Just three competitions remain before the National Ninja League Finals!
This week features two amazing events hosted by two ninjas (conveniently both named Mike) who have never let their short statures impede their ninja excellence.
With a combined height of less than 11 feet Mike Needham - owner of Vertiquest in Bound Brook, New Jersey and Mike Mckenzie - head trainer at Warrior Sports in Springfield, Missouri can both scale 14.5 foot Warped Walls with ease. Trust me, with these two designing the courses this week, we're going to see some insane obstacles!
Kicking things off this weekend, we'll have the first ever ninja competition hosted at Vertiquest gym. Vertiquest is Mike Needham's passion project that he's worked on for the past two years. Mike's been working around the clock (he's been so busy he hasn't competed in any NNL events, or I'm sure we would have seen him atop the leader boards) to make Vertiquest into one of the biggest and best Ninja Warrior/parkour gyms in the country.
Somehow, despite burying himself inside this place building obstacles day and night, Needham still has the strength to make one arm pull-ups look like a joke. It must be all the Dunkin power.
The gym boasts 7,000 square feet of training area, including an awesome foam pit, bouldering wall, parkour playground, and lots and lots of Ninja Warrior obstacles. Needham's got some great replicas of obstacles that have been on the show, but he's also got an abundance of his own diabolical creations.
With just a few chances to left to qualify and/or increase their season point totals, you can be sure that a ton of big name ninjas will be battling it out for the top spots at Vertiquest. On the early roster, we have 4 Vegas veterans and 4 ninjas who've been studs this NNL season: Mike Bernardo, Mike Meyers, Noel Reyes, Mike Torres, Tim Dexter, Jane Greenbaum, Chris Jordan, and Joseph Meissner.
Because I like my chances, I'm going to say the winner this week will be "Mike". I'll let you decide if that will be meaty powerhouse Mike Bernardo, swift speedster Mike Meyers, or the all around stud Mike Torres.
There's also an outside chance we see a tie for the highest scoring female in the National Ninja League, as both first place - Allyssa Beird (35pts) and second place - Jesse Labreck (30pts) will be competing at Vertiquest.
For a tie to happen Allyssa would have to place outside of the top 5 females and Jesse would have to finish in first place. These two went into last week tied at 30pts and this exact scenario played out, except in reverse, where Jesse finished outside of the top 5 and Allyssa took home first. So anything is possible. In the event of a tie, and if neither girl heads to Obstacle Academy in Minnesota next week, I honestly don't know what happens, sorry to be anti-climatic!
From New Jersey, we head to Missouri where Mike Mckenzie will have all sorts of unpleasantness set up to make even the best ninjas struggle in their last ditch efforts to qualify or improve their seeding at the National Ninja League Finals.
Warrior Sports is the classic ninja gym "for ninjas, by ninjas." They have 4 coaches on staff who have previously competed on the show: Andy Mariage (the owner), Kim Proctor, two time Stage 2 Finalist Josh Cook, and of course Mike Mckenzie.
Much like Vertiquest, within Warrior Sports there are plenty of near perfect replicas to obstacles previously seen on American Ninja Warrior, but the true essence of Warrior Sports comes from their own unique challenges.
Mike shows off Warrior Sport's modified version of the Pipe Fitter as a teaser of what to expect this weekend, if the rules are "no feet", this is going to be a Ninja Killer.
The roster I saw for Warrior Sports was far from finalized but, it already had some ninjas to look out for including: Kirsti Pratt, fresh off a first place finish last week at Classic City Ninja, 4 time American Ninja Warrior competitor Donvon Metoyer. The Team Nash Crew - Bobby Zavala, Briggs Schneider, Chris Bohem will be there with their star pupil, third place NNL female Rachel Brown.
However, the hands down favorite has to be the only ninja to beat Mike McKenzie at Kor Komplex, Adam Arnold.
TA Fitness featured the biggest name ninjas last week, and the winner was.... Andrew Horner. Sure, Andrew is not a household ninja name but, in his only NNL qualifier last season (again at TA) he took home third place. He's competed in just two events with stacked fields and finished in the top 3 both times. That can't be a fluke.
Classic City was dominated by two Ohio ninjas who I expected to absolutely crush the course, Sean Noel and Bryce LaRoche. I was surprised to see a couple unfamiliar names who turned out to be the gym managers from Obstacle Academy, Hunter Guerard and Kyle Soderman place 3rd and 5th respectively. Seeing how talented these two are made me excited to watch the ninjas battle a course of the their creation next week.
Also, the ladies did not disappoint at Classic City! Both Michelle Warnky and Kirsti Pratt were able to complete the course (only 22/69 competitors did so), with Kirsti finishing with a slightly faster time.
Sean killing it:
Last week, I made a bold prediction that David Campbell would not only win the qualifier at Apex, but he would go on to win the entire National Ninja League Finals.
Although David did not win, he did come in second place (behind stellar young gun, Seth Rogers), which qualifies him for finals where he can still make my second prediction come true!
Here's Seth's first place run:
Oh and Jesse Graff went out and did her thing too!
As always here's Chris Wilczewski presenting this same info in video form.
Here's his recap from last week too (minus one from TA Fitness)!
Again, sorry there will be no fantasy event for these NNL completions, as I switch ANWFantasy.com over to regular season mode and prep for the Season 9 American Ninja Warrior Fantasy game!