Astoria woman takes top honors in fitness competition

Kylee Claxton (c.) crowns herself with a tiara after she wins first place in a CrossFit exercise competition in Astoria. Photo by Joe Anuta
By Joe Anuta

About 40 fit ladies competed behind the foggy windows of an Astoria gym for the chance to be crowned CrossFit Queen.

The women, sectioned off into six different heats, worked up a sweat at CrossFit Queens, at 18-31 27th Ave., for nearly five hours. All were devoted followers of the exercise routine for which the gym is named, but Kylee Claxton came out on top.

“It was awesome,” the Astoria resident said as she gulped down deep breaths after her win. “There were so many times I wanted to pass out, but I could hear everyone’s voice telling me what to do.”

The crowd of supporters who packed into the narrow, brownstone-sized gym cheered on the women with the intensity of an impromptu street fight, often screaming encouragement until their voices were hoarse.

But the cheering had its effect and the ladies’ muscles rippled throughout the three-stage competition. They lifted weights, did pull-ups and handstands, jumped rope and heaved medicine balls, often alternating between two exercises during each stage.

And with every repetition they were also fighting to dispel any stereotypes about women who work out.

“I wanted to celebrate that women are strong and beautiful,” said Brandy Monge, co-owner of the gym and sponsor of the event. “You might expect to see some beastly girls, but these ladies are hot, thin and strong.”

Many others felt there was a stigma about weightlifting women.

“Everybody automatically thinks you’re on steroids or a tomboy. But I painted my nails before this!” Claxton said, flashing five olive green fingertips.

But aside from more makeup than would be found at a typical weighlifting event, the women shared a sense of camaraderie along with their competitiveness.

“It’s competitive but supportive,” Claxton said. “I walked in not knowing anybody, but now I feel like I’m part of a family.”

And that family is held together by CrossFit, an exercise program that boasts a small but dedicated following.

The program was started in 1995 and designed to be used by military and police forces, according to the CrossFit website.

It combines weightlifting with exercises like push-ups and lunges and even rope climbing — think of a training montage from a “Rocky” movie.

In addition, gyms that offer CrossFit hold competitions like the ladies-only event in Astoria.

Justin Cotler, who owns another gym in Astoria where Claxton trains, said that although the movement is small now, it will be big in the future.

“It’s been around for a little bit, but it’s going to be as big as the X-Games,” he said, referring to an alternative sports competition that grew from humble beginnings to national recognition.

And according to many of the girls, the appeal of the competition was that nearly anyone could enter.

All of the exercises were scaled for different types of strength. For example, in the weight-lifting competition, the score was based on a mathematical equation. One competitor could lift a light weight many times, but another competitor could lift a heavier weight fewer times and they might end up tying.

But no matter how the numbers were crunched, Claxton came out on top. And she did not want to stop there.

“I’m training for the CrossFit games,” she said. “I’m going to keep pushing.”

The national games will be held in Los Angeles in the summer.

Reach reporter Joe Anuta by e-mail at januta@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

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