GARFIELD, N.J. — Garfield Police Officer Dennis Serritella expected the worst when he pulled up to the scene of a car crash three summers ago.
The sun had set and the lone patrol officer realized that all three occupants were drugged. They tried to run, but Serritella chased them down. Then they tried to fight him. Then they ran again.
Backups found Serritella unharmed and the trio under control.
He says he could've kept fighting -- for which Serritella credits CrossFit training.
Things came full circle for the Garfield native last month, when he finished first in the New Jersey Male Law Enforcement division of the 2016 International CrossFit Open.
First-place female finisher Dana Wilcomes trains a mile or so away.
"My body is built to sustain a high output of energy without crashing," said Serritella, who trains at Great White in Paramus. "I'm ready to go when I need to."
That wasn't always the case for the 10-year department veteran.
It was 2012 and Serritella, then of East Rutherford, was looking to lose the weight he'd gained while recovering from his second knee surgery in two years.
He wandered into a CrossFit gym a few blocks away -- and hasn't looked back since.
"It's been very rewarding," Serritella said. "If you follow its methodology, CrossFit teaches you how to be better in life, at ordinary tasks."
His cumbersome police vest and belt sit more naturally on his body, Serritella said. He can also run a 5K faster than many other and is ready for almost anything at work.
The officer is hoping to open his own CrossFit gym in Bergen County.
"[CrossFit] is more than throwing weights around at a gym," Serritella said. "It could save my life one day, or I could save someone else's."