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American Ninja Warrior Denver Qualifiers recap: The Colorado course becomes a vicious opponent

Getting to this buzzer seemed like it was almost impossible!

Dustin Bradford/NBC

Denver was just... BRUTAL. The course was technically difficult and extremely draining. Only eight Ninjas would hit the buzzer. Competitors were dropping left and right.

Beloved veterans like Brian Arnold, Sam Sann and Megan Martin wouldn’t complete the course, but fought hard enough to make it to the City Finals. But other favorites like Jake Murray and Jon Stewart would end their seasons way too early.

Here’s what you missed:

Course completions: 8! Only EIGHT!

Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Rail Runner: 11

Ninjas taken out by the obstacle, Ring Swing: 5

The Course:

  • Floating Steps
  • Ring Swing
  • Bouncing Spider
  • Paddle Boards
  • Rail Runner
  • Warped Wall

Quick Highlights:

  • Robbie Doman gave us an emotional run as the wounded veteran made it to the Paddle Boards, hoping to inspire others like him to not give up on themselves.
  • Jon Stewart flew across the globe to make sure he didn’t miss a season of Ninja Warrior. Unfortunately, he only made it to the Bouncing Spider.
  • Tammy McClure trains on her vineyard, which sounds like a lot of fun. It also appears to be paying off as she made it all the way to the Rail Runner.
  • Andrew Duncan is an American Ninja Warrior super fan who finally reached the age limit required for the show. His zealous mother was pretty much losing her mind when he hit the buzzer.
  • Brian Arnold is usually a sure bet in the Qualifiers. There was a collective gasp when he smacked his nose on the Rail Runner and plunged into the water.
  • Ryan Sutter is no stranger to the TV world. He met, fell in love and married his wife as the first winner of the “The Bachelorette.” He had less luck on Ninja Warrior, falling at the Bouncing Spider.
  • Dan Yager revealed that his success on the show had allowed his biological father to track him down. They reunited after 30 years apart and his dad watched Dan on FaceTime as he hit the buzzer.
  • Sam Sann, the beloved Ninja Warrior and trainer, finally returned. He hadn’t competed in his local region of San Antonio because he was recovering from back surgery. The extra time was worth it. He made it to the Rail Runner and qualified for the City Finals.
  • Venn Johns is a professional bull-rider who was sure he could ride out this course. While he lasted more than eight seconds, his run ended at the Bouncing Spider.
  • Nick Kostreski gave the buzzer a punch as he finished the course.
  • Jeri D’Aurelio made it into the top 30 when she made it to the Rail Runner.
  • Michael Stanger and his family have been on an incredible journey. In previous seasons, we’ve seen his wife watching him from the sidelines in a wheelchair. But in the past year, she’s started training as much as she could with her husband. The result? This season she was standing and jumping! It was the motivation Michael needed to make it to the Rail Runner.
  • Drew Knapp completed the brutal course.
  • Lorin Ball is a veteran who went out early last season. He fixed that by hitting the buzzer with the fastest time of the night. He spent only three seconds on the Floating Steps.
  • Speaking of speed, everyone expected Jake Murray, the Ninja wild child, to compete for the fastest time and pull of something wacky. In a devastating shock, Jake fell at the Bouncing Spider, bringing his season to quick end.
  • Wolfpack member Ian Dory completed the Qualifying course once again!
  • Bart Copeland was only the seventh person we saw hit the buzzer.
  • The highlight of the night was Meagan Martin. While she didn’t hit her fourth Qualifying buzzer in a row, she did hold her own on this brutal course. She made it to the Rail Runner fast enough to make it into the top 30.

Heart-Pounding Moment:

Meagan Martin is a fan-favorite of the show. She always seems effortlessly relaxed before and after her runs, but deeply dialed in when she’s on the course. She’s the only woman to finish the Qualifying course three seasons in a row.

While we really wanted to see her extend that record to four years, the Denver course was very difficult. Watching Meagan take on those five obstacles was a thrill on its own. When she did hit the water on the Rail Runner, we were terrified that she wouldn’t make the City Finals. It seemed like so many Ninjas had fallen at that point.

We all breathed a sigh of relief when it was confirmed she had made the Finals, giving Meagan a chance to get revenge on the Rail Runner.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

Jake Murray’s exit is one of those falls that echoes in your memory. You can’t believe what just happened, so you re-play it over and over again, trying to understand how it’s real.

Jake made a name for himself in season eight. He combined incredible skills with a heavy dose of personality, like back flipping up the Warped Wall, or ending Stage One with a corndog and a dive.

He started off his run strong. He rode to the start line on a Segway, with Grant McCartney by his side. He bounded through the Steps and flew through the Ring Swing. Everything was on track. Then came the Bouncing Spider.

There was no wobble, no hesitation or exhaustion signifying his run was about to end. It was just... over. One second he was fine, the next, he was done for the season. It was a sobering reminder of the power of the course.

And seeing Jake Murray sad during his post-run interview with Kristine is just downright depressing.

Lesson of the Night:

The course is NOT playing around.

In Kansas City, only ten Ninjas completed the course, which was bad. It was one of the lowest numbers in the show’s history.

But then Denver said, “Watch this.” Only EIGHT Ninjas made it to the buzzer. (Only one of which we didn’t see on the episode.) Which is terrifying. There’s been a lot of discussion lately around how hard the obstacles have become and this pretty much clears up any doubt on the subject.

We know the Ninjas can adapt to anything and the reason the obstacles are so hard is because they’re so good. But... whoa. It leaves us a little scared of the rest of the season. If this is what the Qualifiers are like, what will the City Finals bring?

Hold on tight. This ride is just getting underway.

Next Up:

On July 24, the City Finals kick off with a return to Los Angeles. Who will be the first Ninjas to clear their path to the National Finals?