The day of, they came together for the CrossFit Open – now this unlikely band of misfits is a force headed into the CrossFit Games Semifinals at Atlas Games.
On the last day to register, Rhapsody Fitness athletes Owen Bernstein, Cristian Mathes, Stephanie Rodriguez and Jared Shaw with team alternates Gina DiGiacomo and Clay Godfrey threw their names in the ring for the CrossFit Open.
Mathes and Shaw had recently moved to Charleston from Baton Rouge. With boxes still packed, the two joined Rhapsody all but convinced they’d missed Open season all together until Rhapsody Head Coach and Co-Founder, Alan Shaw, posed the idea of putting together a team and giving it a go.
“Honestly, it fell into place,” said Rodriguez. “No one on the team had planned on the Open and we were all ‘retired’ from the competitive side… We just decided to do it and see what would happen.”
What happened was Team Rhapsody placing 27th overall in North America out of 150+ teams. Ranked 6th going into Atlas Games, they are one of only two teams from South Carolina competing at the semifinal stage.
Realization set in across the squad that they had a shot…and a strong one at that.
“As a team we have a cumulative 40 years of CrossFit under our belt,” says Bernstein. “As we dial in our skills and recovery, we simply won’t be stopped.”
PREPARING FOR ATLAS
Not professional athletes by trade, this team is fighting tooth and nail to hold down adulting jobs while maintaining a rigorous training regimen. Currently, this tall order entails multiple sessions a day of both individual and team training up to 6-days a week.
“Basically any and all free time we have is dedicated to trying to train either individually or together,” says Mathes. “There are a lot of teams who get to do this as their full time jobs and we are still making it work, which I think is incredible.”
Make no mistake, they all feel there is plenty of work left to do and the pressure is on. Across the board, Team Rhapsody highlighted machine conditioning, improved communication under fatigue and holding each other accountable as the primary focal points for training going into Atlas.
But, as the scrappy underdogs (and damn proud of it), the team feels this true grit and willingness to do whatever it takes is what makes them such contenders along with the greatest fear of not leaving everything on the floor for themselves and each other.
“We are becoming like brothers and sisters,” says Jared Shaw. “This bond is the force and, to me, more important than any specific skill set in CrossFit.”
GAME ON AT RHAPSODY FITNESS
This year, the Atlas Games semifinals will be a virtual event from June 18-20, 2021, meaning that Team Rhapsody gets to compete on their home turf. The top 5 teams from the Atlas Games will go on to compete at the CrossFit Games in Madison, WI.
When asked how the Rhapsody family can best support the team, Rodriguez exclaimed, “They already do! I appreciate it so much when they ask how we are doing and how training is going – it shows that they care.”
Mathes adds, “Continue doing what you’re already doing and have been doing – cheer us on when you see us hurting, be there on game day, know that we’re doing this to make y’all proud and to represent our gym in the greatest way we know how.”
What more can we do to support Team Rhapsody? Show up and bring more cowbell!
“Be a part of the crowd. The bigger the crowd, the harder we can push into the pain cave on game day,” says Bernstein. Jared Shaw also humbly requests your attendance…and snacks.
Additional event details to be announced soon.
MORE ON TEAM RHAPSODY
Originally from The Cape (MA), Bernstein is a full-time private chef in Charleston. Finding his way into a CrossFit gym in high school to train for soccer, he got his CL-1 at 17, started coaching and began competing. His competitive achievements include making it to the CrossFit Games with Reebok CrossFit Back Bay in 2016; ranking 194th in the CrossFit Open worldwide and earning a spot as an individual in the North East Regional in 2018; and competing as an elite individual at CrossFit Strength in Depth in London, England and the Granite Games in 2019.
As an individual, his strengths stem from experience and familiarity with competing under pressure. He is working to hone being upside down and anything involving handstands.
From Stuart, Florida, Mathes was a competitive gymnast until breaking her back at age 13. Recovery meant hanging up the leotard and finding CrossFit in 2012. Graduating from USC in 2017, Mathes got back into competitive CrossFit leading her to Carolina CrossFit’s regional team in 2018, at which point she also started as a part time educator at Lululemon. Moving to Charleston from Baton Rouge in January 2021, she is a full-time Key Leader at Lululemon on King Street.
As an individual, Mathes is a true Shebeast with a barbell and maven with gymnastics. She is working on embracing the hurt.
Born in Puerto Rico and raised in upstate New York, Rodriguez is an Assistant Sales Manager for Lululemon in Mt. Pleasant. After doing gymnastics for 12 years and competing in the Junior Olympics with the USA field hockey team, she transitioned to CrossFit becoming a two-time regional team athlete and making it to the 2018 CrossFit Games as a team athlete.
When it comes to competing, Rodriguez is a performer – able to put her head down and do the work with gymnastics skills in spades. She is currently focused on enhancing her conditioning and hating burpees a little less.
With a sport background in football, Shaw earned a spot as a walk-on at the University of South Carolina from 2009 – 2012. His senior year, a friend introduced him to CrossFit and it was love at first sight. Shaw moved to Charleston with the “love of his life” and now teammate, Mathes, in January 2021. Outside of the gym, he is the Strength + Conditioning Coordinator at Oceanside Collegiate Academy in Mount Pleasant.
Shaw’s greatest fear is his greatest strength – driven to do any and everything to make sure he never lets his team down makes him the hardest worker in the room hammering at whatever is in front of him. He is working on moving heavy dumbbells, squats and rowing.
DiGiacomo moved to Charleston to pursue a degree in exercise science at the College of Charleston with the ultimate goal of becoming a physical therapist. Joining Rhapsody in 2018 as a member, she graduated from the Rhapsody Coaches Mentorship Program before becoming a Rhapsody Coach in 2020. A competitive gymnast growing up, she has been doing CrossFit for 3 years and counting.
With gymnastics in her wheelhouse, DiGiacomo welcomes a challenge and has an abundance of internal motivation. She is working to improve her mindset and relationship with the machines.
Born and raised in the Lowcountry, Clay is a fourth generation South Carolinian graduating from The Citadel in 2016. Pursuing his passion to become both a coach and competitor, Clay earned stripes training with CrossFit Games athletes Travis Mayer, Noah Ohlsen, Chandler Smith and Mike McGoldrick. In the 2019 CrossFit Open, Clay ranked 1,522 of the 186,000 athletes who participated from across the globe.
Godfrey is adept at wanting to hurt more than the other athlete and is downright dangerous with a light barbell or gymnastics. He is focused on improving his overall strength, power and aerobic capacity.