1 of 7
Photo courtesy of Chris Perrins family
Northern Utah resident Chris Perrins competes in the recent World CrossFit Games in California, where she placed second in the masters division.

Chris Perrins might very well be one of the most amazing athletes you never heard of.

Well, until now, that is.

The 46-year-old northern Utah resident recently placed second in the world in the women's masters division of the annual Reebok CrossFit Games staged July 21-23 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

Perrins, who lives in Farr West located in northwest Weber County, put together an amazing performance in the three-day, seven-workout performance that provides a grueling test of strength, stamina, overall physical fitness and conditioning.

She won one workout and placed second in three others to finish second overall behind Australia's Kylie Massi, 45, who won the masters division for contestants ages 45 to 49.

Massi, who won three workouts and finished no lower than fourth in the other four events, piled up 660 points to outdistance Perrins, who wound up with 626. Another Australian competitor, Francine Pehi, took third place in the field of 18 competitors from around the world with 590 points.

Perrins, a petite 5-foot-4, 127-pound bundle of fitness whose abdominal muscles "look more like speed bumps," one of her friends quipped, was not only one of the smallest contestants there — after all, Massi stands 5-10 — but she was also the only woman among the top six finishers in her division from the United States.

Perrins, a mother of two, won $5,000 for her runner-up finish — "It'll pay off my credit cards," she said with a laugh — and got around $1,200 in the way of sports gear (shoes, sweats, etc.) from Reebok, the event's sponsor.

But the experience and the friends she made in the competition were priceless to her.

"Oh, my gosh, they were all such amazing ladies," Perrins said of her fellow competitors. "They were all really nice. It really was a good group of athletes.

"It was so much fun, really, just so much fun. … It probably wouldn't have been as much fun if I didn't have Kylie, the lady that took first place. She was my favorite. She was just someone who was so likable. I'd never met her before, but her coach was amazing and I got to meet her husband, too. She even invited me to come visit her in Australia.

"I'm so glad she competed, even though she took first," Perrins said of Massi. "If she hadn't, I wouldn't have got to meet her and learn from her. I knew all about her. I knew she would be my toughest competition, and she was. I'm glad she didn't compete in the team event; I'm glad she went individual, because I don't want anything to be a walk in the park.

"I think it was the ladies, really, that made it what was so fun, because I was missing my team," said Perrins, who competed with her team, CrossFit the Club of South Ogden, and helped it earn a seventh-place team finish last year. "I was kinda feeling sad, because last year I was there with my team."

Another great thing about the experience for Perrins was her support system. She had many family members and friends there to cheer her on, including her dad and stepmother, Mel and Gail Carey, who came all the way from Michigan along with her cousin, Jim Carey.

Her mom and stepfather, Diane and Robert Jacobsen of Layton, were there, too, as well as her children — Colby Perrins, 22; and Kaylee Nelson, 16 — her husband, Tory Nelson, and CrossFit the Club teammates Sheena Hammer and Autumn Hawkins, her trainer Mike Harvey, and several others who made the trip to California.

She also credited her coach, former Utah State football player Lindsay Hassell, with being a big contributor to her success.

"I love the fact that everybody was so supportive," said Perrins, who works at the Weber County Assessor's Office and received plenty of support and encouragement from her co-workers there as well. "It wouldn't be the same if I didn't have my teammates there.

"I have a great support system. If you couldn't share it with anyone, it wouldn't be quite the same."

Perhaps even more impressive than Perrins' second-place overall finish was that she's not only dealing with a torn labrum and cysts in her left shoulder but, even more amazingly, she accomplished it despite competing with a nasty gash on her right hand, which she sustained while training when her palm blistered while lifting weights.

The blister then broke and the wound steadily grew larger as she competed in the series of strenuous and painful lifting events at the World CrossFit Games.

"It tore really bad in the first workout of the games, chest-to-bar pullups, and then it just got worse and worse," she said, refusing to blame not finishing first on the injury. "… It might've changed the points a little bit. It bothered me. It really hurt on my muscle-ups, one workout where we had to hold onto the bar and hang. It really hurt, but whadda ya do? I did the best I could. You can't have a bad event. There's no margin for error.

"Kylie's an ex-gymnast and the first workout had bar muscle-ups and if you don't have that experience on the bar, you can train and train and train, but unless you have that experience — how gymnasts pull themselves up on the bar and then circle around, it's in their wheelhouse — it won't help you. The first workout was all about bar muscle-ups, because I could beat her on the sit-ups, but the bar muscle-ups is where she won it, for sure.

"If she would've had a bad event, it might've changed it a little bit, but she didn't place in anything lower than fourth," Perrins said. "She definitely deserved to win."

The CrossFit Games actually began with thousands of competitors worldwide, with the field being whittled to the top 200 and finally to the top 20 in the world. But only 18 competed in California, as one woman withdrew due to injury, and another one didn't show up at all.

Contestants competed in three workouts the first day, then in two workouts in each of the next two days.

Perrins placed fourth in the first event, which Massi won to take the lead that she would never relinquish. Then in the second event of the opening day, something they call the "Thruster," Perrins finished seventh, which made it very difficult for her to close the gap on Massi the rest of the way.

"That was my worst event," she said. "I didn't have a very good plan going into that one, and I should've done some things differently. I tried to do a 10-pound jump, from 140 pounds to 150, and I failed on that attempt. Going from 140 to 145 and then to 150 probably would've been a better option for me."

Perrins got into crossfit about five years ago after spending several years as a personal fitness instructor teaching body combat classes, which is where she thinks she suffered the original injury to her left shoulder.

"My husband, Tory, was doing crossfit and he's like,'Chris, you've gotta try this' because he knows I'm pretty competitive," she said. "So I tried it, loved it and haven't ever looked back. I work out five days a week, a couple of hours a day, and sometimes I do two workouts a day with lifting in the morning and running later in the day."

Perrins, a 1987 graduate of Clearfield High School, plans on competing in the World CrossFit Games again next year.

"I'm going to go again next year, if my body will allow me," she said. "My left shoulder really hurts right now, but heck, it always hurts.

"When someone's suffering with you, you just have that connection. That's the beauty of crossfit, you know, everybody's suffering — you're not the only one. You're all in it together. And it gives you a great sense of accomplishment.

"Some of the stuff they had us do, I never worked on that so I was just slower. There were things I hadn't really done before," Perrins said. "What I can take from it is maybe a little different training. My programming was great. There are some things I need to work on after watching the video of my workouts. I can work on my technique, and that's one of my things that probably kinda hurt me. … It just all depends on what the events are."

Perrins said there are also a couple of up-and-comers that'll be in her age group next year.

"That's the way it goes," she said.

Sure, it's all in a day's workout for Perrins — one of the world's greatest athletes you never heard of, until now.