By KERRY-ANN HAMILTON — On a warm and sunny Saturday morning in May, more than 30 people gathered at CrossFit Hyattsville (CFH) at 4616-B Ingraham Street for a special hero’s workout to honor Senior Chief Petty Officer Shannon M. Kent.
Kent, 35, was stationed at the Fort Meade Army installation. She was one of four Americans killed by a suicide bomber in Syria this past January. On her fifth combat deployment, she was assigned to a Navy unit that supports the National Security Agency and military special operations forces.
CrossFit is best known for its fire-breathing competitors and tight knit community. CrossFit facilities are not gyms, but are called boxes — mostly housed in warehouse-style facilities — and the workouts are called WODs, which translates to “workout of the day.”
Kent’s fellow comrades, including James (whose last name cannot be shared because of his position in the U.S. military), curated and named the eponymous WOD the “Shannon.”
The rigorous 35-minute workout included some of her favorite exercises: burpees, running and thrusters. Each minute of the Shannon workout celebrates one year of her life.
“I met with her friends to design the workout,” said Beth Mohr, CFH owner and coach. “We wanted athletes to work in teams — that is what Shannon loved most.”
The participants, mostly Hyattsville residents and Kent’s sister, Mariah, spanned age and ability spectrums, but everyone felt connected to the hero who died in the line of duty.
“We do hero WODs all the time, but there is something really special about honoring someone you know and a hero who lived so close to home,” said Theresa Goedeke, a CFH member. “We pushed through for a higher purpose.” Goedeke’s brother, a Hyattsville resident, served overseas with Kent. Goedeke said she was moved by her brother’s grief and the pain of his colleagues and decided to do the WOD as a way to honor Shannon and also give her friends an outlet to channel their pain.
Throughout the workout, participants could be heard motivating each other:“You got this” or “Just 10 more seconds!” Coach Mohr occasionally shouted, “Good job … you can do it!”
At the end of the grueling workout, James and veteran Sherwet Witherington, 37, hugged and cried as they knelt in front of a wall of photos of Kent.
In addition to being a fearless cancer survivor, “Shannon was an unsung hero; she was a woman, a leader and a trailblazer,” said Witherington.
Witherington did the tough workout in 35-pound body armor. “I remember trekking 20-30 miles across the desert with Shannon with a heavier armor than this in the scorching heat. She was only 125 lbs. soaking wet, but she was larger than life,” she said with a smile.
James, visibly emotional and fatigued, said, “I could do this a few more times in honor of Shannon.” He did both the 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. class — a total of 70 minutes — in memory of his colleague and friend of 10 years. “Shannon never left anyone behind; she always went back and picked up the stragglers.”
The youngest participant was Gavin Lansing, 10; he joined his mom and CFH member Stephanie for the workout.
“I felt very motivated to do the workout because we were honoring an amazing person who did a lot of good things in the army,” Gavin said. “I found the burpees very challenging but loved the running.”
Kent would have celebrated her 36th birthday on May 11, on the eve of Mother’s Day. The wife and mother of two is missed by her neighbors and friends in Hyattsville and across the region.
“What I love about CrossFit is that it brings together regular people to honor heroes around us who sacrifice so much so we don’t have to worry about our freedom,” Goedeke said as she wiped away her tears.
CFH members are planning to make this an annual workout to honor the fallen hero, Shannon Kent.
During the Memorial Day weekend, 40 CFH members and crossfitters nationwide did the “Murph” WOD in memory of Navy Lieutenant Michael Murphy, 29, of Patchogue, N.Y., who was killed in Afghanistan in June 2005. The workout included a pair of 1-mile runs, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups and 300 squats, with a time cap of 60 minutes. CFH donated proceeds from the Murph fundraiser and T-shirt sales to the Shannon Kent Family Fund.
To learn more about the Shannon Kent Family Fund, visit the Tunnel to Towers Foundation, tunnel2towers.org/