Vinny Casey went west: 4-time Atlantic Regional qualifier is on his way to the South Regional for the first time

If you don’t know Vinny Casey, you will soon. The 23-year-old athlete from Delaware blasted onto the Colorado CrossFit scene in the first workout of this Open season, completing 13 rounds and an additional 11 reps—a score that put him in second place in Colorado and 22nd in the South West.

If you were watching the leaderboard at the time, you might have wondered, Who is this guy? And that question would make sense:

  • Vinny Casey (like many young adults in the Denver metro area) is not from here. He moved to Golden with his girlfriend last August after graduating from the University of Delaware with a Bachelor’s degree in dietetics. Casey’s a rock climber and a fitness nut, and his older brother moved to Colorado right after college, so he decided to follow suit. Up until the move, he’d spent most of his life on the East Coast.
  • Despite his undeniable commitment to the sport of CrossFit, Vinny Casey does not compete in local competitions. No, not even the Turkey Challenge. “If I want to put a good amount of effort into [a competition], I want it to be at a national one,” he said. He’s done Wodapalooza and The Fittest Experience a couple years in a row—he thinks of them as precursors to the Open and Regionals, ways to assess himself and see how he measures against the caliber of athletes he wants to show up in competition.

But Casey doesn’t have a chip on his shoulder. He takes CrossFit seriously—has since the first time he stepped into a box in 2014—but he might be the happiest person on the competition floor.

“I’ve never seen Vinny in a bad mood,” said Derek Batman, owner and coach at Hardbat CrossFit, Casey’s first CrossFit home in Delaware.

Batman was there on Casey’s first day, when he went through Hardbat’s movement assessment.

“When you’ve got somebody who, within four tries of swinging around on the rings, gets a muscle up, it’s very apparent that they’re gonna pick this stuff up really quickly,” Batman said.

Casey’s wrestling background gave him a solid foundation both in strength and gymnastics. Today, handstand walks and muscle ups are two of his favorite movements.

Casey knows that he’s good at CrossFit, but he doesn’t exhibit any arrogance. He’s down to earth and speaks candidly of what he did wrong when he got into CrossFit four years ago: Too much weight, too fast. Too much time in the gym. Not enough attention focused on mobility.

He practiced heavy power snatches for a couple months without being able to squat snatch due to immobility. When he finally gained the mobility, he PRed almost overnight.

“The strength was kind of there, but I moved terribly,” he said.

He started doing CrossFit two months before the 2014 Open. That year, he went to the Mid Atlantic Regional with Hardbat CrossFit’s team. They took seventh place. The next year, Casey went to the Atlantic Regional as an individual and took 25th place. In 2016, he qualified for Regionals as an individual and drove all the way there, only to be told by the doctor that he couldn’t compete. Last year, he returned to Regionals with a team; they took eighth.

“I think that might be my last team experience for a while,” he said. “Just seeing how I couldn’t control certain things and seeing our chance go away, I was like, I’ve got to do it myself.”

Since landing in Golden, Casey has worked out at Alpine CrossFit in Wheat Ridge. He bookends his workday with time at the gym: an aerobic session and strength work in the morning before heading to his corporate fitness job at Oracle in Broomfield, and a metcon and additional strength and skill work in the afternoon. He does crossover symmetry every day, follows an Active Rx back and shoulder program in his warmups, and does yoga as part of his recovery work.

“I’ve been pretty lucky for injuries, nothing too crazy serious,” he said, “and I think a lot of that is my behind-the-scenes work.”

The behind-the-scenes work is evidence of how Casey has matured as an athlete. When he started at Hardbat, the coaches had to tell him to slow down. Batman describes Casey as fearless—a trait that works for him in competition, but early on, put him a little too close to the edge in training.

Batman remembers Casey, during the first 2014 Open workout, trying to do double-unders when his calves were cramping. He’d hit the floor and collapse, then try to jump the rope again. “From a coaching standpoint, we’re like what are you doing? Just stop. Live to fight another day,” Batman said. But Casey kept going.

“I felt like our job … was more—not to hold him back, but to be there as a reminder that he wasn’t invincible,” Batman said.

The South Regional is in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 18-20. Casey’s hoping for an underdog effect, since this is his first year in the region and not many people know him. Whatever happens, people will probably notice him—if not for his athletics, then at least for his attitude.

“If you have a bad event, just … move on. Next one starts—try to win the next one,” Casey said. “You get two minutes of a pity party and then you’ve got to let it go.”

This positivity is one of Casey’s defining traits, one that can make him stand out in a competition as taxing as the CrossFit Regionals.

There’s a lot of anticipation this year from the Hardbat community and those who know and work out alongside Casey. Casey wants to finally get to the Games. Batman thinks it’s his year. In a few short weeks, we’ll know for sure.

The South Regional is at Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah, on May 18-20.

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