Brandon Swan and Ruth Anderson Horrell win The 2015 Schwartz Challenge                       

With new sponsors and a fresh approach to the workouts, the 2015 Schwartz Challenge kicked off last Saturday at the Westgate Indoor Sports centre in Melbourne.

With the biggest prize purse in the nine year long history of the Challenge ( $15,000 mainly funded through athlete registrations and stall holders) the majority of the top functional fitness athletes came to play.

And as always the weekend revealed plenty of new talent, during the eight challenging and very exciting events.

Adam Mansy (QLD) and Ricky Garard (NSW) were some of the rookies who stood out this year. Mansy took third in the gruelling ‘Last Man Standing’ event and placed 13th overall. Garard (younger brother of Ben Garard) showed his engine in ‘Burn Baby Burn’, pushing the pace in the longer chipper event, finishing the weekend in 12th place.

But the Rookie of the Year went to the big rig himself, Matt Reilly (NSW).  A well known athlete on the Regionals scene, but this was the first time he made it to the Challenge, and he didn’t disappoint. Finishing the final event ‘You First’, a couplet with burpee rope climbs and heavy push jerks, in a blistering time of 2:07, Reilly clinched the highest placing of any male Rookie this year (9th).

On the women’s side there always seem to be some incredible talent we haven’t seen before. Leilani Dawes (SA) might have been a hard name to pronounce for the announcers, but no one missed her 87.5kg thruster, almost making it through to the tiebreaker! Another girl with a difficult name to pronounce, and who did make the last 90kg thruster was Charlotte Van Veenendaal (NSW). Charlotte has been training CrossFit for a few years, having a background in track and field. She competed for the CrossFit North Head team at Regionals this season. She is looking incredibly strong,  similar to last years Rookie, Andrea Miller. Van Veenendaal thruster'd 90kg with ease, and won a tie break showdown against Samantha Drescher (NT).

The Rookie of the Year Award however goes to Steph Ortiz (SA) in her first year at the Challenge! No surprise she placed on the podium after an impressive sixth place finish at the 2015 Pacific Regionals. Starting the weekend with some serious intent,  Ortiz flew out of the gate in the top heat in event 1 ‘Strict and Strong’ - a super exciting workout, ending with a sprint finish to the end against Justine Beath (NSW). No one could tell them apart in the end, both finishing in 6:29.

The podium finishers.

On the womens side, Ruth Anderson Horrell (NZ) had the weekend in her grasp - her worst placing was 7th, with most placings between 1st and 4th. Confidently brushing aside any doubt that her time away from higher level competition has left her behind the top girls, Horrell is now a serious contender for a Games spot in 2016.  After being so close to the Challenge podium last year, Justine Beath (NSW) is proving again and again that she's climbing the ladder on the womens side. Second place at the Challenge is arguably the best competition Beath has ever executed and she's also looking strong for a Games spot in 2016. Third place was no surprise either, Steph Ortiz (SA), this years best female Rookie. With a third at the Challenge and sixth place at the 2015 Regionals, surely Ortiz is one of the hottest contenders to represent Australia at the Games next year. The womens field is wide open and it's going to be an exciting race to see who can make it to Carson.

The favourite going into the Challenge on the mens side was Brandon Swan (QLD). He did not disappoint, dominating the mens field as much as Horrell dominated the womens side. In 'Fast and Furious 15', a feared couplet of 21-15-9 Thrusters and Overhead Squats at 42kg, Swan's barbell did not touch the floor from his first thruster till his last squat. The complete workout unbroken (!) in 3:01. More than 20 points separated Swan from the rest of the field by the end of the weekend, and he also proved that 120kg cleans is no longer an issue (Swan famously missed the last clean at the last event at the 2015 Pacific Regionals, and so missed out the Games trip to LA), cleaning the 120kg bar in "All Rounder" five times, touch and go! The race for second was not decided until the last event, with Zeke Grove (QLD) demolishing the field in 'You First' with a time of 1:47!!! Grove has some very, very good 'weapons' in his arsenal, and we have no doubt he will win some events at Regionals next year. With that effort Grove snuck past Mitch Sinnamon (VIC) who had been in the lead after day one. Sinnamon has had an on going issue with his wrist and front rack, but despite these limitations he put on a massive performance to clinch third place. 


This years Spirit of the Games Award was voted by the most important people of the event, the judges. Kylie Massi (NSW), the CrossFit Games Champion in the 40-45 category.  Placing 18th overall in a top field of women’s athletes is no easy feat, and Kylie never looked out of place among the younger girls. With a positive attitude and great character among the athletes, judges and volunteers, Massi was a well deserved winner of the award.


Best Performance – Jordan Bender smoking a top men’s field in All Rounder. 5 cleans (120kg), 21 bar muscle ups and 50m handstand walk in 3:06.

Most Ripped – Ricky Garard.

Best Hair - Nanda Stoltz

Best Fail ‘CJ Walker Award’ – Royce Dunne (failing a 42kg snatch in ‘Fast and Furious, falling flat on his back. Dunne’s PB snatch is 130kg…)