Editor’s Note: This story was submitted by Lex Enrico Santí, a returned Peace Corps volunteer who works at Cornell and is a crossfit athlete and yoga instructor. He holds an MFA from George Mason University and an MSW from Washington University in Saint Louis. More about him can be found at www.alexissanti.com
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On September 20th Tim Paulson and Eamon Coyne brought their leadership and passion to the respective GRID teams and both walked away national champions. Paulson of the DC Brawlers and Coyne of the Bridgewater Gladiators began their friendship in the classroom and on the ice at Ithaca College. After founding the CrossFit Pallas gym in Ithaca, NY in 2012 the two began a fruitful business as co-owners and now also as GRID team members and national champs.
Their friendship and their humbleness, on and off the GRID, is what draws people into their gym. Coyne, 35 a burly five foot eight, sports a buzz cut and has a warm and easy smile, his grin endearing, handshake firm. Paulson, who at 6’ 1” and 25 years old looks like he walked off the set of a gladiator movie.
His red beard comes down below his neck and with his massive size, you’d expect him to carry a battle axe when not wielding a barbell. CrossFit Pallas began in a dusty garage across the street from the Ithaca Bakery on Court Street. The roof leaked, the toilet often didn’t flush but it was home. CrossFit Pallas is now located in a 10,000 square foot state of the art gym behind Wegmans.
If you’re familiar with CrossFit (the high intensity workouts and gym life that has taken the world by storm) (For more on CrossFit check this link), GRID will seem familiar. GRID is a competitive co-ed team sport, something of a cousin of CrossFit, where teams compete in races against one another. As Paulson explains, “The success of Crossfit, and specifically the Crossfit Games, definitely spawned the birth of GRID.” “While the movements are similar [in GRID] you can substitute in and out during races which is not something you can do in CrossFit.” Said Coyne, who has been doing CrossFit for 10 years.
The National League of GRID is now in its second year of competition. Paulson’s DC Brawlers went into this past season as the reigning champions. This year they bested The Phoenix Rise in a nail biter match that saw them hold out in a 18-17 victory. Coyne’s Bridgewater Gladiators competed in an invitational competition amateur league, against the Chicago Rally, winning 20-15.
Watching GRID is like watching something out of the future, or at least, deleted scenes of Mad Max: Beyond Thunder Dome. The co-ed matches sport some the fittest and most dynamic athletes you’ve ever seen. These are men and women that can lift hundreds of pounds repeatedly and then climb a rope without their legs five times in under 10 seconds. Typically, a pair for each team goes through a number of repetitions of heavy weightlifting combined with a gymnastic movement, such as pull-ups or rope-climbs. The teams race against one another through four quadrants in each race, each group of athletes attempts to best the other side. “GRID is all about teamwork, substitutions, and operating at redline (maximum output) for as long as possible. CrossFit is all about operating within the 70-90% threshold as much as possible—whoever has the best 90% output, wins,” Said Paulson.
Their friendship is what drew me to this story, Eamon, whose older brother mentality has shaped countless athletes in the area, as well as Paulson, formed a bond with the younger athlete over the years, “Tim and I talk and text almost every day, so being in California was no different. I would let him know after their match that he did a great job and I was proud of him.” Tim, ever appreciative of their brotherhood, thanked the CrossFit Pallas community but especially his fiancé Caitlin McKenna for her unwavering support, “She’s been my biggest supporter on this functional fitness (both Crossfit and Grid) from the start, and I couldn’t have had the successes I have without her.”
I’d say the two of them have a lot to celebrate and Ithaca has national champs competing in a new and exciting sport.
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