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Fun, fitness, and a Foligno family fundraiser, to boot

There is little doubt that the Foligno name, in Sudbury, invokes thoughts of both fierce family pride, and some impressive athletic excellence, along the way. Like many other sports-related facilities, CrossFit Sudbury also attempts to combine athletic excellence in an environment that is family-like.

The two groups came together this past Saturday, just as they have for the past few years now, staging the annual Battle Beyond the Barbell, a fundraiser in support of the Janis Foligno Foundation.

The merging of family and elite athleticism, and perhaps even non-elite athleticism, could be located with ease at the event, as I meandered my way through the crowd. Chris Ball was up from Toronto, making this the sixth time in the past seven years that the 38 year-old has travelled north, each summer, to partake in the festivities.

Sure, a big part of his motivation lies in the fact that his brother, Adam, is one of the owners of the local facility. But his reasons run deeper than that. “I got into lifting in 2009 and my background is in powerlifting,” noted Ball. “I remember coming up here and he (Adam) was in his first gym, and we did a CrossFit workout. I got crushed, just smoked.”

This was hardly a huge surprise. “I always joked that we were always kind of like Danny Devito and Arnold Schwarzenegger in Twins,” Ball added. “He got the tall, athletic sports genes, and I got everything else. I’m Devito.”

Always open to simply sliding on to any team that is in need of a fourth, Chris Ball brings a comfort level when it comes to the weights, all while making a whole new set of friends, with every passing year. “Anything cardio, running, I’m in trouble,” he said. “Anything low rep, I’m in my wheel-house. When I do 100 burpees, it feels like it goes on forever.”

Still, Valerie Zuliani understands the attraction. “CrossFit is exciting because every single time you come out to do a workout, it’s a different workout,” stated the long-time Sudbury resident. She should know. Formerly Valerie Giacomin and one of the three sisters who grew up alongside Janis (Giacomin) Foligno – along with one brother – the still quite fit looking Masters athlete is a regular at CrossFit Sudbury.

“Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we have a class that’s called “Vitality”,” she said. “People in the class are from 57 to 72. Kristin (Green – her daughter) coaches it, and being a physio, she knows our problems. Each of us has a different issue – shoulders, hips, hip replacement, all kinds of things.”

“We come out and do CrossFit on a modified basis, to be able to do what we can do.”

When it comes to the Battle Beyond the Barbell, Zuliani is more than happy to simply providing some support in memory of the sister she lost to cancer. “Janis was a listener, always there, as a sister, to back us up,” said Zuliani. “Janis was fun. She was just that presence that you just couldn’t help but to feel warm and fuzzy with – and that special person you could talk to.”

Certainly, one should not lose sight of the fundraising goal of the day (the 2019 gathering raised a total of $17,000, bring their seven year aggregate amount to $48,000). At the same time, the event is a competitive one, music to the ears of CrossFit regular, Beau Frescura. “We met Adam (Ball) when he first moved to Sudbury,” explained the 36 year-old multi-sport athlete. “I was still paddling for Team Chiro at the time, so I was trying to get him to come paddle with us, and he was trying to get me to come out to his gym.”

Teaming with Trista Munro, Brittney Ramakko and Marty Champagne to form “Old Dirty Parents”, the vets of the event finished second only to Gainz All Around (Tara Thall, Caroline Cropp, Nick Esposto and Zach Whalen). “We have a little bit of experience on our side, and this is a repeat workout of one that we did in 2016,” acknowledged Frescura.

“We remembered the flaws from the first time, but we have also aged and our bodies get a little more sore.” The reality is that the phenomena that is CrossFit does seem to fill a void with a whole variety of folks, each with a different athletic background, each with their own unique body type.

“I started with CrossFit five years ago, after I went back to work with my second child,” recalled teacher and Lively resident, Kathy Welsh, more than content to filling a necessary need as a volunteer for the participants on Saturday. “I was pretty scrawny. I had gone through some dietary changes, just because my daughter had some food allergies.”

“I was under a hundred pounds and my neighbours were telling me I was looking skeletal, so I figured I needed to do something just to get some mass back.” Sure, there are some on hand that appear to have never met a weightlifting apparatus that they didn’t love. But that athletic profile is only part of the picture here.

“I’ve always been a competitive athlete, playing hockey and ringette and golf and baseball, growing up,” said Welsh. “I was kind of missing that, as an adult. There is a little bit of an edge, to this – you can see your scores going up, or down, depending on whether it’s weights or times.”

“Most people here really hate burpees, but I really like them, because they’re easy for me. I’m kind of low to the ground and pretty light.” And these days, this would be enough to make Welsh feel like one of the family at CrossFit Sudbury.

Remaining award winners that were recognized included:

3rd place – Taba-tatas (Kaitlyn Good, Alanna Johnson, Adam Chevis, Luc Baillargeon-Smith)
Spirit of the Games – Ambroise Stevens-Paquette
16th place (Janis’ favourite number) – WOD About Them Pace Cadets (Shelley Mason, Virginie Bedard, Nicholas Quesnel, Troy Robin)
Top Fundraising – Team Dearing (Erin Dearing, Kara Bois, Scott Sutton, Chad Sokoloski)
CF Teens – 1st – London Skrzydlewski, Ruby Doyle

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