Abby Wambach and Carli Lloyd were heralded as role models for young girls earlier this summer after helping lead the United States to the Women’s World Cup title, but the Capital Region has another world-champion role model who grew up a little closer to home: Burnt Hills native Janet Black.
Black won the 40-44-year-old Masters women’s division at the CrossFit World Games in late July in California. She’s also a member of the DC Brawlers of the National Pro Grid League, a professional fitness competition league.
“I feel like it’s an amazing opportunity that I never thought I would have or envisioned,” Black said. “I love children and I love giving back to other people, but I didn’t realize the impact I had on others until some of my success has come.”
According to Brawlers assistant coach David Charbonneau, CrossFit is “high-intensity functional movements that would serve the purpose of getting fitter. It’s not necessarily a weight-loss program or a strength-building program alone, but those two things definitely happen through the program of CrossFit.”
The NPGL describes itself as “the world’s first professional spectator sport with two co-ed teams racing head-to-head in a two-hour match. It incorporates speed, skill and strategy in a test of endurance through a variety of weightlifting and body-weight elements.”
Black’s husband, William, has seen through their daughter Jocelyn how much of an influence his wife can be. Besides spreading the word to all her friends that her mom is a professional athlete, Jocelyn has started to follow in her mom’s footsteps.
“I’ve seen an evolution, if you will,” he said. “My daughter watching her mom train day in and day out, watching her mom compete at CrossFit competition and even on the national stage with NPGL — I’ve seen my daughter take an interest in just functional fitness all together.”
Black is a member of the Burnt Hills’ Athletic Hall of Fame after a decorated soccer career, and played at SUNY-Cortland. She was a high school and college All-American.
After school, she was an assistant soccer coach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas. While coaching, she got more into personal training, trying several types of training over the years. Six years ago, she committed to try CrossFit for three months. Realized she still had a competitive edge, CrossFit became part of her life.
“With CrossFit, you can continue to get better, whether it’s a movement or get faster or stronger,” she said. “And that was really appealing to me because it constantly challenges me.”
Black began entering CrossFit competitions and reached the World Games in 2013 in the team competition. She’s returned twice as an individual, finishing seventh in 2014 before winning this year.
Two years ago, Black and her husband traveled to Dallas for the NPGL combine with a goal of finding out where she stood among her peers. Fortunately, Charbonneau and Brawlers’ head coach Justin Cotler liked what they saw.
“We were immediately drawn to the fact that she could lift so well and move weight so well for high weights for multiple reps that we were very interested in her right off the bat,” Charbonneau said.
In 2014, the Brawlers won the inaugural league title. Charbonneau thought Black was the best female 40-plus athlete and thought she was crucial to the team’s success.
Around the time she began CrossFit, Black realized she also missed working with kids, something she had done through soccer. Already holding a bachelor’s degree in health science and a master’s in education from Elmira College, she decided to get her teaching certification. She is now a Special Ed teacher in the school district where she lives in southeast Texas.
Black doesn’t believe all her success would have been possible without the support she has around her because, despite having summers off as a teacher, the time is filled with travel for CrossFit and the NPGL.
She has friends who help her balance everything, but gives her husband much of the credit. He takes care of a lot so she can train but, as her personal coach, is also very involved in her training.
“I owe a lot to the community and to my husband and to my friends because there’s no way I could do this by myself,” Black said.
Black attributes all her athletic success to simply continuing to do what she loves.
“I do what it takes, as far as putting the work in,” she said. “but as long as you’re enjoying it, it’s hard not to because your passion is there and you want to get better.”