Two former UNO Athletes
with help from two other Mavs
chase the title of 'Fittest on Earth'
By Rick Davis
Photos: CrossFit, Inc. All other rights reserved by CrossFit, Inc.
See more about Kyle Kasperbauer and Stacie Wemhoff Tovar in Feeling Fit
Two UNO graduates were among the top contenders in the 2012 Reebok CrossFit Games, competing for the title of Fittest on Earth. CrossFit is a relatively new fitness concept that focuses on functional movement — moving large loads, long distances, quickly.
Former UNO athletes Kyle Kasperbauer (football) and Stacie Wemhoff Tovar (volleyball) have advanced to the world championship every year since 2009. The first CrossFit Games were held in 2007, and its popularity has grown every year.
“More than 20,000 CrossFitters worldwide tried to qualify for the CrossFit Games in 2011, and that number jumped to 75,000 in 2012,” Tovar says.
The games (games.crossfit.com) start with open competitions at 17 regional sites worldwide beginning in February. The top 60 men and 60 women advance to regionals, where the top three qualify for the world championship, held in July at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif. One man and one woman are crowned champions.
Kasperbauer, 30, has competed both as an individual and in team competition in the CrossFit Games. He finished 37th as an individual at the world championship in 2009; took second and 19th in team competition in 2010 and 2011, respectively; and placed first at regionals and third in the world championship as an individual in 2012. He is excited to compete again in 2013.
“You know that the competition is going to get better and better, but I feel great; I feel strong; I feel good for it being the off-season of our sport,” Kasperbauer says. His goal for 2013 is simple: “To win.”
Like Kasperbauer, Tovar, 28, had her best finish at the world championship in 2012, placing 12th overall. She finished 37th in 2009; 14th in 2010; and 37th in 2011, when she also placed first at regionals.
“My goal for 2013 is to win regionals and enjoy my time at the CrossFit Games,” says Tovar, a 2007 UNO exercise science graduate.
CrossFit Games events are usually not announced until the competition — so that athletes are training for overall fitness and not a particular event. In 2012, Tovar says the toughest event was a “sprint triathlon” (swimming, biking, running). In 2009, Kasperbauer for one event rowed for 500 meters then pounded a five-foot stake into the ground with a sledgehammer.
“And we had to do that three times,” he says.
Both Tovar and Kasperbauer were introduced to CrossFit through UNO strength coaches at the time, Joe Westerlin and Ricky Frausto, themselves UNO graduates and former UNO athletes, football and wrestling, respectively.
Kasperbauer vividly remembers his first CrossFit workout. “It was tough, and I thought I was in pretty good shape. I did a rope climb, and I just remember my arms were about ready to explode. … From that point on, I just kind of got hooked.”
When Westerlin and Frausto opened their own CrossFit gym in Omaha in 2008, Kasperbauer and Tovar both joined and have since become training partners. They train five to six days a week for an hour to three hours per day — and more often as competition nears.
Both Tovar and Kasperbauer squeeze in training between full-time jobs. Tovar is a business development specialist at SimplyWell, a wellness company in Omaha, and an assistant volleyball coach at Skutt Catholic High School. She is married to another CrossFitter, two-time UNO All-American wrestler Dustin Tovar. Kasperbauer is an athletic trainer and rehabilitation specialist at LifeTime Fitness. He and his wife have a 17-month-old daughter and a son due in February.
Could Tovar and Kasperbauer win it all in 2013? “Absolutely, I think they have a shot,” says their trainer Westerlin. “It’s a daunting task, but they have the potential.”
* Feeling Fit, exploring how UNO researchers can tell how fit — and fat! — you realy are
* Heating Up ... and Cooling Down, a UNO professor's research into how temperature might optimize training.