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Wadsworth alum Amanda (Pallija) Barnhart gets spotlight at CrossFit Games

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    Wadsworth native Amy (Pallija) Barnhart celebrates after winning the three-round clean-and-jerk speed ladder at the CrossFit Games.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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    Amanda (Pallija) Barnhart competes at the CrossFit Games.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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    Amanda (Pallija) Barnhart competes in the CrossFit Games.

    PHOTO PROVIDED

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Amanda (Pallija) Barnhart is 5-foot-7, 150 pounds and has less than 10 percent body fat.

The 2010 Wadsworth High graduate also is one of the fittest women in the world, having finished 15th at the recent CrossFit Games in Madison, Wis.

“I think about how much work I put in over the last year, but some of these girls have been doing this for five-plus years,” Barnhart said Thursday. “They eat, breathe and live CrossFit. It’s cool, because you see them perform and they don’t have any holes. That’s why they win.”

Having lettered in volleyball, swimming and track at Wadsworth, Barnhart went on to swim for four years at Cleveland State, where she earned a degree in health and science. She got her doctorate in physical therapy from the University of Dayton in 2017 and currently works in that profession in Dayton.

Along the way, Barnhart started dabbling in CrossFit. She went to the Central Regional in 2016 as part of a team and qualified as an individual the next year, finishing 25th.

It was then that she decided to get real serious in preparation for 2018.

“I basically devoted my whole life to it,” Barnhart said.

Consuming 3,300 calories a day and working out three to five hours a day, five days a week with husband Wes or Centerville CrossFit owner Mitch Lyons, the process of qualifying for the CrossFit Games began in February with the Worldwide Open.

For five weeks, approximately 250,000 interested women were sent a weekly workout to complete, with documentation and a videotape required. Athletes had to finish in the top 20 in one of the approximate 10 regions worldwide to advance.

Barnhart ended up second in the Central-East Region, earning her one of 40 spots — it was combined with 20 qualifiers from another region — in the Central Regional in Nashville, Tenn. She finished third there to qualify for the CrossFit Games, which featured the top 40 women worldwide.

“I was athletic in high school, but I didn’t do much weightlifting,” Barnhart said. “In college was when I really started to lift. There were times when I was as strong as some of the boys on our team.”

The CrossFit Games, however, involve more than strength. Swimming and gymnastics ability also are required, as are speed and endurance. (Athletes who qualified were drug tested at their regional competitions, with random testing done at the finals.)

Barnhart more than held her own in the strength and swimming portion of events but struggled with gymnastics requirements. The 27-year-old had five top-10 finishes in 14 events but didn’t place in the top 30 in several that required gymnastics maneuvers.

The highlight was winning the three-round clean-and-jerk speed ladder competition. The first round required competitors to complete, as fast as possible, five sets of one-repetition lifts ranging from 155 to 175 pounds. In the second round, the weight went up to 180 to 200 pounds, and in the third round it was 205 to 225 pounds.

“You’re going so fast, you see people in your peripheral vision, but you’re not sure who it is and where you’re at,” Barnhart said. “I knew (eventual overall champion) Tia-Clair Toomey (of Australia) and another girl were neck and neck with me, so when I got to the last lift, I didn’t even hesitate. I just picked it up as fast as I could.

“When I got to the finish line, I turned around and looked and thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, no one else is done yet.’”

Barnhart also finished third in an event that required one-rep maximum lifts in the squat (325 pounds), overhead press (150) and deadlift (390), and fifth in a competition that featured a 500-meter swim, 1,000-meter paddleboard and 2,000-meter run.

The hardest event, however, was on the first day of the competition, which was held from Aug. 1-5. It required athletes to complete a 26.1-mile marathon on a stationary rowing machine. It took Barnhart 3 hours, 8 minutes.

“I had blisters all over my hands,” she said. “I couldn’t bend over afterward, my back and butt were so sore. It was brutal, to say the least.”

That event was one of four held on Wednesday. Thursday was an off day, with participants returning for three more events Friday, four on Saturday and three on Sunday. A typical day lasted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., though the first day of competition didn’t conclude until 9 p.m.

“I felt pretty terrible Thursday because of the marathon row,” Barnhart said. “I burned more calories than ever before and I was dehydrated. I felt like I was hung over, basically. The best thing to do is eat and sleep, but it’s hard to sleep because you’re nervous, too.

“The name of the game is who can recover the most and still perform on Sunday. Everyone feels terrible on Sunday. It’s just a matter of whether your body can still do what it needs to do.”

In the end, Barnhart managed all that quite well. Combining her event win, the cash she got from top finishes in other events and her 15th-place finish overall, she brought home about $20,000 from the CrossFit Games.

Entry fees, however, are required at the regional levels. In addition, Barnhart paid her way to the CrossFit Games, where she estimates her hotel bill was $2,000 for the week, plus food and other costs. A fundraiser at Centerville CrossFit covered a large chunk of that, but add supplements like fish oil, creatine, amino acids and protein powder and “it gets very expensive,” Barnhart said.

Still, it’s a way of life Barnhart has come to love. She plans to compete for three to five more years, after which she and her husband — they met at Centerville CrossFit — plan to start a family.

“My goal is to win it someday,” Barnhart said of the CrossFit Games. “Because I’m so new to the sport, it’s not a crazy goal.”

Contact Rick Noland at (330) 721-4061 or rnoland@medina-gazette.com. Follow him @RickNoland on Twitter.
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