What the New Age Group Qualification System Means for Top CrossFit Masters and Teens

If you’re an age group athlete your path to the CrossFit Games is pretty straight forward: you do the Open, top athletes make the Age Group Online Qualifier (AGOQ), and the best 20 athletes in your division qualify for the Games.

Age-group athletes qualify to the AGOQ through the Open, where athletes in each division will compete against all other athletes in the same division worldwide.

There currently are nine age group categories in CrossFit, two Teenage divisions (14-15 and 16-17) and seven Master divisions, starting with 35–39-year-olds and going up every five years until 65+. All categories are further split into men and women.

These divisions have slowly grown over the years, with 2021 signalling the first year more athletes signed up for the Masters division than the individual division. CrossFit also created two new Master divisions (60-64 and 65+) for 2021, and CrossFit CEO Eric Roza expressed his intent to provide stellar representation of the masters divisions this year.

This is also the case for teenage CrossFit athletes: “The teenage athletes of the CrossFit community are the future — not only of the sport of CrossFit, but of the thriving community that exists today — and they showcase for their peers that a dedication to health and fitness can start at an early age,” CrossFit wrote in January in an article calling Teenage athletes to sign up for the 2021 Open.

Growing Age Group Participation Past the Open

In an effort to increase athlete participation in the CrossFit season past the Open, along with changes for Individual and Team athletes, the qualification system for the Age Group Online Qualifier was amended.

In previous years the top 200 athletes in each age group would advance to the AGOQ. For 2021 however, it is the top 10% that qualify to the next stage – similar to the individual categories.

This 10% is based on the number of athletes in each division registered to the Open by the conclusion of workout 21.1.

In line with bringing more attention to age group athletes, CrossFit has also upped the number of participating Masters and Teens at the CrossFit Games back to 20 per division for 2021. Last year, age group athletes finished their season following the AGOQ due to the pandemic, and in 2019 only the top 10 athletes in each division qualified for the Games.

The top 10%

The cut-off lines establishing AGOQ qualifying athletes look as follows:

CrossFit age group athletes

Over 2,000 athletes in both 35-39 divisions have qualified to compete in the AGOQ, and for every Masters division – with the exception of the two new ones – the number of athletes going forward surpassed the previous limit of 200. With  a tenfold increase in participation in some divisions, the change is great news for Masters athletes.

The picture looks different for Teen athletes, none of whose divisions reached 200.

When CrossFit first released the cut-off lines for Age Group athletes, only 117 teenage girls in the 14-15 division received a qualification spot. CrossFit has since updated that number to 140.

Introducing a minimum baseline?

BOXROX reached out to CrossFit to find out if a minimum base line for qualification spots would be used – as it’s the case in the Team division – if 10% was lower than 200.

COVID-19 has had a big impact on youth sports and, so far this year, CrossFit has been open to amend the Competition Rulebook and add events to the season in response to community’s concerns and feedback.

Additionally, for some teens, it might be hard to understand why a policy that was meant to increase participation in further stages has achieved just the opposite.

“The new approach to AGOQ qualifiers may result in a temporary dip in the number of athletes in some age divisions this year, given the impact of COVID and local closures, but we fully expect those numbers to increase well above the former 200 participant limit next year and beyond,” said Andrew Weinstein, CrossFit Head of Communications and Public Policy.

Should a minimum baseline be considered, even if it means amending the Competition Rulebook and requires a fair amount of background work?

From a practical perspective, a simple rulebook is beneficial. Besides, the Teen athletes that are below the current cut-off line are unlikely to be the ones that make it to the CrossFit Games, so if we think about the competitive aspect of the sport, why bother? But from an emotional perspective, giving more opportunities to ‘the future of CrossFit and the community’ and encouraging participation from well-established divisions can’t be a bad thing.

The Age Group Online Qualifier will run from May 6 though to May 10, 2021. The AGOQ workouts will be released on Thursday at 5 p.m. PT and athletes will have until the following Monday at 5 p.m. PT to submit their scores.

Official invites for the 2021 Age Group Online Qualifier will be sent on Monday, April 26.

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