A 275-pound deadlift, 48 pull-ups, back squatting twice her weight. CrossFit competitor and WOD Gear Team Clothing Co. athlete Valerie Calhoun is known for putting up some pretty impressive numbers, but there's one that elicits the most gasps: her age. Calhoun started CrossFit at 13 and now at 17 is the youngest woman to compete in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games. While her youth may surprise others, it doesn't faze her. "I may be young compared to my competitors, but I love the adrenaline rush when I'm competing. Crossfit brings out the best in me and makes me give 110 percent."
Always an athlete, Calhoun started competitive gymnastics at age 4 but had to quit after nine years due to an injury. Thankfully, Rocklin CrossFit owner and trainer Gary Baron discovered her and saw the preteen's incredible potential. By 2011 Calhoun's team took sixth place in the Reebok CrossFit games and people worldwide began to see the tiny California girl (she's only 5-feet tall!) as serious competition.
Like many young athletes, Calhoun has had to make some sacrifices for the sport she loves. "Of course there are moments where I can't hang out with friends because I am too busy with CrossFit, but that is my choice. I do find time to balance gym time and play time because I still want to enjoy my teen years," she says. "I have missed a school dance or even finals for Regionals, but all in all I feel that CrossFit fits perfectly in my life."
In between handstand walks and pistol squats—some of her favorite moves—she works on the timed workouts and Olympic lifts that make up the CrossFit competition. Her favorite WOD (workout of the day, a CrossFitter's daily task) is "Fran," a short but intense workout made up of three rounds of 21, 15, and 9 reps of thrusters and pull-ups. "I love it because I perform it well, and I hate it because it takes so much out of me after doing it," Calhoun says of the brutal workout, which took center stage in one of her most dramatic CrossFit moments yet.
"[It was] the final event at the 2011 Crossfit Games. It required all six team members to do an individual workout for time, like a relay. The first person must complete before the next can proceed and so on before the 30-minute time limit is reached, she says. "Unfortunately, our first team member got stuck on ring dips, taking her 25 minutes to complete her portion of the workout. By then the other five teams were almost done with all six of their segments. After 25 minutes, my teammate completed her last ring dip and I was on to do Fran. As I was doing my pull ups, the whole stadium started to count my reps out loud. I completed Fran in under three minutes and then we went to our third member. By the time our fourth member was halfway done, time was capped and the judges stopped and walked away. Although time had expired, our team members continued until all six members were completed, with the crowd's energy and the other teams cheering us on. Even though we did not take first, it was a magical experience and is a good example of what CrossFit is all about."
With that behind her, what's her goal for the Games this year? "To be the youngest winner of the CrossFit games ever" of course!
UPDATE: Calhoun's team, the Honey Badgers, came in 16th at the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games. So while the girl known as "the wunderkind" didn't do as well as she'd hoped, being so young has its advantages: She'll definitely be back for many more competitions!