TIPP CITY — When Carson Culpepper was 14, she told her CrossFit coach Josh Bunch exactly what she wanted to accomplish.
“I told him I wanted to go to the CrossFit Games — but I didn’t know if he believed me,” the Tipp City resident said.
“I did believe her,” said Bunch with a chuckle.
She’s made believers out of everyone now.
At 17, Culpepper qualified for the year’s Reebok CrossFit Games in the 16-17 teenage girls division, and she will now travel to Madison, Wisc. to compete in the most grueling trial against the fittest competitors that CrossFit has to offer.
“I think I just like competition,” Culpepper said. “I always wanted to be the best in the gym. And when I found out about the Games, I knew I wanted to go. I kept trying, and here I am.”
Culpepper didn’t begin CrossFit until she was already a teenager, having already tried a bit of everything else athletic, but not finding anything that really spoke to her.
“I started out in gymnastics and soccer, but I quit those at about age 13,” she said. “And then I tried track … and then I didn’t do that. Then I came in to a Saturday (CrossFit) class and started doing it, and then I kept doing it.”
Once Culpepper discovered the Games, though, she had something to shoot for. And once a teens division was added in 2015 to the competition, she saw her window.
“Once I started CrossFit and found out about the Games, I saw all the videos they were putting out, all the girls lifting all that heavy weight, it was really motivational to me,” she said. “I realized that I really wanted to do that. It kind of became my long-term goal — but I didn’t know when it was going to happen.
“When they added a teen division, I thought, OK, I’m going to make that. The first year, I didn’t make it, so this year I knew I had to make it. It was my last year in the teen division, so I set all my goals on that. I trained year round and just dedicated my life to it, basically.”
All the work paid off, too. Culpepper, who is heading into her senior year at Tippecanoe in the fall, finished 20th with 151 points at the CrossFit Open earlier this year — third in the Central East region. And then, needing to get into the top 20 to advance to the Games themselves, she finished 16th in the regional round’s online qualifier with 88 points to move on.
“It’s very hard (to qualify),” Culpepper said. “You have to work so hard, and you have to be dedicated to it. It was easy for me in a way, though. I don’t think you can do it if you don’t love it — and I love it. And having someone there to support you means a lot, too.”
And Practice CrossFit in Troy, where she works out under the tutelage of coach Bunch, is just such a place. Culpepper began a GoFundMe page to raise the money for her trip to Madison — and the money was funded immediately.
“No, I was never worried (about not getting the chance to go),” she said. “Everyone is already so supportive of each other here. No matter what happened, I knew someone would be there to support me.”
Culpepper will now head to Madison on Aug. 3-6, not really knowing what to expect.
“I don’t know, because it’s all so new to me,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the workouts. And swimming, which I wouldn’t say I’m excited for since I’ve never been a swimmer, so I think that will be fun, at least, to try. Just being out on the field with everyone, making new friends, I’m looking forward to that.”
And a chance to make believers out of more people.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.