Is There a Sophomore Slump at the Games?


Good morning and welcome to the Morning Chalk Up.

In today’s edition:

  • At 21, it’s surprising to learn that Lexi Neely has been in CrossFit for eight years already. Get to know more about her and her long road (back) to the Games.

  • Is the “sophomore slump” a thing at the CrossFit Games? We tracked every two-time (or more) Games athlete and crunched the numbers below.

  • Law enforcement, military, and first responders make up the bedrock of the CrossFit community, and Chris Shimley at Top Fuel CrossFit in Indiana is all in on training them for their jobs and for longevity.


“I was very surprised when my name was called…I was shocked. I was shaking and I was just so surprised. It just didn’t seem real,” - First-time Games qualifier Lexi Neely on hearing her name announced at the North America East Semifinal


Credit: @lexi_neely_ / Instagram

CrossFit Games Rookie Spotlight: Lexi Neely and Her Six-Year Journey to the Games

Lexi Neely thought she would have to put her CrossFit Games dream on hold for yet another year.

  • The 21-year-old Neely entered the final event of the 2024 North America East Semifinals, sitting just two spots above the cutline in ninth.

She cruised through the Echo bike calories and 15 muscle-ups and was the first athlete in her heat to get to the final dumbbell walking lunges. 

All was well for a while until her grip started to give out. 

One no-rep. 

Two no-reps. 

Pretty soon, almost the entire field had passed her. She wound up 25th in the event.

As she waited for the announcer to reveal the 11 qualifiers in Knoxville, TN, Neely wasn’t expecting to hear her name. 

  • “I thought I lost it,” Neely said in an interview with the Morning Chalk Up.

Turns out, she almost lost it, but Neely managed to edge out Anikha Greer by a single point, claiming the final qualifying spot from North America. 

  • “I was very surprised when my name was called…I was shocked. I was shaking and I was just so surprised” she said. “It just didn’t seem real.”

A Long Road to the Games

Though Neely is only 21, she has been competing in the sport for eight years. After a successful youth gymnastics career, Neely found CrossFit as a teenager and qualified for the 2018 CrossFit Games at 15. 

She finished 19th.


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🗣️🎙️2024 CrossFit Games Games Announcer Update: Sean Woodland, the long-time and beloved “Voice of the CrossFit Games,” revealed via Instagram yesterday that he had not been asked by CrossFit to call the Games this year.

  • From the post: “To say that I am disappointed would be a major understatement. I was far from ready to give up a role that has meant more to me in my career than any other I had. As of this writing, I have not been told why the decision was made or who ultimately made the call.”

🚐 📉 CrossFit Games RV Campground Pricing Update: Staying in the RV campground adjacent to the Dickies Arena at the 2024 CrossFit Games in Fort Worth just got a whole lot cheaper. The CrossFit Games team dropped RV camping space rental from $1300 to $480. Reserve yours now.

🎟️📈 Known and Knowable Games Ticket Tracker: Mike Halpin, the mind behind Known & Knowable, is keeping an eye on the 2024 CrossFit Games ticket resale prices on StubHub, Vivid Seats, and Ticketmaster. If you are still hoping to get your hands on a couple, find the best available deals here.

ICYMI: Team TTT CrossFit Endure grabbed the eighth and final ticket to Fort Worth at the North America East Semifinal, but that was the “easy” part for team member Chris Knizewski. Learn how he finds balance in his busy life and how you can apply his lessons to yours.


Credit: @alexgrodriguez4 / Instagram

Is There a Sophomore Slump at the CrossFit Games?

The 2024 CrossFit Games will see five women and six men returning for their sophomore trip. 

  • This includes eight athletes who had their rookie season last year. On this list are top-20 overall finishers Jelle Hoste, Bayley Martin, and Shelby Neal. (See the full list below.)

A second year at the Games can give these athletes a boost, as they have a year of experience to build upon. 

  • It also gives them the confidence that they belong at this level in the sport and that their first season wasn’t a fluke. 

On the other hand, a second year can bring more pressure for an athlete to perform and build off their rookie results. 

So, what happens to sophomore athletes in CrossFit? 

Do they tend to have a “sophomore slump,” or do we see second-year break-outs?

Remind me: Since 2010, 259 athletes have made their second appearance at the CrossFit Games. 

  • The majority of these athletes (143) improved their finish from their rookie year, but 100 finished in a worse position than their debut, while 16 athletes finished in the same spot. 

The Improvers

Out of the 143 athletes who had a better finish in their second year, 71 jumped by 10 or more sports on the overall leaderboard. 


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Credit: @portagelocal3151 / Instagram

Chris Shimley and Top Fuel CrossFit – Fueling Future Firefighters

In 2010, Chris Shimley began using CrossFit for off-season football training. 

The Top Fuel CrossFit owner and head coach from Valparaiso, IN, went on to qualify for Regionals six times. 

  • For nearly 15 years, Shimley has also served various athletes, from regional-level competitors to everyday fitness enthusiasts in his gym. 

But, there is another group that Shimley specializes in training — firefighters and other first responders.

About four years ago, Shimley jumped on an opportunity to expand his work with this population.

  • “One of our members was a firefighter,” Shimley told the Morning Chalk Up in an interview, “and I reached out to him to connect with his department and market my business and CrossFit to him. They set up a meeting between the fire chief and me, and we chatted about doing a challenge with their department.”

The challenge was just the beginning.

  • “We wanted to work together on training firefighters. When a department hires a firefighter [a rookie or trainee], they send them to a program called the Career One Fire Academy, and they enroll in a 16-week course,” Shimley said.

The department does the program twice a year with 15-20 people in a group, and Shimley was tapped to aid in their physical training. 

  • Prospective firefighters train in a facility located near Top Fuel that includes a 20-acre public safety training campus, a four-story search and rescue tower, a live burn building, a vehicle extraction pad, and more.  

All the systems on campus are designed and manufactured to meet National Fire Protection Association requirements. Head here to learn more about the facility.

Shimley has worked with a full range of prospective firefighters.

  • “I have some prospects that are fresh out of high school where they were the star linebacker on their football team for four years, and then I have some who have never touched a weight in their life,” Shimley said. “The beauty of it is we can adapt and scale endlessly to wherever they're at.”


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  • Great work to Lynette and Mason Berger for getting after their garage gym workout.

  • Nice work to Oli from the UK on his 120-kilo/264-pound hang snatch.

  • 🏊Congratulations to Kaitlyn Johnson, who placed 47th in the 50-yard freestyle at the US at the Olympic Swim Trials.

  • 📝Congratulations to CrossFit seminar staff Fran Pinheiro on receiving her CF-L4.