Coaches and Staff

  • CrossFit Level 2 Trainer
  • NYCA High School Strength and Conditioning Coach 
  • USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach
  • USAW Level 2 Advanced Sports Performance Coach
  • Z Health Trainer R,S T, I Phases
  • Global Rehabilitation and Injury Prevention Course
  • Gymnastics Seminar with Jim Bathurt
  • University of Virginia, BA
  • UNC - Chapel Hill, MSW

Donna Benjamin

Owner/Head Coach

I started a serious workout and lifting routine in January 2010, after having come to the conclusion that the suburban shuffle (some combination of walking and jogging) provided only minimal benefit. Although, I had an endurance background from my days as a high school track athlete, I had virtually no strength: translation - my 6 year old laughed at my deadlift. 

After my first workout, I wasn't totally convinced, but I kept at it, going to the gym 4-5 times a week. I quickly saw impressive gains in strength, flexibility and speed and can proudly claim the title of an “almost fire-breather.” The almost means that, besides being old and slow, I'm breathin’ fire.

I fully believe that the best aspect of coaching is the community of athletes; every athlete has a unique personality, and CrossFit Homeward is a great outlet for athletes of all backgrounds to reach their goals.

  • Licensed Massage & Bodywork Therapist
  • CrossFit Level 1 Trainer
  • NASM Certified Personal Trainer
  • Z-Health R Phase
  • First Aid/CPR/AED

Ashley Bishop


I am the proud mom of my amazing 8 year old son, Kai. I received my BS in Physical Education with an emphasis in Outdoor & Experiential Education from Winthrop University in 1999.  I'm well versed in a variety of coaching methodologies and have led outdoor experiences like ropes courses, kayaking, and climbing in addition to my time coaching Crossfit.

I discovered and subsequently fell in love with CrossFit in January 2012, and obtained my CrossFit Level 1 the following year. I am driven by a passion for helping others to live their healthiest lives. I am energized by helping people discover that their strengths and abilities are far beyond what they could imagine.  The combination of Crossfit coaching, massage & bodywork experience, and personal training has proven to be a well-blended approach to my career in the health and wellness field.

  • CrossFit Level 1 (CF-L1)
  • CrossFit Level 2 (CF-L2)
  • Youth Mental Health First Aid USA
  • Freestyle Connection Movement Seminar with Carl Paoli
  • USA Weightlifting Sports Performance Coach
  • CrossFit Goal Setting Course with Greg Amundson
  • CrossFit Aerobic Capacity Training Course
  • UNC-Chapel Hill, BA

Kendra Knowles

Second Family Fit Program Director


I have always been active in sports and exercise, and I swam and played tennis competitively through high school and college. I also ran recreationally until a knee injury, combined with some extra free time, led me to CrossFit.  Although I was both reluctant and intimidated at first, I quickly noticed the benefits and confidence that I gained from CrossFit.  Since overcoming that barrier in 2010, CrossFit has become a huge part of my life. As a new mom, I can attest to the fact that CrossFit kept me healthy during my pregnancy and shortened my postpartum recovery.  

I also had the opportunity to direct a CrossFit affiliate gym for 4 years.  As a result of that experience, I discovered that the most rewarding aspects of coaching and personal training are witnessing others’ personal and athletic growth.  Additionally, I have worked with a wide variety of athletes including average folks wanting to better themselves, college athletes, pregnant women, new moms, seniors, and most recently, at-risk youth in middle and high school.  

Outside of coaching and personal training, I am an Interior Design Consultant, and I enjoy spending time with my family, trail running, and gardening.

Life isn’t always about where the road leads, it is about the family, good friends, and community that make the ride worthwhile.

  • Crossfit Level 1

Faith Stewart


I have been a Crossfit athlete for five years and a Crossfit coach for three. I started Crossfit while pursuing my undergraduate degree in Military History and Political Science at Duke and fell in love with the sport immediately. I began coaching soon after, as I enjoyed the transformative impact of Crossfit on my own life and hoped to be able to enact similar changes for other people. I love coaching the progressions to higher-level skills and making these skills more accessible to the casual gym goer. I enjoy coaching and training and have personal aspirations to qualify for Regionals in 2019 (fingers crossed!). 

  • NASM Certified Peronal Trainer
  • USAW Level 1 Sports Performance Coach
  • Fascial Stretch Therapy Level 1
  • CrossFit Level 1 

Hugh Swaso


The most important thing about physical fitness is its carry over into your day to day life. No matter what your fitness goal is, as long as your "Quality of Life" improves, then you're taking a step in the right direction. I am an NASM  Certified Personal Trainer and Fascial Stretch Therapist, with a specialization towards corrective exercise.  My goal at CrossFit Homeward is to guide, educate, and inspire all of our members to achieve their individual and collective goals.

  • Crossfit Level 1
  • USAW Level 1
  • Crossfit Kids

Michelle Morgan


I attended undergraduate school at Guilford College where I majored in Peace Studies and minored in Quaker Studies and dance. I continued to study dance after school and have modest experience in different styles including; ballet, ballroom, aerial and blues. In the fitness field I have competed in running and bodybuilding and have experience with powerlifting, crossfit and weightlifting.

I am currently studying toward a pre and post natal certification through Girls Gone Strong. My passion to assist women and children in reaching their fitness and athletic goals has inspired me to seek specialization in fitness for women and children at all stages of their lives. 

I believe leading a life with fitness in healthy moderation is the the key to long term success in maintaining a healthy and strong body.

  • CrossFit Level 1 

Amanda Utevsky


I am from New York City where I grew up training in gymnastics and ice skating. After a bad back injury, I turned to weight lifting for rehab, and quickly fell in love with lifting weights and feeling stronger. I was introduced to CrossFit in 2011 through bootcamp-style community classes, and joined a box soon after. The camaraderie, exhilaration, and measurable progress got me hooked. I love sharing my passion for CrossFit style metcons and lifting heavy barbells with anyone I can get in the gym.

I recently completed my PhD in Psychology and Neuroscience from Duke, and when not in the gym, I enjoy hanging out with my husband and pups, and having a casual drink out in Durham.     

  • Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT): Campbell University 
  • BA Exercise and Sport Science: UNC Chapel Hill
  • Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist 
  • Crossfit Level 1 Trainer 
  • Pose Method® Certified Technique Specialist
  • Structure and Function - Dry Needling for Orthopedic Rehabilitation and Sport Performance 
  • FMT Basic, Rocktape 
  • FMT Performance, Rocktape 
  • FMT Blades - IASTM, Rocktape 
  • Selective Functional Movement Assessment
  • Functional Movement Screen
  • Crossfit Movement and Mobility Trainer
  • Blood Flow Restriction Training: Owens Recovery Institute


Michael Tancini, DPT

Coach/Physical Therapist

I started training when I was 14, long before I’d heard of Crossfit. In pursuit of a career in college baseball, I trained in both powerlifting and Olympic weightlifting, as well as more traditional speed and agility training. I continued these training protocols throughout my time playing baseball in college. I started Crossfit in 2010, and since then I have qualified for and competed at four Crossfit Regionals (3x Individual: 2012, 2013, 2014, 1x Team: 2017), Wodapalooza (Elite Division: 2015), and the Granite Games in 2015 on a team. Currently, I am a Doctor of Physical Therapy at my business, Ground to Overhead Physical Therapy, and a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. When I’m not working with athletes to address their pain and dysfunction through physical therapy, I enjoy helping athletes to optimize their performance and stay pain free in the gym! My goal is to help athletes perform their best, stay healthy, and optimize their health and wellness through improved fitness and movement quality.

  • Crossfit Level 1

  • CF Gymnastics

  • CF Movement and Mobility

  • Z-health Essentials of Elite Performance


Audrey Tancini


I am a native of New Mexico where I grew up on a dairy farm and played outside as much as humanly possible. I swam and played volleyball and softball throughout my younger years. I settled on swimming when my family moved to Chapel Hill in 1997. I swam competitively year round and for Chapel Hill High (GO TIGERS!). I attended UNCW where I took a hiatus from exercise and became an elementary school teacher. I returned to Chapel Hill in 2008 and made a pact with a friend to get into shape. We set a New Years resolution to train for the Tar Heel 4 Miler. And ta-da I fell in love with exercise again, which led me to Crossfit. After one class I was hooked. I quickly became certified to coach and began competing in local competitions. Since then I have competed in the Open every year, at the Granite Games, and at Wodapalooza. I love Crossfit because it helped rekindle my love for exercise, structured training, and competition.  Also, I met my husband at the CF gym (xoxo). I love helping people set and meet goals and allowing them to discover the path to being their best self. 

If I am not at the gym you can find me playing with my dog Sadie, studying for Grad School (currently working on my masters in Special Ed), or drinking an iced coffee with Michael. 

  • CrossFit Level 1

Matt Cialdini


I am an active member of my native Chapel Hill community. I joined CrossFit in 2014 after getting tired of a boring gym routine. I quickly fell in love with the community and competitive energy that CrossFit breeds. I became a CrossFit Level 1 trainer in 2015 and began coaching immediately.  

I've expanded my coaching to include working with at-risk youth through the Second Family Fit program and working as a personal trainer to those who desire an individualized, butt-kicking work out. My enthusiasm for helping others achieve their strength and wellness goals reveals a true passion that I love to share with others.

When I'm not at the gym, I can be found snuggling my favorite being in the entire world; my pitbull mutt Macho Man Randy Savage.

  • Crossfit Level 1

Scott Carroll 


With a distance running and beer league hockey background, I started Crossfit in 2014. I am a Firefighter and EMT in Chapel Hill, and I started coaching in hopes of sharing the knowledge and skills I learned as an athlete with other members of the CFH community. 


  • CrossFit Level 1 
  • CPR/ AED   

Hayden Marino


My father was the first to introduce me to fitness. After awhile I got tired of doing the same thing and a friend dared me to try CrossFit. While I was lying on the floor in a pool of sweat I knew I was hooked! I hit the ground running and took my Level 1 as soon as I could. One of the greatest rewards of coaching is knowing that I can be of service to the people I meet.

  • Crossfit Level 1
  • Licensed Massage Therapist

Jamie Taylor

Coach/Licensed Massage Therapist

I have been a Licensed Massage Therapist for 18 years, a CrossFit athlete for 5, and a CrossFit coach for 3. I started Crossfit in 2012 in a gym that first started as a shed in the woods. Recently, I've traded out the shed spiders as gym partners for my son, Achilles, and my newborn, Thea.

  • Certified 5th Dan Aikido Instructor with Aikido Kokikai International
  • Teaching Aikido since 1991
  • Practicing Aikido since 1982
  • Princeton University BSEE, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Cornell University MS, Physics

Eric Horlbeck

Aikido Instructor

Eric has been studying the effortless magic of Aikido Kokikai’s principles applied to human movement since 1983. 

His current focus is complementing whole body functional strength and fitness training with mind/body coordination and awareness. The combination produces astonishing results!

He is married and actively involved with his boy’s Scouting and school activities. He enjoys ballroom dancing and training his dog Sadie.

  • Duke University, Doctorate of Physical Therapy
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BS in Biology, Minor in Chemistry
  • Certified Dry Needling through Kinetacore

Virginia Lanier

Physical Therapist

Virginia Lanier, PT, DPT specializes in outpatient orthopedic physical therapy and trigger point dry needling. She is driven by a passion for teaching athletes how to move better so that they feel better. Preventing injuries is key to optimizing performance. Her extensive work with triathletes, CrossFitters and weekend warriors allows her to draw from a varied background to tailor programs for an individual's needs and goals. Check out more about her approach at

  • Bachelor’s in Health Science, focus Asian Holistic Health & Massage
  • BA in Psychology, Zoology minor
  • NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist
  • USA Diving Sports Med Team Member
  • 2016 Olympic Team, Diving Staff
  • US Olympic Committee Sports Medicine Rotation
  • UNC Swimming & Diving, Women’s Lacrosse
  • Duke Swimming & Diving, Women’s Soccer
  • RockTape Basic and Advanced Taping
  • RockBlades Basic and Advanced Instrument Assisted Care
  • 2nd Degree Black Belt, Tang Soo Do
  • 2nd Degree Black Belt, To Shin Do (ninjutsu)
  • Max Kettlebell Certification

Kelly Cox

Massage Therapist, BHS, LMBT, CES, FMT

            I am the owner of Randori Bodywork, a massage therapy service focused on helping athletes better their performance through improved movement quality. I work with both the US National Diving Team and several of UNC’s varsity teams performing massage therapy in order to help athletes achieve their athletic goals. My time with the US National Diving Team has led me all over the country and the world, including to Rio de Janeiro for the 2016 Olympic Games as part of the Olympic Diving Staff.  In addition to working with the US National Diving Team and several of UNC’s varsity teams, I have worked with Crossfit athletes of all levels since 2011. 

            Prior to my career in massage therapy, I worked as a professional animal trainer. I have also practiced martial arts for 24 years and currently focus my training on the art of ninjutsu. When I’m not working with clients or training for my third-degree black belt, I enjoy amateur woodworking.

  Photograph by Aeon Schmoock

Photograph by Aeon Schmoock

Danny Benjamin


Danny Benjamin MD PhD: Assistant Coach for Baseball and Youth Athletics. Danny has been a coach for youth sports teams in recreation, travel, and school for over twenty years. He's currently the head coach for Smith Middle School Baseball. In Coach Danny's spare time, he's a pediatrician.