapalooza event in January in a field of top CrossFit Games competitors
Emily Beers (EB): Coming 2nd in the Open in your region must have built your confidence heading into Regionals?
Chase Smith (SC): Yeah, it feels great. If you told me I could (do this well) months ago, I would have laughed. I wouldn’t have believed it. It's a huge confidence booster, for sure, but it’s a clean slate now and everyone starts back at 0 again.
EB: What are your goals for Regionals this year?
CS: My goal is just to stay on that floor. Last year was a heartbreak not to be able to compete. Every year, I’ve been in CrossFit, I have competed on the Regionals floor, so it was an emotional time last year seeing my team out there.
EB: Tell me about the injury and withdrawing last year.
Chase Smith (CS): About a week before Regionals, I (partially) tore my pectoral minor right at the insertion during a rope climb. I didn’t need surgery, but there was a very good risk that if I competed I could tear it completely, so I sat down with Brandon (Petersen—his coach) and we decided the risk was there, but the reward wasn’t. It was really hard. All my hard work was gone in seconds. I remember getting (to Regionals) and I couldn’t get myself to tell them I wasn’t competing. I was waiting for my heat to be called and then I had to let them know I had to withdraw.
EB: You say your goal is just to compete this year. But considering how well you did in the Open, you must be thinking about Games qualification?
CS: I would be lying if I said I never think about the Games, but I’m not going to count my chickens before the eggs hatch. So I don’t let thoughts about the Games take over. I just try to brush it off. My training partners and I kid around and we talk about the Games, but I don’t want to think too much about it. The Open is the Open. Regionals is Regionals. You can’t get to the Games without getting though regionals.
EB: How often do you and (fellow Blonyx athlete) Tasia Percevecz (4th in the North East) train together?
CS: Everyday. She’s my training partner. During the week, we train together in the morning and then again in the afternoon. And on the weekends, we train with the team, too.
EB: Do you think it makes it easier to have a female as your training partner because technically you’re not competing against each other?
CS: I don’t think it makes a difference. We both want to win no matter what the workout is. We’re constantly battling each other. Obviously the weight and sometimes the reps are different, but we don’t look at that. We go back and forth a lot during workouts. But at the same time, we want to see each other do better. She is a huge support system for me, especially through my injury last year—she supported me a through the injury.
Training buddies. And friends.
EB: Being less than two months away from Regionals, what is your focus right now?
CS: The biggest thing I’ve been focused on is just staying healthy. That means just managing the volume and the movements and listening to my body and how it feels. I’m injury-free for the most part. About 90%—it’s hard to be 100%, especially in this sport.
EB: What are your strengths as an athlete?
CS: I’m a big fan of long workouts, like big chippers. Like the first Open workout. I like the constant movement.
EB: What about movement strengths?
CS: I like muscle-ups and handstand push-ups. I’m a big fan of the gymnastics movements. For a bigger guy, I do well at them. I can get into a good groove. They’re stress-free.
Good news for Smith: Since ring muscle-ups didn't show up during the Open, we're guessing they'll show up in a big way at Regionals...
EB: What about mentally and emotionally? What are your strengths?
CS: I think emotionally I’m able to always keep my head in it. I can look around and see where others are and keep an eye on them, but I’m able to stay calm and keep my mind straight and think at the same time.
EB: Who do you think will be your biggest competitors at Regionals?
CS: All the usual guys. (Mat) Fraser, Austin (Malleolo), Spencer (Hendel), Daniel Tyminski—The usual people. Trevor Hames and Nick DelGrande - they’re other names I’m familiar with seeing at the top. And the guys from Canada East will play a big role, too. I’ve been watching Albert (Dominic Larouche) over in Canada and he’s doing great.
EB: Your coach Brandon Petersen. Does he just program for you or does he coach you on a daily basis?
CS: Oh, he’s there everyday. He’s always there looking over me. I don’t think I can find a picture of myself in a competition and not see Brandon in the background. He has always been by my side moulding me as as athlete.
EB: A lot of athletes seem to hire programmers, as opposed to coaches who watch them on a wily basis. Do you think having him there in a hands-on way has helped your development more than if he just programmed for you and left you to your own deices?
CS: It’s so valuable having him there. Having just a program is great but there are often no details or expectations from it. Being able to look over at him before a workout on any given day and chat beforehand and ask him what he expects from me is really helpful. Sometimes his expectations are over the top, but I’ll give it my all because I don’t want to let him down. And having him there in competition relaxes me. It keeps me calm.
Staying calm, and healthy, could very well help Smith land a spot at the CrossFit Games this summer!