Back in 2014, Brandon Bartz, coach at 500 member strong affiliate Quad City CrossFit (QCCF), called a team meeting for six of his most elite athletes. To their surprise, Seth Rollins, WWE superstar and long-time member at QCCF was there with an offer they couldn't refuse. Spending 300+ days each year traveling and seeing a plethora of CrossFit gyms and athletes, he knew his team at QCCF could be competitive with the best. Seth told them, "You guys can go all the way. I want to help you get there." Seth offered to hook them up with sponsorship and expenses in hopes that they would make it to the CrossFit Games in 2015, ending with, "What do you guys think, you interested?" As team member Mekenzie Riley put it, "Is that really a question?" and before they knew it, there were hooked up with plates and barbells and supplements started showing up on their doorstep. They have the skills, the drive, and the team, Seth Rollins gave them the tools and, of course, lent them the famous Rollins name.
At the start of the 2015 CrossFit Games Open, Seth approached Blonyx after using our products for a few months. "My team needs to get on this."was the message received by Blonyx sales rep Mel Crow one night. "Will you help them? Fast forward a few weeks and the team were officially #Blonyxified.
Having a WWE Superstar backing you is evidently a perk, but there's way more to these guys than a celebrity agent. For this reason we would like to introduce you to the team behind Rollins: Ben Kuebel, Colin Cartee, Joe Piersanti, Maddy Ruggeberg, Mekenzie Riley, and Jessica Murphy, headed by coach Brandon Bartz.
Photo: Brems Photographic
The athletes at Blonyx wholesaler QCCF are no strangers to the competitive world. The affiliate took a team to the CrossFit Games Regionals in 2014, and Maddy, Colin, and Jessie all made a Games appearance in 2013 on a team; Maddy before that in 2012. Confidence in their return to Carson this year therefore has to be taken seriously, as announced openly by Rollins directly calling out both CrossFit Games director Dave Castro and last year's winner - going team - Rich Froning. I guess Seth's reputation as the "bad boy" transcends sports.
Training schedules, and Donuts
Don't let the trash-talking fool you, Team Rollins is lazer focused on prepping themselves for the 2015 Central Super Regional competition after a fourth place finish in the North Central open this year. As they put it, "We don't really worry about what anyone else is doing. We don't really have time!" Moonlighting as full-time students (Joe and Colin), a physical therapist (Jessie), a dietitian (Mekenzie), a full-time trainer at QCCF (Maddy), and even a concrete pipe salesman (Ben), they have to focus on coordinating getting together as often as possible for their intense team training (and bonding) sessions, often involving donuts and rarely involving pants.
Team Rollins needs donuts to refuel after their sessions, usually consisting of similar programming for each of them: A mix of weightlifting, metcons, and gymnastics, but with individual work on weaknesses and working around injuries.
Teamwork, team roles and growling at the competition?
When I asked the team who emerged as the leader during these training sessions, I was first met with dead silence, then finally a consensus that the reason they work so flawlessly together is because they all have the ability to lead, as well as the ability to follow. They are a group of individuals so focused on being a team they finish each other's sentences.
Just because they seamlessly lead the team into battle simultaneously doesn't mean each individual doesn't play a specific role or that everyone has the same strengths. Ben is the obvious class clown, asking if our interview would be on or off camera, so he could decide if full makeup and/or pants were necessary. We naturally all decided yes on the make-up, no on the pants. #crossfit
Maddy was dubbed with the ability to keep the team calm and on-track under pressure, but any team should have the sense to listen to a girl that can deadlift #340 for two.
Poor Mekenzie was labeled the grandma of the group, but watching this girl hit 50 unbroken wall balls after a 1000m row....she's definitely the fittest grandma I've ever seen. The debate came about on who was most competitive, and although they all agreed they compete in everything from WODs to eating, Colin won this one with his fondness for growling at the competition. Watch out Central Region.
I can't speak enough to this group's ability to connect as a team; it goes deeper than just the strong ones (Mekenzie and Maddy) picking up more weight or Jessie honing in on her gymnastics skills. When I asked about dividing the work among strengths and weaknesses, the team seemed nonchalant about strategy (although maybe they're just trying to throw off the competition), "At least two people are good at everything; our strengths overlap." Each one picks up right where the other leaves off.
My favorite part of my conversation with this group was my question about Super Regionals,
"Are you all for sure planning on making the Games this year?"
Looking for a big push at the end
This attitude is I love about this group. They're able to be humble, yet confident. The team admitted that some WODs at Regionals would play better to their strengths, interval work and a clean complex would be, "ideal for Team Rollins," but they also recognize that where many teams struggle, like with high percentages at multiple reps, is where they excel. Anything with a "big push at the end" will give them the advantage. More than anything, the team is waiting anxiously for the Super Regional WOD announcements so they can start practicing. "100 times each, every day, three times a day, at least!" they joked. The scary thing is, I kind of believe them. They're super motivated, crazy dedicated, and work harder than any other group of people I've met. Team Rollins is "super excited" about Regionals and they hope the support system from QCCF will make the 6 hour drive to Minnesota this May to cheer them on. They're all also hoping Seth Rollins will make it to Super Regionals to proudly watch over the team he's believed in since the beginning. All aboard the Team Rollins train, because it's not stopping anytime soon.