Allen Duarte has always demanded a lot from his athletes, so the Reebok CrossFit Games were right up his alley to test himself.
The veteran St. Anthony High School pole vault coach finished seventh in the 50-54 age group last week at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., finishing a journey that began in February with qualifying.
"It is quite a process to get there," said Duarte, the 1980 and 1981 state pole vault champion for the Trojans who has coached numerous state champions and medalists in the event for the past 30 years. "It is a worldwide competition."
Allen Duarte of Maui, shown competing in the handstand walk, finished seventh in the age 50-54 division at the CrossFit Games, which ended last week in Carson, Calif. Duarte won the handstand walk and a combination event during the competition.
BERTRAND KIKUCHI photo
Allen Duarte holds up his CrossFit Games sign during the competition, which ended last week in Carson, Calif. Duarte finished seventh in the 50-54 age group.
BARBARA DUARTE photo
More than 300,000 people registered for the competition, including more than 7,000 in Duarte's age group. The 50-year-old Maui County fire battalion chief tried last year when he was on the back end of the 45-49 age group and did not get past the preliminary stage.
"To advance to the next stage in the masters division, they took the top 200 worldwide in each age group," Duarte said. "We qualified for a second set of workouts, the masters qualifying round. In that phase we did four workouts in four days - you had to complete all four workouts in the four-day period and it had to be done at a CrossFit facility, judged by a registered judge. The workout had to be videotaped, uncut, so there was no editing."
After a little more than a week of waiting, Duarte found out he was in the top 20 in his age group and had his invitation to the Games.
"I finished seventh, so it appeared that I made the games, but we waited for them to ask for the video submission," he said. "It was about 10 days after the workouts were complete where I got a letter, 'Congratulations, your video was reviewed and you have made it to the Reebok CrossFit Games.' "
Duarte, who is 5-foot-4 and 148 pounds, won two of eight events: the handstand walk at 130 feet, and a combined event of a 1,000-meter row, five rounds of 20 pull-ups and then seven shoulder presses at 135 pounds.
"I'm as strong as I have ever been," he said. "At age 50, I have done 55 consecutive pull-ups, I have deadlifted 435 pounds. Overall fitness, I feel as good as I did in my 30s."
Duarte smiles at the whole process.
"It's pretty neat," Duarte said. "I don't get too carried away with this kind of stuff. People say, 'seventh in the world.' Well, it's seventh in the world of the people who decided to register for this particular competition, in my age group. My wife (Barbara) calls CrossFit a cult - I guess I'm part of that cult."
Duarte impressed those who know him best.
"His 7th place overall finish in his age bracket is amazing," fellow fireman and two-time U.S. Olympian in weightlifting Vernon Patao said in an email. "Getting to the Crossfit Games is tough in itself. Placing that high is unbelievable."
Mark Thayer, who won the 2011 state high jump title and finished third in the pole vault for St. Anthony under Duarte's guidance, praised his former coach.
"He's an awesome coach, he demands focus and he's pretty serious," Thayer said. "He's the best coach I have ever had. He carries some of the stuff he does from CrossFit over to pole vaulting. A lot of bar stuff and handstands, I remember doing a lot of handstands."
Duarte is a member of Raw Fitness Maui, did his taped workouts at Maui CrossFit Extreme and refined his workouts at Wai Side Fitness after qualifying for the games.
"I feel like I owe a lot to Robert and Christy (Kikuchi) from Raw Fitness, I feel like I owe a lot to Lee Poston from Maui CrossFit Extreme," Duarte said. "My friend at Wai Side Fitness, Jake Yasui, really helped me focus and intensify workouts for the competition."
Five-time national champion weightlifter Brian Okada, "was a tremendous help. He's helping with my Olympic lifts and I have improved dramatically in the nine months since I started working with him."
The workouts at each stage of the event are revealed just before they must be completed, a factor that Duarte revels in.
"They want to test the unknown," he said. "So you have no idea what the workouts are going to be."
Duarte fulfilled a goal by reaching the final destination.
"I thought I might have a chance," Duarte said. "My goal was just to make it to the games. There were a couple of guys in my division that were head and shoulders above everybody else, so honestly I had no aspirations of placing in the top three.
"Usually in the games, they go to heavier weights and the small guys have a tough time. Not knowing what to expect, I just came here wanting to do my best. I thought a top-10 finish was optimistic. I'm by far the smallest guy in the division."
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org