Midland-local Joel Hughes will compete in this year’s CrossFit Games, qualifying him as one of the fittest people in the world in his age group.

Hughes (45) will compete in the 45-49 age group in Madison, WI at the beginning of August. He said the qualification process started with around 17,000 people competing for a chance to make the games. It was then narrowed down to 200 in the online qualifier, and again to just 10 for the actual competition.

Athletes perform prescribed workouts and submit their information and scores during the process. Hughes said he was very surprised to see his name on the leaderboard.

“I was extremely surprised. I still am. I can’t believe it,” Hughes said.

Hughes starting going to CrossFit classes five years ago, and prior to that, said he did not exercise very often.

“I was extremely out of shape. I was over 200 pounds and wanted to do something. I’d always tried to go to the gym myself and never stuck to it,” he said.

That was when a friend convinced him to try CrossFit. Hughes said he planned to make himself go every day for one month, and if he hated it, he could quit.

“I just loved it.”

And now that passion has rubbed off on his youngest daughter, Lexie Hughes. Lexie is in high school at Midland Christian, and admitted she was a bit skeptical about starting the training.

Now she goes nearly every day.

“It’s a bit unconventional, but it’s like father-daughter bonding for us. This is how we grow our relationship. If we work out together, he’ll finish like 10 minutes before I do, but I always know that he’s going to finish, and then he’ll come back and cheer me on to the finish,” she said.

Hughes’ journey has not only been an inspiration for his daughter, but to others he works out with, as well.

“I just love the fact that as he gets older, he just continues to improve. The thing that I like most about him is he’s just so humble in it…Not only is he leading in front, but he’s so quick to turn around and cheer on the person behind him as well,” said Kenny Woods, friend and CrossFit gym-mate.

Hughes said he hopes his story can make Midland proud, and provide inspiration for others.

Watch the video above for the full story.