As Cooper Wise stepped onto the turf at Viking Lakes, he scanned the horizon, noticing world-class athletes standing on every side of him. His demeanor remained calm, as he took a deep breath and …
As Cooper Wise stepped onto the turf at Viking Lakes, he scanned the horizon, noticing world-class athletes standing on every side of him. His demeanor remained calm, as he took a deep breath and smiled.
This setting was nothing new and Wise was not intimidated. He was ready to compete in the Granite Games.
“It’s easy to get sucked into looking around and seeing these other big, strong athletes and thinking, ‘Oh, there’s no way I can compete with them,’” Wise said. “At that point, all the preparation is done, so all you can do is go out and do your best and hope that’s going to be enough.”
Wise, a 2012 Powell High School graduate, has become a staple in the CrossFit community. Last weekend, Wise won first place in the Granite Games team competition with his team “Omnia” in Eagan, Minnesota. With the win, the team clinched a spot in the NOBULL CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin, on July 27 to Aug. 1.
Initially, Omnia’s team goal was to be in contention for a spot in the top five, the rank needed to qualify for the CrossFit Games. But after the squad stood in first place after the first day, their mission changed.
“We were like, ‘We can win this thing,’ and kept increasing our lead until eventually we won by a pretty decent margin,” Wise said. “We were pleasantly surprised to say the least.”
Wise said his team excelled in the heavy dumbbell and barbell events, as well as high-skill gymnastics events, such as handstand walking and muscle-ups. The 26-year-old attributed the squad’s clean performances to strenuous training and dieting in the months leading up to the event.
Omnia members got together two or three times per week, working a few hours individually and a couple hours later in the day, performing team exercises like synchronized movements and lifting the “worm,” a giant sandbag that group members are required to lift together.
In addition to committing significant hours on a weekly basis, they followed strict diet protocols. Wise macrocounted, where he made sure his macronutrient intake was great enough for him to compete at a high level in the games.
And all of this training and dieting goes along with the athletes’ daily lives. Wise admitted that it was hard to juggle all of the CrossFit preparation alongside three 12-hour nursing shifts a week and spending ample time with his wife, Courtnie. But when Omnia won first place and clinched a berth in the CrossFit games, it was all worth it.
“It’s pretty surreal to realize that we had that spot, and it’s a lot of relief that we had clinched that spot,” Wise said. “Just a ton of excitement. It felt really good to see and feel that hard work pay off.”
To those closest to Wise, his ability to manage everything isn’t surprising.
“Cooper is just a dedicated human being,” said his father, Greg. “He’s dedicated to learning, to his faith and his wife, and he doesn’t slouch at all.”
Wise has been involved in CrossFit for seven years, and the Granite Games were his second major CrossFit event. He finished 13th in the men’s division at the 2017 South Regional CrossFit Championship, a similar level as the Granite Games (both semifinals).
Having already competed on a grand stage, Wise felt better prepared this time around.
“It definitely taught me a lot about myself and that I have the ability to compete against these types of athletes who do it professionally,” he said. “It definitely translated a lot.”
Omnia is one of only 34 teams that will compete at the CrossFit Games, a competition with teams around the world. Roughly 1,200 teams made it their goal to reach that stage, and Wise’s squad is one of just a few dozen that will carry it out.
As the event approaches, the workload for Wise and his teammates — Daniel Bullock, Mary Kay Driesilker and Elisa Schauer — will increase. In addition to their training methods from before the Granite Games, they will add swimming, biking and other new workouts to their routines, as the CrossFit Games feature more events than the semifinal qualifiers.
With a Granite Games title under his belt and a world championship on the horizon, Wise said he hopes to inspire athletes from Powell and other rural communities.
“I hope to just go out and show that it doesn’t really matter where you come from or what you have,” Wise said. “It’s all about the work that you’re willing to do and the sacrifices you’re willing to make. That’s what can get you anywhere you want to go.”
(Editor's note: This version corrects the location of the competition.)