July Featured Athlete - Leslie Brunker


1. Where are you from?

I’m from Fairfield, CT (classic New England prep school kid) but I went to Penn in Philly for undergrad and feel like I’ve absorbed some of the Phiily.

2. What’s your athletic background like?
I was a competitive gymnast until 7th grade, when I got too tall. I also played tennis pretty competitively until high school. I dabbled in field hockey. But my heart has always been with gymnastics, hence my love of handstand walking.

3. You are a Vet student at Cornell, what’s your specialty?

If only my specialty could be working dogs… While in school, I work with everybody: dogs, cats, horses, cows, and even the occasional kangaroo (not joking, I saw one last week). After school, certainly small animal will be my focus. I’m in the Army Veterinary Corps, so military working dogs are a passion of mine.

4. What drew you into that field?

Just about every 4-year-old wants to be either an astronaut or a vet. I went the vet direction… and then never grew up. I have a huge interest in preventative medicine, which might sound a bit odd for a person who is training to fix problems. However, my philosophy is one of holistic health in which diseases are prevented before they can occur, so that we can all live our best lives. There is no reason that this can’t apply to animals, too! Next thing you know, I’m going to have crossfitting dogs.

5. You recently went to Hawaii for Active Duty Training for the Army- how was that experience?

Apart from the miles of pristine beach and breathtaking hikes? It was a spectacular and eye-opening experience. This was my first real look at what my career in the Army will be, and I have to say, working with some of the nation’s most highly trained dogs and people was truly remarkable. And it wasn’t’ in the worse place :).

6. You are extremely busy, yet you devote so much time to school and CF. Where do you find the inspiration and energy?
Don’t let yesterday be better than today.

7. When are you done school and what’s your plan for after?

If all goes well, I’ll graduate from vet school in May 2019 and commission as an Active Duty Captain in the US Army Vet Corps that same month. Who knows where I’ll be for the next 4 years! Long term, it is my dream to open a rehab and training facility for working dogs (military/police/search and rescue/service dogs) that is co-located with a CrossFit gym and community center for military veterans. The blend of the CrossFit Health mentality with mentorship and camaraderie from current service members seems like a natural way to combat some of the stresses facing veterans and to allow veterans to share their wisdom with whole communities. We’ll see where that goes…

8. Do you have any pets?

I have one *baby* - my 13yo retired military working dog (Belgain Malinois), Mandy. She is my everything. She was a dual purpose (bomb sniffing and patrol) dog who served 2 tours in Iraq. 

9. What are some CF goals you’ve crossed off the list?

As silly as this might sound, one of the biggest things that drew me to CrossFit was the idea of the “cult.” While I now call it a tribe, one of my long-term goals of finding a tribe has come to fruition in more ways than I could every imagine.

Also, getting my first ring muscle up was pretty spectacular. 

10. What are some future goals you’d like to achieve? 

I know that I should have measurable, attainable goals. However, when I think of the thing that I strive for most and that gets me going every morning at 4am, it’s the desire to be happy, healthy, and kicking butt when I’m 80. 

11. What’s your least favorite CF movement?


12. What’s your favorite CF movement?

Somebody is going to come murder me for this, but: burpees. Followed closely by snatches. 

13. If you could write a wod, what would it look like?

Long WODs are my jam;

1 mile run

50 KBS

35 pistols


100’ HSW

20 CTB

35 WBS

50 burpees

1 mile run

14. Do you have a favorite Hero wod?
Murph. I cry every time I read the dedication and think about the man for which it is named. And then the WOD crushes my soul and I feel that I have accomplished the goal.

15. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Out of a backpack. The best place is where I am.

16. You are extremely inspiring to me, as well as many others at Pallas, who do you draw inspiration from? 

Are you kidding? All of you, Pallas Tribe! The people who you surround yourself with are just as important to your overall health as what you do with your body. I choose to spend as much time around this community as I can so that I can soak in the experiences and advice from all of the spectacular people who come through the doors to WOD every single day.

Those who have fought and laid down their lives for this country. I will forever be grateful and wish to honor their memories by keeping this country safe. 

17. What’s favorite place to eat in Ithaca?

Does the Farmer’s Market count? I don’t eat out much, but I love to buy all of the colors of veggies and make yummy meals at home!

18. What do you like to do outside of the gym and school?

I was a very serious classical musician (violin and piano) before vet school sucked away my time. So I love to play for myself or sight-read chamber music with close friends. 

19. Do you have a favorite season?
Definitely fall. New England falls are hard to beat!

20. What would you tell someone hesitant about starting CF?

It’s not about the fitness. I mean, of course it is, in some ways. But CrossFit is special because of the community that you are immediately drawn in to. Who knows who might be suffering through those 150 wall balls next to you. I’ve met some of the most inspiring individuals sitting in dueling pools of sweat after a challenging day in the CF gym. It’s those moments when you realize that we are all here to push ourselves and that what we do in the gym can seep into every ounce of what we do outside the gym. So, come to CrossFit and learn GRIT. Come to learn that you can do one more rep and not collapse. Because the next time you have to finish that demanding project or work that 48 hour shift, you’ll know that you are capable of pushing through more than you thought possible. CrossFit teaches you to keep pushing and lean on those around you for some belligerent cheering. You got this!

Tim Paulson