Lux-Casco native places second in national CrossFit competition
By Rich Palzewic
DE PERE – “I was good at everything but not great at anything.”
Those are the words of Tom Fameree when explaining why he’s been so successful at CrossFit — a branded fitness regimen that involves constantly varied functional movements performed at high intensity.
Fameree, who was a standout track and football athlete at Luxemburg-Casco High School and later played football at St. Norbert College, recently finished second in the CrossFit Games in Madison in the 60-64 age group.
This comes on the heels of finishing third last year.
“My parents were teachers at Luxemburg-Casco,” Fameree, who has lived in De Pere for the past 31 years, said. “My dad was the physical education teacher and coached many different things.”
During his junior year in 1979, Fameree won the Class B state title in the 880-yard run.
“I loved basketball the most but was best at track,” he said. “I was one of those different-combo athletes. I won the conference title in the 880 but also in the discus — that doesn’t seem like a normal mix there. If there had been a decathlon event, I could have done well in that. At St. Norbert, I was an incredibly average football player.”
After his playing days
Athletically, Fameree said there was a void in his life after his competitive playing days were done.
“I’m wired where I need to feel athletic and need to feel relevant from a competition standpoint — it’s a stupid thing, but it’s in my head,” he said. “I’m always competing, no matter what I do. It’s not a great trait to possess all the time.”
Fameree then gave golf a try.
“That didn’t seem to have enough excitement for me — I only played for a year or two,” he said.
Then there was recreational league basketball.
“In my mid to late 30s, I ran into a guy who did a lot of marathon running,” he said. “I asked myself, ‘What’s the pinnacle of marathons? It’s the Boston Marathon.’ I’m 6-foot-1, 200 pounds — that’s not a marathon body. I worked hard for about seven years and finally qualified for Boston in 2006 at the age of 44. That was one of the best days of my life — my whole family was there.”
From there, Fameree moved on from running marathons.
He also tried biking but said that wasn’t for him, either.
“There were about three or four years there where I thought it was enough — just be like most other 50-year-old men,” he said. “I was ‘lost’ in my late 40s until I found CrossFit when I was 52.”
Fameree said he was convinced to try CrossFit by a Schreiber Foods employee in 2014.
“I was afraid to try it, but I walked into CrossFit Green Bay in September of that year,” he said. “It sounds cliché, but it changed my life. What I learned was, even though I was out of shape — about 225 pounds and flabby — I found I was good at it. It combines elements of gymnastics, strength training and cardio training. I gained confidence quickly.”
In 2016, Fameree began competing in CrossFit locally.
With his eyes set on competing at the CrossFit Games — the Super Bowl of sorts for CrossFit athletes — Fameree said participants must go through qualifying rounds to advance.
“I didn’t make it to the CrossFit Games in California that year,” he said. “The next year, the games were moved to Madison, but again, I didn’t make it. I still went to Madison to watch as a spectator. I thought with a little work, I could compete with the guys there. That was my motivation — the 2017 CrossFit Games in Madison.”
In 2018, Fameree made the games for the first time, finishing ninth in the 55-59 age group.
“I snuck into the games as the last qualifier and was thrilled to do so,” he said. “I had a great experience and thought that was the pinnacle of my CrossFit career. It was way too much stress on me.”
Fameree continued to compete but didn’t make the games in 2019, and then COVID-19 wiped out the 2020 competition.
“In 2021, I was 59 years old and at the top of the age group,” he said. “From the bottom of an age group to the top — especially when you’re older — it makes a big difference.”
Fameree finished 20th out of 20 competitors that year.
“I was a little dinged up and didn’t know if I belonged anymore,” he said. “I knew the next year I’d age up — I’d be turning 60, which meant I was the youngster in that age group. I thought 2022 was the year for me.”
In 2022, Fameree qualified first going into the games.
“I finished third and had a great experience, but I didn’t have all that much fun,” he said. “Looking back, it was like a business trip — I was supposed to get on the podium. Again, I thought I was done.”
Fameree said he wanted to bring the fun back into his CrossFit experience.
“CrossFit for me is like brushing my teeth — I do it every day because I love it, and it’s become a part of my discipline and routine,” he said. “I’m always in pretty good shape, so I don’t have to ramp up too much.”
After a mental break, Fameree, now 61, had to decide if he wanted to continue competing.
“I decided to do the qualifying round and go from there,” he said. “I eventually qualified for the games again. I wanted to know if I could qualify, but I wasn’t sure I would go. I validated it for myself. Then I decided I had to go — I couldn’t qualify and not go.”
Fameree said he went to Madison to have fun — and not finish last.
“I did a decent job convincing myself that’s what I should do,” he said. “I didn’t care what happened — I didn’t want to finish last, and I wanted to have fun. I took the approach of one workout at a time.”
Going into the last workout, Fameree said there were five or six competitors bunched at the top.
“Everything depended on the last workout,” he said. “I knew the worst I could do was fifth place. As it turned out, the last workout was fun. The way other people finished, I placed second.”
So, where does Fameree go from here?
“I’m not sure,” he chuckled. “The games won’t be in Madison next year, but the location hasn’t been announced yet. I don’t know what the future holds.”
Whatever that future holds, you can bet Fameree will still be staying in shape and ready for his next adventure.