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Fitness serious business for Hays' Brungardt

By AUSTIN COLBERT

acolbert@dailynews.net

Tyler Brungardt is no stranger to training. The Hays resident and Plainville native has spent the last seven years developing his skills as a full-time firefighter for the City of Hays, obtaining numerous certifications and rankings since his days as a volunteer.

This work ethic is largely credited to his father, a former firefighter himself and longtime farmer. Brungardt grew up on that farm north of Plainville, where he kept busy with chores, tending to cattle and of course, athletics.

A 2006 Plainville High School graduate, Brungardt was an accomplished football and baseball player, and a two-time state qualifier in wrestling. He also was a competitive weightlifter as a freshman and senior, medaling in both the clean and bench press.

"You could teach him anything. You tell him to do something and he will do it," said Hays resident Josh Beiker, a 2002 Palco High School graduate and longtime friend of Brungardt's. "If he can't do it he will try his butt off to do the best he possibly can. He's just one of those guys that follows suit and is willing to learn and try everything at least 100 times, if not more. He doesn't accept failure."

Brungardt's training continues today, but it has expanded well beyond high school athletics and firefighting. On Friday, Brungardt, 26, will take part in the 2014 CrossFit Regionals at Chicago's Navy Pier, the final qualifier before the summer's growing spectacle, the CrossFit Games.

CrossFit, a fitness company founded in 2002, has become an international phenomenon, with the CrossFit Games televised each summer on ESPN.

The sport is largely a competition to "Forge Elite Fitness," as its motto states. It combines Olympic weightlifting, gymnastics and cardio movements into short, intense workouts.

In order to qualify for the Regionals -- of which there are 17 worldwide, sorted by location -- Brungardt had to finish in the top 45 out of nearly 8,000 competing in the North Central Region's Open competition, which took place over a five-week period this spring.

The Open consisted of five different workouts to be completed at an official CrossFit affiliated gym -- or box as they are called in the CrossFit circle -- and judged by someone with a Level 1 CrossFit certification. In this case, it was Hays' SouthWind CrossFit, co-owned by Beiker and the husband and wife duo of Tucker and Jill Mall.

"I kind of surprised myself with last year's Open. I placed a lot higher than I thought I would," Brungardt said. "Probably after last year's Open is when I really decided to hit it hard ... I didn't expect a whole lot. But after last year's Open, when I realized, 'Hey, I got a shot,' that's when I really started taking it serious."

The 2013 Open was the first experience Brungardt had with competitive CrossFit outside of regular gym workouts. He decided to take part simply to see where he stacked up, and surprised many by finishing 81st in his region out of nearly 5,000, with the top 48 getting invites to last year's Regionals.

With nearly 3,000 more participants this year, Brungardt made it through the five workouts -- which are judged by either the number of reps completed in a time period or the amount of time it took to complete a certain workout -- in 32nd place, with 44 receiving invites to Chicago's Regional competition this week, according to the CrossFit website.

In order to qualify for the CrossFit Games, beginning July 25 in California, Brungardt will have to finish in the top three in his Regional.

"What's going to be different for us is there are going to be bigger people, stronger people, but that doesn't mean they are going to be better," said Beiker, who has been the 5-foot-10, 185-pound Brungardt's main training partner and coach leading up to Regionals. "We really couldn't have picked a better guy ... he is always looking out for others and willing to help anybody. And we expect a lot out of him. He's done really well in the Open and he's been training real hard."

Brungardt's introduction to CrossFit came a couple years ago, when a group was doing CrossFit workouts at the Hays Rec Center, led by Jill Mall, who worked there at the time. He admitted the first workout, which he thought looked easy, took him by surprise with its difficulty.

He continued to train in CrossFit on and off, including when SouthWind CrossFit opened its doors in September 2012 as SouthWind Fitness, prior to receiving official accreditation last June.

Now CrossFit virtually has taken over Brungardt's training regimen. Despite being a full-time firefighter and becoming a first-time father three months ago, he finds time to workout at 5 a.m. each day, often making a second workout in the afternoon.

Brungardt doesn't know what part CrossFit will play in his future or exactly what he has gotten himself into at the Regionals this week, but he does know he isn't lacking motivation.

"I want to prove to myself and everybody else that you shouldn't quit believing in yourself," Brungardt said. "I felt pretty driven this year, especially with the little guy (his son, Noah). He's kind of been an inspiration for me. I've always kind of said I want to do it for him and my wife and everyone else here (at SouthWind CrossFit). I have an opportunity to do well and I just want to take full advantage of it."

The North Central Regionals take place this Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Chicago. Live results, including Brungardt's, can be found at games.crossfit.com.