Alessandra Pichelli has always been a good competitor.
Her former Saint Mary's rowing coaches and teammates already knew that about the 2009 Gael graduate. As the stroke seat of the 2009 Varsity 8 boat that finished third at the West Coast Conference Championships, Pichelli helped the Gaels to strong finishes throughout her career.
But, for as accomplished as she was as a Gael, Pichelli (2006-09) has gone on to achieve even greater heights athletically.
Pichelli began participating in CrossFit workouts, on the advice of Saint Mary's rowing coach Nicole Younts, as a way to stay active and fit. A discipline that combines cardiovascular and strength training measured by either time or repetition, CrossFit became more than just a workout for the native of Welland, Ontario, Canada.
Already a fierce competitor from her college rowing days, Pichelli began to enter CrossFit competitions. In 2012, she competed as part of Diablo CrossFit and helped her team reach the CrossFit Games in Carson, Calif. Already an international event, the Games were televised by ESPN.
This year, she went to the Northern California Regional competition as an individual rather than part of the team. The switch proved wise, as Pichelli finished atop a tremendous collection of athletes, earning the title of Northern California's fittest woman with a first place finish in Santa Rosa on May 26.
"Regionals were very challenging for me physically and emotionally," Pichelli said. "Over the last year I have put in a lot of time and dedication into my training. Training with increased volume requires mental toughness and discipline. Fortunately, I had previous experience competing as a Division I rower at Saint Mary’s. I believe my experience as a competitive athlete provides me with an edge."
That competitive nature served Pichelli well, but even though she competed as an individual, she didn't have to do it alone.
Her former teammates at Diablo CrossFit provided plenty of support.
"I decided to go individual mainly because I knew that I still had the support of my teammates. They encouraged me to go individual, but assured that that they would still be by my side as friends and training partners," Pichelli said. "I feel so fortunate to have such great friends. If I had to train by myself, I would probably not have the motivation to push as hard on a daily basis. Loving what you do, having fun and having great friends to train with makes a world of difference."
Her success isn't confined to weekend competitions. CrossFit is a way of life, something Pichelli has embraced wholeheartedly. As CrossFit gains popularity, the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle are attracting more and more people to the sport.
"I believe that CrossFit is becoming more popular because it is more than just a fitness fad, it is a lifestyle," Pichelli said. "CrossFit incorporates all aspects of fitness including gymnastics, weightlifting, endurance, agility etc. You are not just training for a specific sport, you are training for life."
Next up for Pichelli is a trip to Carson for the Reebok CrossFit Games on July 22-28 at the StubHub Center. They'll be televised on the ESPN family of networks, and as Northern California's top female qualifier, Pichelli will be put to the test yet again.
"Of course my goal is to win the CrossFit Games. That should always be the goal when you’re competing. However, I know that there will be many other top competitors from all around the world," Pichelli said. "CrossFit is all about the unknown, so none of the athletes know what the events will be at the Games. I won’t stress about the things I can’t change, but rather focus on performing to the best of my ability, have fun and soak in the experience. I hope to prove to myself what I am capable of, just as I did in the Open and Regionals."