Bozenhard takes CrossFit to new heights
Some years back, legendary balladeer Harry Chapin came out with a song called “Dreams Go By.” It was about people in their youth expressing aspirations of reaching for their dreams, then finally realizing they’d squandered away any chance of it because they grew too old and weary to even try.
For 25-year-old Alex Bozenhard of Quaker Hill, that has never been the case. He started as a teenager in the pursuit of his passions, attaining some along the way, and continues to do so.
Roll back the clock barely a decade ago and meet teenage Alex attending Lyme-Old Lyme High — a school that did not sponsor its own football or wrestling teams. But he wanted to play football and to wrestle as well, so he found a way to participate as a varsity player in both sports.
He was Old Lyme’s sole representative on the East Lyme High wrestling team, and played running back and defensive corner for Valley Regional High school — also becoming Old Lyme’s first player to serve as captain of the Valley Regional squad. An avid lacrosse enthusiast, he not only played for Old Lyme’s varsity squad, he served as captain there as well.
After graduating high school, Alex attended Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire — where he continued as a varsity athlete — finishing with a degree in criminal justice.
“I have a lot of respect for the premise of law enforcement,” Alex said during a recent interview at Dev’s on the Bank Café in New London. “Helping to keep the streets safe is what I want to do with my life.”
Then fate took a hand in altering the order of events in the life of Alex Bozenhard. He saw his first CrossFit competition on ESPN.
“At the time I had no idea at all what it was,” he explained. Athletic and fit, Bozenhard bears the look of a military special forces operative. And with varsity sports coming to a close at the end of his college years, the dynamics and sheer innovation of the CrossFit arena bedazzled him.
It presented him with a whole new frontier to explore.
“I’d heard ‘whispers’ of CrossFit, but had never seen it and was fascinated with what I watched on that ESPN competition. So I Googled it and watched a number of documentaries about CrossFit. When I did an online search for gyms where I could try it out, the New London facility (New London Athletics Center) run by Mike Penta came up.”
Alex immersed himself in the CrossFit universe. Picture a nonstop range of exercises that encompass lifting, jumping, running, stretching, push-ups, pull-ups — all mixed in with and an array of acrobatic maneuvers, many of which involve an innovative selection of unique equipment pieces.
“I had been going to conventional gyms for weightlifting, and running on the track to maintain my fitness level … but this provided me with a much wider range of activity, as well as an opportunity to be more well-rounded,” Alex explained. He found this new frontier far more to his liking. He soon wound up as an instructor at New London Athletics Center as well as a primary participant.
“Strange as this may sound, there’s a near ‘superhuman’ sensation you derive at times … a rising of the endorphins level you share with everyone else there. You feel as though you’re attaining an elite level as a human being.”
Alex admits there is a “cultural bonding” of sorts that CrossFit athletes enjoy, often raising a curious eyebrow from those outside that circle. “But that’s to be expected unless you’re a part of it.”
He rose quickly in the competitive CrossFit ranks, working fiendishly at his new athletic craft. He threw into the mix a number of the other activities offered at New London Athletics Center — boxing and Jiu Jitsu; and adult gymnastics where his power exploits earned him the nickname “Bronco,” also his favorite NFL football team.
Bozenhard qualified this year for what might best be termed, the “SuperBowl of CrossFit, known technically as the CrossFit Games. Alex had made attaining this coveted status the absolute fulfillment of all his athletic endeavors. “To arrive there and to belong on the same competitive floor as the very athletes I had watched in all those television competitions and documentaries … well, it’s something every CrossFit athlete dreams of,” Alex explained.
His teammate and training partner, Taylor Ballek of the US Coast Guard Academy, felt the same: “It was amazing to compete against some of the people I had previously idolized and even more amazing to realize I am now that caliber of athlete,” she stated proudly. And what are the odds of two athletes from the same local gym in little New London — one male, one female — both rising to such heights at the same time?
Alex and Taylor also put in extra time training at Ocean Sate CrossFit in Rhode Island, but the New London facility is their home base and where both coach others as well.
“I had to put on temporary hold my aspirations for a career in law enforcement, knowing my prime athletic years are now … and to arrive at this goal, it would take everything I had,” said Alex.
The local pair attended the International CrossFit Games, after first qualifying and competing against thousands of others in the Northeast Regionals, then on to the Northeast & Canadian Regionals where their team of six placed in the top five of 40 other squads. Their team of three men and three women ultimately landed in 14th place out of 40.
“The experience of being there was entirely overwhelming in the realization it was all really happening,” said Alex, his face aglow with the pride of that accomplishment.
“I still have one more goal to check off before the next chapter of my life begins,” Alex said with a determined smile. “Next year I’m going back to those Games as an individual qualifier. Then I’ll have met every goal I’ve set for myself as a CrossFit competitor.”
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