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Philadelphia Qualifiers Recap: We really need to stop being surprised by this

The face of American Ninja Warrior is changing.

Mitchell Leff/NBC

Philadelphia lived up to its reputation as a town of strong individuals willing to do what it takes to achieve their dreams. It was a great night even though the number of course completions was down from earlier qualifiers this season.

Ninjas in Philadelphia were faced with the new obstacle, Rolling Thunder, which was a violent, jarring, upper body challenge that sent quite a few into the water. Regardless, the top 30 Ninjas created an impressive field heading into the City Finals!

FOUR women, a new record, all made it into the top 30. Michelle Warnky, Jesse Labreck, Rachael Goldstein, and Allyssa Beird will all be back for the finals.

Rookie Najee Richardson, a Philly local, did his hometown proud and brought in the first completion of the night.

John Loobey showed us age is just a number with his impressive run at 64 years old.

Geoff Britten is starting off Season 8 by continuing his streak from last year of hitting every buzzer put in front of him.

Veteran Ninja Ryan Stratis returned once again, refusing to let his shoulder, which was recently operated on, hold him back.

Fan favorites Jamie Rahn and Joe Moravsky completed the course with strong times.

Rookie Anthony DeFranco came out of nowhere to slam down the fastest time of the night.

Here’s What You Missed

Course Completions: 9

Ninjas taken out by new obstacle the Wall Drop: 6

Ninjas taken out by new obstacle Rolling Thunder: 11

Ninjas taken out by the Paddle Boards: 6

Heartbreaker Moment:

This is actually a tough one to decide this week. The Philadelphia competitors were all STRONG in every way. We’d say John Gowder Jr., who put in an emotional run for his father who has Multiple Sclerosis, falling on Rolling Thunder. But his time put him well into the top 30, so he’ll be at the city finals.

Honestly, one of the hardest to watch moments of the night is a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ event. Abel Gonzalez has been taking trips to the Vegas finals for the past few years. However, his run was deeply annotated on this episode, as Abel went out on the Paddle Boards.

No, he didn’t splash down. He made a small error which caused him to step on the center axis of the obstacle. This was a no-no and he was disqualified on the technicality. It’s tough to watch tiny errors take out strong competitors.

Heart-pounding Moment:

This is going to Jesse Labreck, the female rookie who announced her presence on this course. After moving to Boston to focus on her Ninja training, Jesse became a caregiver to Emeline Sterpe, a young woman with cerebral palsy. Their bond is a total delight to witness as Emeline lovingly calls Jesse a ‘weirdo’ and has confidence Jesse will crush the course.

And that’s exactly what she does. While she did go out on the Rolling Thunder, her strong performances on both the Paddle Board and Wall Drop meant she saved herself enough time to land in the top 30. Which is fantastic because it means we’ll hopefully get to see more impressive moves from Jesse and smiles from Emeline at the City Finals.

Lesson of the night: We should probably stop being surprised by the female Ninjas.

So first we all said that LA was a strong city for women, as Jessie Graff and Natalie Duran made the Finals. Then Meagan Martin hit the buzzer in Indianapolis. We can’t even begin to recount all the strong performances from women this season that didn’t result in top 30 finishes.

Now, we have Michelle Warnky, Jesse Labreck, Rachael Goldstein, and Allyssa Beird heading to the Philadelphia Finals. It’s probably about time that we stop acting shocked and surprised that women are serious threats to the Ninja Warrior course.

But then again, it’s also still really awesome to see these incredible female athletes. Their accomplishments are blazing a path for young women and men to see that there are no rules about what you have to look like for success in this sport.

Here’s the 30 Ninjas making their way to the Philadelphia City Finals!

  • Anthony DeFranco
  • Jon Alexis Jr.
  • Joe Moravsky
  • Michael Torres
  • Najee Richardson
  • Jamie Rahn
  • Geoff Britten
  • Tyler Cravens
  • Ryan Stratis
  • Mike Bernardo
  • Chris DiGangi
  • Mike Soria
  • Chris Wilczewski
  • John Gowder Jr.
  • Lori Adams
  • Brandon Pannell
  • Michelle Warnky
  • Eric Torres
  • Yancy Quezada
  • Tim Bream
  • Richard Shoemaker
  • Nick Kostreski
  • Alex Dell’Aquila
  • Greg Fleming
  • Fabio Figueiredo
  • Miles Avery
  • Carl Fantauzzo
  • Jesse Labreck
  • Rachael Goldstein
  • Allyssa Beird

American Ninja Warrior is taking a break next week for the Fourth of July holiday. It will return on Monday, July 11th with the Los Angeles City Finals! We’re about to find out who continues their journey to Mount Midoriyama!