By Cindy Young My Miami County Writer
TIPP CITY – When you first see Presley Cruz she looks like every other average teenager, but she is anything but that. Cruz, 16 and a junior at Tippecanoe High School, is also not your typical high school athlete. Although Cruz is a part of the Tipp City Junior Varsity Softball team, it is CrossFit that is her sport of choice.
If you have never heard of CrossFit you are part of a dying breed. CrossFit is a fairly new way to approach fitness that is quickly spreading throughout Miami County and beyond. And Cruz is one of the main faces of teen CrossFit athletes within the Miami County area.
CrossFit combines gymnastics, endurance and weightlifting to form a program based on “functional movements.” One day, participants might be running and doing air squats and the next doing pull ups and Olympic lifting. Cruz started CrossFit two years ago and hasn’t looked back since. She competed at the Arnold Classic held in Columbus in 2011 and took first place in the CrossFit Kids Gauntlet Competition. Then, in the winter of 2012, Cruz earned a spot to compete in California. This past summer Cruz and her family made the trip out west for her to compete alongside the countries “Fittest Teens.” Since getting back from California, Cruz has competed in many local CrossFit events both solo and on teams.
“CrossFit has shown me just how strong I am, but not just as an athlete, but as a young woman,” Cruz said. “This isn’t just a sport to me, or a way to stay healthy, what I gain from being around the CrossFit community is so much more than I ever expected.”
Cruz said her coach, Josh Bunch of Practice CrossFit in Troy, has taught her more about how to take on life than how to prepare for a competition.
“He expects more of me. He doesn’t look at me or other teens in the program and think ‘oh they are just kids,’ he wants more from us and that gives us the confidence – so we try. We might not do it right the first time but because of him and the other trainers there to guide us, we try again. And that is an important part of growing up I think, not just CrossFit,” Cruz said.
Most recently Cruz tried her hand at an Olympic Lifting Competition in an effort to fine-tune her weightlifting skills. She took first place overall for the youth division. With those six lifts for the day Cruz qualified for the National Youth Weightlifting Open, which will take place in June of 2014. While weighing only 123 pounds, Cruz has a power-clean personal record of 140 pounds, her jerk weight is 150 pounds, and her overhead squat weight is 140 pounds.
Upon graduating, Presley Cruz would like to open her own CrossFit facility.
(Photo by Cindy Young/MyMiamiCounty)
Along with CrossFit, Cruz also plays Softball for the Junior Varsity team for Tippecanoe High School. Her go-to position for softball is second base, but she also has stepped in as a catcher when needed. She has been playing softball for five years on and off and said she feels she has found a good home as a Tipp City Red Devil.
“I love softball and I love being a part of the team of girls that we have. It is a part of high school that I am never going to forget,” she said.
Cruz said she feels that CrossFit has made her a better softball athlete than she was just three years ago.
“I know I am stronger, my batting ability is tons better since I started with CrossFit. And my endurance, even though I hate running, has improved” she said.
As far as what Cruz wants to do once high school is over, physical therapy is her goal.
“I want to go to college and become a physical therapist. But that is just part of the big goal for me. I want to open my own CrossFit gym and be able to practice my physical therapy out of the same building. To me, being able to teach a person how they can live a better life through CrossFit and physical therapy is what I feel I am here to do,” Cruz said.
Cruz might not be your average teenager, but her strength is an example to people of any age.
“I don’t get bogged down with the drama of high school; I’ve learned that I am stronger than that,” she said. “CrossFit really has changed me and how I think about life. The lunch table gossip in the end doesn’t get me anywhere. But knowing I can back-squat 185 pounds makes me feel like nothing is impossible for me.”