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Jessie Graff's latest phenomenal Ninja Warrior run, from someone who was there

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A long-time member of the American Ninja Warrior team gives their account of watching Jessie smash expectations in Daytona.

Ryan Tuttle/NBC

Jessie Graff’s Daytona City Finals run on season nine of American Ninja Warrior is less than 48 hours old (on the Internet, at least) and it’s already been seen by over a million people on social media.

Essentially, it’s already been added to the canon of Ninja Warrior history. But all those eyes on that video are missing one perspective: The view of someone who watched it in person, from behind the cameras.

A long-time crew member of American Ninja Warrior wanted to share their perspective of that night, which happened months before the TV audience saw it. They approach those pivotal few moments with the mindset of someone with television industry experience first, and as a fan second. However, the result is the same: What Jessie Graff has accomplished is another game-changer for the show and the sport.

What follows is a first-person account from a long-time member of the crew, who chose to remain anonymous.


Walking the sidelines on American Ninja Warrior has provided an interesting perspective. Witnessing first hand super human feats of strength has been right there at my disposal on the camera side of the course since Miami 2012.

When Kacy Catanzaro breached the Warped Wall, I knew I was watching a slice of Ninja Warrior history when it happened. I thought to myself, ‘Someday, this wall might end up in the Smithsonian as it has become one of America's most recognizable structures ever assembled.’

After all, if Archie Bunker's chair is there, why not this wall? The audience for the show continues to be ageless and timeless and it remains forever expanding like the universe.

But it was the early hours Sunday morning April 9th that I saw with my own eyes why the show could go on forever.

Her performance was electrifying. It was stunning. She studied each obstacle with the cunning of a fox. She moved through them with the grace of a leopard. She conquered complex. She conquered physically demanding. She conquered physical exhaustion.

While hanging from one obstacle, she took a moment to collect herself. Then, just as quickly, she was on the move.

Up to her run, no one made it to the top of the final climb at Daytona Beach. I wondered if she would be, could be the first of the night. It wasn't that I just wanted to believe it... I did believe it, as I watched her mastery of every challenge in front of her.

Producers came out of the Mission Control Trailer and the camera side was silent as she annihilated the course pushing obstacles aside like cannon fodder as she focused her sights towards the finish. There was determination in her eyes. There was a smile on her face.

By the time she scaled the wall, I think I was breathing harder then she was. But it was the point she took on a particular obstacle, the Giant Cubes, and made it hers that Jessie Graff owned this course and wrote season 10 into the books of the future.

I wish I had video running so I could see the replay over and over. But I knew my mediocre camera skills couldn't do justice to what she just did, and my crappy cell phone was no match for our camera woman, Megan and her super high speed slow motion 1mil/k behemoth recording every frame.

I will only have the image of Jessie Graff's incredible negotiation of this obstacle etched in my brain running on repeat until I can watch it again for real when season 9 airs this summer in America's living rooms.