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SURVIVAL OF THE CROSSFITTEST: Carleen Mathews will challenge for Fittest Woman on Earth

CrossFit St. Helens owner to compete in CrossFit Games July 19-24 in Carson, Calif.


PHOTO CREDIT: GAMES.CROSSFIT.COM - Carleen Mathews, 32, a Longview, Wash., native and the owner of CrossFit St. Helens, won the West Regional and will challenge for Fittest Woman on Earth at the CrossFit Games July 19-24 in Carson, Calif.Carleen Mathews is days from contending for Fittest Woman on Earth.

She won the CrossFit Games West Regional at the Moda Center in May in Portland, and will show off her physique to judges and spectators at the Reebok CrossFit Games at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., July 19-24.

CrossFit demands strength and conditioning, aerobic exercise, body weight exercises and Olympic weightlifting.

The top five men, the top five women and the top five teams from 17 regions survive to the Games.

Deadlifting 385 pounds and squatting 285 pounds, it’s evident the 5-foot-2, 32-year-old is strong to the core.

She maintains a healthy diet with multiple daily workouts, but that wasn’t always the case.

It wasn’t long ago that Mathews couldn’t stand looking at herself in a mirror.

Just as her Clackamas Community College (Oregon City), St. Martin's University (Lacey, Wash.) and Concordia University (Portland) softball career ended with an interdisciplinary studies degree, Mathews developed issues with her body image, which led to an eating disorder. She faced drug and alcohol addiction after checking into rehab in 2010.

But that's when she discovered CrossFit.

“My life is so much better today, and CrossFit has played a huge role in my recovery,” said Mathews, a Longview, Wash., native who owns CrossFit St. Helens. “I restricted, over-exercised and eventually binged and purged multiple times a day. I did not know who I was and thought if I looked a certain way, I would be happy. Boy, was I wrong! Once the eating disorder got bad, my drinking and drugging got progressively worse. My family was worried, and I pushed away, because I was in denial that I had a problem."

Mathews started competing and has yet to stop, but another setback befell her.

On Feb. 7, 2013, Charlie — her father and biggest fan — died unexpectedly from complications following surgery to treat diverticulitis, a condition involving inflammation of the colon.

“It was the worst day of my life,” Mathews said.

Charlie watched all of her competitions and bragged regularly about his daughter. When he passed, Mathews vowed that she would make it to the Games for him.

She delivered on that promise in 2015, when she qualified for her first CrossFit Games.

As a rookie happy to be there, she came up 36th.

She's headed back to Carson with a different goal.

“I looked back at last year, and there was times when I was like, ‘I just don’t want to be last,’ and I was looking around hoping that I wasn’t last,” Mathews said. “This year going in, the mentality is, 'No — I want to be first.'”

The Games will broadcast at games.crossfit.com and at espn3.com.