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Omaha Magazine

Peak Performance

Oct 22, 2023 02:04AM ● By Leo Adam Biga
sports isaiah weber

Photo by Bill Sitzmann.

There’s fit, and then… there’s super fit. 

Gretna High School senior Isaiah Weber’s combination of strength, agility, and endurance make him a world-class CrossFit competitor. CrossFit is a branded, some say dogmatic, fitness regimen drawn from various athletic disciplines that tests participants in various, high-intensity functional movements.

Weber, 17, has placed well in national and worldwide CrossFit boys’ rankings, making him one of the fittest teens anywhere. He maintains a demanding, year-round workout schedule in addition to competing in football and baseball. The 5-foot 7-inch, 180-pound captain is a two-way starter on offense (running back) and defense (linebacker) for the elite Gretna gridiron program. He’s also a catcher on the baseball team.

The youngest in a sports-centric family, Weber was home-schooled until eighth grade. Brothers Jacob and Zach played college tennis and golf, respectively. Sister Sarah, a two-time Gatorade Player of the Year in soccer, is another standout Nebraska athlete. 

What sets Isaiah and Sarah apart, their mother Tammy said, is a “competitive fire.” 

“He just has an edge. Before a track meet at age 5, he’d say, ‘I’m not going to do this if they give out those stupid participation ribbons. I’m doing this to win and get a medal.’”

Isaiah gravitated to full contact sports, chafing at the private tennis lessons his mom, a former competitive gymnast, arranged for him. His instructor, James Ingram, was doing CrossFit in preparation for Navy Seals testing. Impressed by the extreme physical challenge, Weber took notice.

“I had a little exposure to it. But I really didn’t know what it was until I got a taste for it myself,” Weber said.

At the age of 10, he created a makeshift basement gym with dumb bells, a curl bar, and a pull-up bar. 

“That was enough at the time to throw together some pretty nasty workouts and call it CrossFit,” he recalled. “I barely knew what I was doing, but it was super addicting to see progress early on. Seeing those jumps and what it did for me on the football field, I was like, ‘Oh, shoot, this can really help!’” 

He began to devour YouTube videos of CrossFit masters.

“As I got deeper and deeper into it, learning new movements and skills—figuring out things, lifting heavier weights—that just compounded and made me want to do it more to see how far I could go,” Weber said.

CrossFit entails lifts (squat, snatch, deadlift) and movements (sprints, 5Ks, pull-ups) that tax exertion and endurance. It’s all about maximizing effort and performance. 

“The common denominator is intensity. It’s insanely hard,” Weber said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re elite, it’s still intense and tough. Doing that over and over plays a huge role in my mentality. It’s like, ‘Man, this is going to be the toughest thing I do today.’ Once you’re in it, you have a decision. You can slack off and make it feel better right now or continue to push. Yes. it’s going to hurt. But when you’re done, within 5 or 10 minutes you’re going to be perfectly fine and feel this unbelievable dopamine rush and sense of, ‘Wow I did that, I got better, I pushed myself in the toughest time.’

“It’s hard to do CrossFit and not be prepared for anything life or sport throws at you.” 

At 14, he started training with CrossFit veteran Kyle Kasperbauer at CrossFit Kinesis in Gretna. 

“It’s like having a coach and also a training partner with him writing up workouts and doing them side-by-side with me—we’re competing as he’s coaching me,” Weber noted. “It’s a different level of coaching experience.” 

The enhanced training paid off; Weber took second worldwide in 2021 in the 14-15 age division.

In 2022 he missed qualifying for the prestigious CrossFit Games by the slightest margins. 

“It’s super disappointing when you train all year and come up short,” Weber confessed. You wonder, ‘Was it worth it?’ But when I took a step back I was like…it was worth it, I got so much better.”

He made it back this year, placing eighth in the world for 16-17-year-olds.

His ascetic approach extends to nutrition and diet. 

“Everything I eat is whole foods or natural,” he said. “I try to stay away from anything processed.” 

“He has a very mature level of mental toughness, personal drive, and dedication applied to his craft,” Kasperbauer added. “It’s been an honor and privilege to coach Isaiah and watch him grow and develop into a hard working, confident, yet humble young man.” 

The long days grow even longer during football and baseball seasons. Upon completing practice, he still heads to the gym for CrossFit workouts.

“Some days I’m like, ‘This is rough, I’m exhausted.’ All I want to do is go to sleep but I still have one workout to do and I’ve got to get it done,” Weber said. “If you want to be the best, you can’t take a day off or you fall a step behind.”

He’s convinced the conditioning and mindset allow him to stay fresh through four quarters of football games despite almost never leaving the field.

Weber’s even made a study of human performance. 

“I took college anatomy and physiology last year as a high school student to try to better understand how the body works and if there’s anything I could do to improve my function or efficiency,” he said. 

This CrossFit disciple even got a football teammate involved over the summer who lost 50 pounds and started winning lineman conditioning drills at practice.

“It’s really cool that it’s not just me seeing these results,” Weber noted. “For anyone with the mindset of getting better the results are going to be extraordinary.” 

That includes his father, Kevin, a former multi-sport athlete who took up CrossFit at his son’s urging.

After graduating in May, Isaiah expects to continue competing. He already has a Level I trainer certification and can see himself training others, coaching football, working as a physical therapist, and possibly running his own gym. 

“I think sports will stay in my life no matter what it is,” he said. 

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This article originally appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, 
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