'The fittest teen on earth' produced by Northbrook gym

  • Nate Ackermann gets set to lift on the way to his age group title at the CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin.

    Nate Ackermann gets set to lift on the way to his age group title at the CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin. COURTESY OF MEG ELLERY/CROSSFIT/CROSSFITGAMES

  • Highland Park High School student Nate Ackermann, 17, did his CrossFit training at Rally Point Endeavors in Northbrook.

    Highland Park High School student Nate Ackermann, 17, did his CrossFit training at Rally Point Endeavors in Northbrook. COURTESY OF MEG ELLERY/CROSSFIT/CROSSFITGAMES

 
 
Updated 9/8/2021 8:32 PM

High schooler Nate Ackermann, whose home gym is Rally Point Endeavors in Northbrook, won the 16-17 boys age group at the 2021 CrossFit Games in Madison, Wisconsin, July 27-Aug. 1.

A senior at Highland Park High School, Ackermann finished 60 points ahead of fellow American David Bradley, tops among 17 scorers, including athletes from Austria, Brazil, Canada, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand and Venezuela.

 

"My goal has always been to make the Games," Ackermann said. "I never thought I'd win the Games."

Ackermann, "the fittest teen on earth," missed the 2019 qualifiers with torn cartilage in a knee that required surgery, then took 2020 off from competition to gain strength.

Over two years, he went from 140 pounds to 180, trying to consume 5,000 calories a day while training hard five days a week, plus one day of active recovery and another of rest.

"My secret, I tell everyone, is before bed I'd take a pint of Ben & Jerry's ice cream and put it on the counter and melt it, and drink it before bed," he said.

Ackermann didn't win any of the nine events at the CrossFit Games, but was a model of consistency. Other than a seventh-place finish in a humid 4.5-mile run ("the worst event I've ever done in my life, it made me question what I was doing") he finished third in two events and second in the rest.

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"To say we're proud is an understatement," said Adam Baillie, head of CrossFit at Rally Point Endeavors, 1852 Janke Drive.

"All of us watched the kid grow up. I met him at 15 and he was a string bean. It's kind of hilarious, because now he's this insane man-child. He's got the physique of an elite athlete, but he's still a high school kid, he's 17," Baillie said.

The CrossFit Games are true grinders. One single event, Ackermann said, consisted of burning 30 calories on a rowing machine, 15 clean-and-jerk presses at 155 pounds, and pushing a weighted sled.

"A lot of kids had to get medical treatment after that, that was brutal," he said.

A soccer player who left that sport to attempt to qualify for the CrossFit Games, Ackermann had a training partner at Rally Point Endeavors, fellow Highland Park senior Lucas Kedzy, and got advice from his mother, Julie, a former CrossFit competitor who coaches at Rally Point. Mainly, he prepared on his own, he said.

Already gaining sponsors for nutrition and exercise workout programming, Ackermann's next challenge will be trying to bulk up and reach the Games against men 18 to 34 years old.

"The biggest thing holding me back in that division is how much smaller I am compared to most of those guys," he said.

Cue the melted ice cream and merciless workouts.

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