LUMBERTON — Lumberton resident James English was the last man in the field for this past weekend’s Wodapalooza Fitness Festival CrossFit event hosted in Miami, Fla., but when it was all said and done he was the last man standing atop the podium as the top finisher in the men’s Masters 50-and-over division.
“I was on the bottom of the cusp of the two that didn’t get slots because of the former champions so I didn’t originally get invited,” English said. “On the next wave of invitations, I guess one of the former champions decided he wasn’t coming, and they gave that slot back to me.
“I was telling Alex Johnston, one of the coaches at QFE, that, ‘You know what? Since they invited me last, it would be great and a slap in their face if I take first place.’”
For his first time competing in a “big show” event, the 52-year-old made a splash in Miami as he earned 724 points in the event that came from nine separate workouts in three days, to finish six points ahead of two competitors in a share of second place. The event combines the different physical aspects of CrossFit, like distance running, weightlifting and agility, among other things.
The key to winning the event for English came from a consistent, steady run through the competition. Despite not winning an individual workout, English finished in the top three in five of the nine events.
“My brother came down and met me from Las Vegas in Miami, and he was just telling me that I was the most consistent in the three days,” English said. “There were others that were good at this, but weren’t good at the next one and I was just steady through all the events.
“I try to sharpen my skills in everything that CrossFit covers.”
The result was something that English still is trying to wrap his head around after going up against 14 competitors, with some that had experience at bigger events.
“My feeling was shock. I couldn’t believe it happened,” he said. “Everyone was in phenomenal shape and I was surprised. I thought that I would be a supreme being there because I had worked on my physique and ability, but there were 14 other highly-skilled individuals there.”
Training at CrossFit QFE in Lumberton for the past two years, he has channeled the same feel and drive that he had while previously serving the military. English retired from the U.S. Army as a Sergeant First Class, and for the past two years has regularly trained approximately five times a week for one- to two-hour sessions.
The goal at 52 years old is simple for English.
“When people usually ask me why I do it, I tell them because of life. I want to stay alive and if I ever have grandchildren, I want to be able to play with them and not bend over and say I hurt my back and I can’t do it,” he said. “I don’t want to be the guy on the sidelines, I want to be the guy out there playing with them. Being alive and being relevant is my thing.
“It’s how I get my high. When people say, ‘let’s go to the bar and get intoxicated or drunk,’ the bar is the weightlifting bar for me. It gets me high.”
In a sport like CrossFit, goals are what keep athletes striving for more from themselves. After tasting the action under the bright lights in Miami, English now wants to go to the biggest stage in the sport — the CrossFit games. He hopes that this year will be the year that he can make the cut after coming up short on previous attempts.
“I’m trying to train mentally and not over-train and pray to stay healthy,” English said. “That’s like the Super Bowl of CrossFit.”
Quinn Locklear, another athlete that trains alongside English, competed in a CrossFit event over the weekend, and finished second in the War of the WODs in Greensboro on Saturday. Locklear finished runner-up in the men’s Masters 46-and-over division.
“I was very pleased,” he said. “I think there was 17 or 18 guys in my class and all those guys are super athletes. I’m just real blessed to be able to do what I was able to do.”
Locklear, 47, has been training at CrossFit QFE for more than four years and likes how the sport allows him to compete among people his age.
“I’ve always exercised, lifted weights and ran. CrossFit is a compilation of that,” Locklear said. “Nothing is routine, it’s always different. I like the competition of it and being able to compete. It kind of gives the average Joe like myself the opportunity to compete against other guys like myself.
While working out in his free time when he is not working as a pilot, Locklear said that having someone like English to train with helps push him, and many others at CrossFit QFE.
“When I get a chance to train with him, and I’m no where near the level he is on, he pushes me and even the young guys to be even better,” Locklear said.
Lumberton resident James English stands atop the podium after winning the men’s Master 50-and-over division of Wodapalooza in Miami over the weekend.
James English lifts a weight over his head while Quinn Locklear, center, looks on at CrossFit QFE in Lumberton. Locklear finished second in the men’s Masters 46-and-over division at a CrossFit event in Greensboro on Saturday.
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.