GVSU strength club member finds success in CrossFit

By Brendan McMahon | 7/11/16 8:40pm

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GVL / Courtesy -


Anthony “AJ” Davis’ journey through CrossFit has taken him far from his home in Plainwell, Michigan. What was once nothing more than a hobby, CrossFit has become the staple in this Grand Valley State senior’s life.

Davis was a three-sport varsity athlete in high school. He participated in basketball, golf, and was a captain on the football team. Davis enjoyed messing around and having fun as well, as he was voted “Most Spirited” among his classmates.

Davis found his days of competition potentially over after his high school graduation. In the summer of 2013, Davis came across the CrossFit Games on TV.

“It totally inspired me,” Davis said. “I knew I wanted to find a way to do that.”

Before long, an opportunity presented itself in a serendipitous way. Davis was at the GVSU Recreation Center when he noticed another student doing several muscle-ups, an advanced workout where one starts on the ground, grips the bar overhead and proceeds to pull their entire body over the bar.

That student turned out to be Jack Klingbiel, who was a member of the GVSU strength club. Davis approached Klingbiel and brought up his desire to get involved with CrossFit. Right then, Klingbiel got him started with the strength club.

Davis began working out with the club near the end of this freshman year in 2014. He immediately gained the attention of his fellow club members.

“We knew that he had a lot of potential in him,” strength club president Adam Marthaler said. “For his first time ever doing CrossFit he was moving really well and most new things clicked with him.”

A couple months into his newfound love of CrossFit, Davis followed the lead of Klingbiel and joined the CrossFit gym, Lake Effect. There he participated as a member and did his qualifying events for The 2014 Open.

The Open is an event that hundreds of thousands of people compete in. Only a select few hundred advance to The CrossFit Regionals. From Regionals, only the most elite advance to The CrossFit Games, which consist of the world’s top CrossFit athletes.

As nothing more than a casual CrossFit trainer, Davis finished in 1,600 place out of roughly 10,000 participants in the 2014 Open.

Not too bad for a beginner.

“I was only training one to two hours a day at that point,” Davis said. “I was eating whatever I wanted.”

Davis increased his training time per week and cut his beloved TimBits donuts out of his diet. He became a coach at Lake Effect and devoted the majority of his time to preparing for The 2015 Open.

This time around, Davis placed 133rd out of about 10,000 competitors in The Open, only 58 spots away from qualifying for Regionals. Though Davis was happy with his performance, he knew it was still not his best.

Davis made qualifying for the 2016 regionals his goal. He wrote his goal everywhere he went, on his wall at home, at the gym and in his notebooks.

”I started training two to four hours a day,” Davis said. “I made working out my whole life.”

Davis cut out every distraction from his life, including alcohol and junk food. Unfortunately, he had to cut out social time and friends as well. The college experience took a back seat as Davis vied to become one of the world’s most elite CrossFit athletes.

In the fall of 2015, Davis competed in the East Coast Championship Qualifier where he took 11th place. This qualifier was filled with legitimate CrossFit competition.

Davis was less concerned about the competition and more concerned with self-betterment.

“You’re competing against yourself every day,” Marthaler said. “Trying to do the best that you can and get better each day, that’s what CrossFit is.”

Davis, with improving his lifts and times in the gym, received a sponsorship and improved in the classroom as well, earning his best GPA in college so far.

Finally, The 2016 Open arrived—a five week competition with an event every week, with only the top 20 athletes advancing on to regionals. Come week five of The Open, Davis found himself right on the cusp of advancing to regionals.

Event five, the deciding event, was a repeat of his first ever CrossFit competition back in 2014. A 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 rep circuit of thrusters and bar-facing burpees. In 2014, Davis recorded a time of 12:31 in the event. Just two years and countless hours of training later, Davis recorded a time of 8:51 in 2016. He took 20th place in the event and clinched a spot in regionals, finishing 19th overall in The Open.

“It was unreal because I sacrificed so much to achieve this,” Davis said.

Davis’ journey through the 2016 Games came to an end soon after in regionals. He finished in 24th place in the central region, nine spots away from qualifying for the CrossFit Games.

“It was the best experience of my life,” Davis said. “My goal was top 75 and to finish 19th was already a huge accomplishment.”

Davis will compete in a couple events coming up this year, but his primary focus is The 2017 CrossFit Games—an event that represents his next goal, his mission and his life’s passion.

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