Barnetts target CrossFit regionals

The popularity of CrossFit training over the past decade is astounding, but it seems, that once hooked, many – like husband and wife team Matt and Tarasa Barnett – find it irresistible. 

The CrossFit Cayman owners are both competing in the Reebok CrossFit Games 2013 Latin American Regional this weekend in Guayaquil, Ecuador, from Friday until Sunday. 

It all started a couple of months ago when the CrossFit Games Open was staged and participants competed from their own gyms and sent in results. 

The top 48 men, women, and teams from 17 participating regions worldwide move on to the next phase of the competition, the regionals. Athletes will perform brutal combinations of workouts to test the range and depth of their physical and mental capabilities. 

After the weekend of gruelling events, only one man, one woman, and one team from Latin America will receive invitations to the 2013 Reebok CrossFit Games, from 22 to 28 July in Carson, California. 

With the tremendous growth of CrossFit globally, competition gets tougher every year. Tarasa previously represented Latin America at the CrossFit Games three times – as a team competitor in 2010 and an individual the past two years – and is considered among the fittest women in CrossFit. She placed third in the open in April and is hoping to once again make it to the games in July. 

“Competing can be mentally challenging,” she said. “Through my experience, I feel like I have learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. I also recently realised that CrossFit doesn’t define who I am and do it to have fun more than anything.” 

Matt said he is pleased to have placed seventh in the open qualifier, after undergoing left knee surgery six months ago. He last competed in the CrossFit Games two years ago. 

“Whatever they throw at me, I am ready for, be it a high skill or a heavy weight,” he said. 

Tarasa first heard about CrossFit five years ago. At the time, she was a personal trainer at a gym when Matt found out about CrossFit online and began following the daily workouts on the main site. 

Tarasa thought he was a little obsessed, but wanting to share his new hobby, decided to give it a shot. 

“I also really didn’t want him to be fitter than me,” she jokes. 

Now, Tarasa, 29, is super fit. She never thought she would be competing when she first started, but she hopes others see her story as inspirational. 

“I can relate to a lot of people starting out and let them know I started exactly where they did,” she said. “I struggled with a lot of the gymnastics movements in particular at first – not being able to do things like a pull-up or handstand. And, now, to think that I can do 50 pull-ups in a row, do handstand pushups and walk on my hands is pretty cool.” 

Prior to CrossFit, she was an avid gym-goer and competitive beach volleyball player in Grand Cayman, with no real gymnastics or strength background. Today, with a snatch of 145 pounds, a clean and jerk of 195 pounds and a Fran time of 3:20, that has changed.  

She trains three days on, one day off, two days on, one day off, year round, under the guidance of C.J. Martin of CrossFit Invictus. 

“He makes sure I don’t shy away from working on things I don’t like,” she said. 

Not many had heard of CrossFit prior to the box’s opening in Industrial Park and the Barnetts wanted to change that. They are now based at Camana Bay. 

“I have a business and marketing degree and when I graduated from college I had a desk job for over a year,” she said. “It was not for me. I wanted something where I could be active and help people.” 

She left corporate America without looking back to become a personal trainer. Not long after, she moved with Matt to Grand Cayman to be closer to be closer to family and continued to train clients until discovering CrossFit. 

“Once my husband and I started CrossFitting, there was no looking back and we wanted a space where we could really CrossFit – you know, drop weights, rope climb … We decided, even if no one came to our gym, at least we would have a space to CrossFit.” 

Attracting clients was not a problem. 

“We started small, but grew pretty quickly with our members. It’s awesome to think about where we were four years ago and where we are now. My goal for the future is to continue to give my all to our gym and members and help make a difference in their lives. I definitely believe that is where success lies.” 

After recent knee surgery, Matthew hopes that three months of healthy training before regionals are enough for him to win. He tore his knee playing college baseball. Now, at 33, he has finally undergone surgery and is recovering gradually. 

He feels almost like a new client just starting CrossFit, rather than a veteran. 

In 2011, Barnett said he felt like he was managing his injuries and wasn’t able to give all he had. After surgery, he was only able to do some strength training and has to stay away from anything that could re-injure his knee, including box jumps, running or double-unders. 

Barnett is now fitting in more of the met-con work to improve his conditioning. As a result of the pure strength training, he has seen a lot of personal records. 

Before surgery, his best snatch was 235 pounds and it’s now up to 250 pounds. His back squat went from 345 pounds to 385 pounds and front squat improved 40 pounds to 355 pounds. 

Barnett is being careful during the competition season not to re-injure his knee. “I will have to listen to my body,” he said. 

But his bad day is still better than most in the region. On 13.1, he managed 14 reps at the 165-pound snatches, enough to start out the open in 11th place. He was pleasantly surprised with this result because of the surgery and is now optimistic for Ecuador. 

“For, me it is more about developing the cardiovascular endurance and building the engine,” he said. 

He is also working on weaknesses, but never forgetting to keep it fun and mixing in the things at which he is good. 

CrossFit for Matt is more balanced now than it was only two years ago, he said, more concerned with being physically prepared for life and, lately, he puts clients and family needs ahead of his own training. 

“My hope is that my identity in CrossFit isn’t solely on being a competitor,” he said. “That way if I do succeed, people can see more than just the athlete.” 


For more information on CrossFit Cayman, contact [email protected] or phone 929-8450. 


Matt has overcome injury to reach the regionals this weekend.


Tarasa is totally consumed by CrossFit. – PHOTOS: RON SHILLINGFORD


The Barnetts are optimistic about reaching the finals.

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