After an intense competition in Madison, Wisconsin, Emma Cary returned to Marshfield last week from the 2019 Reebok CrossFit Games, but now she wears the first-place title of fittest in her age division.

She earned the achievement out of 10 girls in the age 14-15 girls division. Prior to the competition, Cary participated in the 2019 Granite Games May 30 to June 2 in St. Cloud, Minnesota. According to Cary, Jessica Griffith, Ozark, who competed in Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's show "The Titan Games" in February, suggested the competition to her.

"It wasn't a teenage division that I qualified in," said Cary. "It was the pro-women division. I placed 15th out of 40 women in that category. Jessica recommended the competition to me, so I would have some more experience before the CrossFit Games."

When she was invited to compete in the Granite Games, Cary chose the pro-women division because she wanted more of a challenge.

"I love pushing myself and doing things I didn't think were possible," said Cary. "That's how you grow, and I loved it."

Cary arrived Aug. 2 for the first day of the CrossFit Games, which included a sprint couplet (500 meters on the rowing machine) and 30 burpees, in which participants do a push-up and jump over a barbell.

"I did make a mistake — well, sort of," said Cary. "There is a plate on each side of the barbell and I kicked a plate, which caused my judge not to count that rep, so then I did the burpee on the other side, which wasted that burpee, but I kicked the plate so I had to move my barbell, and that cost me several points. I was a little disappointed about it, but I learned to let it go. I wasn't going to let one little score ruin my weekend, and I worked too hard for one silly mistake to prevent me from achieving my dream."

Cary moved onto the next event, which was five rounds of three rope climbs. She climbed up a 15-foot rope and then did 15 front squats and 60 lunges. During that workout, Cary said she could feel her hard work paying off.

"I felt so good, so strong," said Cary. "Every time in training I pushed through the pain, it allowed me to take my first win of my first CrossFit Games, which is the best feeling ever."

There were three workouts on the first day, two workouts the second day and three workouts the third day, according to Cary. One of her favorite events during the CrossFit Games was a 2.8 mile run, where she crossed the course wearing a weighted backpack. She ended up with an abrasion on her lower back from the weight rubbing up against her skin, but she hardly noticed it.

"It was unweighted on the first lap," said Cary. "Then you would put the backpack on, which had 20 pounds on the second lap and then 30 pounds the third lap. I really had a lot of fun with that one and with all of the events."

The second day of the competition included the sandbag triplet, where she had to walk 90 feet on her hands, complete 90 calories on a assault bike (similar to a stationary bike) and carry 100-pound sandbags on her feet. After a two-hour rest period, Cary and the other competitors transitioned to the next event: an 800-meter run, 30 handstand push-ups, 30 dumbbell thrusters, 30 box jumpovers and 30 power clings.

"For the first half of that workout, I was behind, but I just trusted my pace," said Cary. “You can’t pace off of other people because they’re not you. I just knew my body, and I knew I could finish strong and I did.”

The final day was a bit stressful for Cary since the events ran back to back and each one was worth 100 points. According to Cary, there were three points on the line that day and she only had a 10-point lead. The first event involved five minutes to build to a two-rep max overhead squat.

"That is where the barbell is over your head and you squat down and then back up," said Cary. "That is one of my favorite lifts, but my first attempt, for whatever reason, I dropped the bar. I couldn’t even get it above my head."

She didn't allow that to discourage her. Instead, she picked the barbell back up and  went down a weight. She added more weight to get to her first goal, 185 pounds, before she increased it to 190 pounds and managed to reach that goal. The next event was a 12 power snatch at 65 pounds, which involved bringing the barbell overhead. The last two workouts, Cary noted, were personal favorites in her list of workouts.

"It was 15 snatch at a lighter weight and then 15 chest-to-bar pull-ups," said Cary. "Again on the pull-up bar, you just pull up to chest hits, and then you do 12 of each, and then you do nine of each, and then you would run across the finish line."

When she made it half way to the finish line, Cary realized there was no one else around. She kept running, but she took a second to celebrate.

"I put my arms up," said Cary. "I remember it so clearly, but it felt like I was floating because at that point I knew I had done enough to achieve my dream, and it was the most amazing feeling when I crossed that finish line. I knew I had won the event and won overall. I knew my hard work paid off, and every sacrifice, every doubt and every fear had been worth it. It hardly even felt real."

Cary's family and friends came out to support her throughout the games. Her mother, Marla, said they were waiting for her when she crossed the finish line.

"Emma came in first all by herself and it was so amazing," said Marla. "We were so proud of her. We had about 13 people there to cheer her on, and that wasn't just family members, either."

Although a tense competition, Cary said she made friends with the other competitors there. One of them, Pauline Haro of Mexico, presented her with a bracelet, which she wears proudly.

"All the girls there were so sweet," said Cary. "Even though we were competing against each other, I still got to talk to girls my age who share the same interests as me. It was really cool."

While she is sad that the experience is over, Cary said she remains thankful for the opportunity, along with her family, friends and coaches who supported her through her journey. She also gives credit to God for giving her wisdom and strength to help her.

"Before we would go to an event, I would pray for God's wisdom," said Cary. "I would pray physically for strength and endurance, but I would also pray for God’s wisdom." She added, "I felt like God was with me throughout the entire competition."

This isn't the last competition for Cary. She said the first phase of the 2020 Reebok Games training qualifier begins Oct. 10, and she’s already preparing. As a final piece of advice, Cary shared some encouraging words for anyone interested in competing in the CrossFit Games.  

"Love what you do," said Cary. "To get to the CrossFit Games level, you have to dedicate so much time, so much effort and it’s too hard not to love it. You couldn’t make it if you didn't love it because there will be times that you don’t have the motivation. You don't feel motivated to push yourself to go suffer, to go do things you’re bad at, but you have to have the dedication to not take no for an answer and to get over there, no matter how you feel."

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