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American Ninja Warrior National Finals recap: The triumphs and tragedies of Stage One

More Ninjas than ever before will advance to Stage Two, but not everyone is moving on.

David Becker/NBC

American Ninja Warrior’s second night of the National Finals was outrageously exciting and yet also included one of the most painfully surprising falls we’ve seen all season.

The good news: More Ninjas than ever before, 41, have advanced to Stage Two.

The bad news: Some of the names on the list of fallen Ninjas will leave your jaw on the floor and we said goodbye to a legend.

Here’s what you missed:

Course completions: 20

Ninjas taken out by the Double Dipper: 5

Ninjas taken out by the Flying Squirrel: 4 (including those that timed out while on the obstacle)

The Course:

  • Snake Run
  • Propeller Bar
  • Double Dipper
  • Jumping Spider
  • Parkour Run
  • Warped Wall
  • Domino Pipes
  • Flying Squirrel

Quick Highlights:

  • Rigel Henry showed us that the Jumping Spider still has a bite to it.
  • Jeri D’Aurelio was the first of the night to fall at the Double Dipper.
  • Tyler Yamauchi is 61 inches tall, which makes him the shortest person ever to beat the Jumping Spider. But he wasn’t content with that. He beat the entire course!
  • Meagan Martin has been stumped by the Warped Wall her past few years in the National Finals. Things looked a little hairy when she languished on the Propeller Bar for a few rotations. But she got it together and pushed herself down the course. With just a few seconds left on the clock, she cleared the Warped Wall. She won’t move on to Stage Two, but she beat that old mental roadblock.
  • Sean Bryan, the Papal Ninja, had a big crowd of supporters watching on. He made sure not to let them down. After he hit the buzzer, he turned himself upside down on the finisher’s platform.
  • Grant Clinton and Hunter Guerard both cleared their paths to Stage Two.
  • Brian Arnold is well practiced on Stage One at this point. He hit the buzzer for the sixth time in a row.
  • After multiple seasons of missing out on the National Finals, David Campbell got his redemption by completing the course.
  • Jamie Rahn, Ryan Stratis and Jody Avila will all move on to the next stage of the competition.
  • Zhanique Lovett’s shining rookie season ended at the Double Dipper.
  • Tyler Gillett, the Ninja Warrior super fan turned super competitor, is going to Stage Two in his rookie season.
  • Dave Cavanagh, a four-time veteran of the walk on line, will be walking up to the next stage.
  • Adam Rayl scared us with his slip on Parkour Run, but he saved himself and completed the course.
  • Karson Voiles and Jon Alexis Jr. both survived all eight obstacles with time to spare.
  • In the shock of the season, Jessie Graff will not be moving on. Her run looked perfectly smooth. She was so close to finishing the course when she missed the cargo net grab on the Flying Squirrel, hitting the water. Both she and the audience were absolutely stunned.
  • Nicholas Coolridge, Abel Gonzalez and Josh Salinas added their names to the list of Stage Two competitors.
  • Najee Richardson pulled off a handspring while dismounting from the Double Dipper. He kept that momentum going all the way to the buzzer.
  • Daniel Gil was able to complete the course, and snagged the fastest time to that point.
  • We finally saw what will be Kacy Catanzaro’s last run. When she fell on the Double Dipper, it signified her official retirement from American Ninja Warrior. It’s an end of an era. Kacy’s runs helped bring the spotlight to women on the show and inspired many competitors to begin their Ninja Warrior journeys. The Ninja Warrior fan community was sad to see her go.
  • Drew Drechsel was the last run of the night and he made it count. After skipping the rope entirely on Parkour Run, he completed the course five seconds faster than anyone else. This made him the 41st and fastest finisher on Stage One.

Heart-Pounding Moment:

Since this marks the completion of Stage One, we want to acknowledge 41 heart-pounding moments. Each and every Ninja who hit the buzzer. This was a historic season for many reasons. The Qualifiers and City Finals were incredibly difficult. The obstacles exhausted the Ninjas and pushed their bodies and minds farther than ever before.

But, the Ninjas rose to the occasion and turned in an outstanding Stage One. Together, they beat the course 41 times. That’s more than any other season of American Ninja Warrior. It proves the reason the obstacles get more diabolical each year; because they’re just trying to keep up with the Ninjas.

The competitors are adaptable, resilient and they know how to learn from a fall. The City Finals saw a historically low nine finishes. But it only took the Ninjas a few weeks to bounce back and totally trounce the first stage of the National Finals.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

We’re all thinking it. But we don’t even want to talk about it.


Jessie Graff falling from the cargo net was physically painful to watch. No matter how many times we, as Ninja Warrior fans, remind ourselves that falls are an inevitable part of the journey, there are times we start to think they’re impossible.

Seeing the legendary Jessie Graff THAT close to completing the course, we thought she was home free. The fall was a shocking jolt to fans, and, it looked, to Jessie as well. It was one of those moments you don’t fully believe. It has to be a joke, right? There’s a hidden “do-over” rule we’re about to be introduced to, right?

But, that’s American Ninja Warrior for you. One and done, no matter how much we might want to bend the rules in certain circumstances.

However, Jessie Graff is still Jessie Graff. Meaning this is a blip on the radar for her. Before her post-run interview with Kristine Leahy was even done, you could already see Jessie’s mind moving on to the next subject, learning, growing and pushing forward.

Lesson of the Night:

We just don’t know what’s going to happen.

This season has been a rollercoaster. We lost some big names like Grant McCartney and Jake Murray early in the game. New rookies like Tyler Gillett quickly climbed the ranks. Kacy Catanzaro is leaving, while those inspired by her, like Barclay Stockett, are here to take the accomplishments of women even further.

We leave Stage One behind cautiously optimistic about what the Ninjas can do on Stage Two. But, American Ninja Warrior loves to teach hard lessons about expectations. So stay on your toes, fans. The ride’s not over yet.

Up Next:

On September 18, we’ll see the season nine finale of American Ninja Warrior. 41 Ninjas will take on Stage Two. Whoever is left standing will move on to Stage Threes and potentially four. Will this be the season of a new American Ninja Warrior champion?