After months of races, the first round of Ninja vs. Ninja competition was finished. Nine teams had locked up a spot in the playoffs – a sixteen team showdown to determine the champion. But, as some of our more mathematically fluent readers realized, that still left seven spots up for grabs. Using those same number crunchers, we knew 14 teams would be getting a second chance at the playoffs!
On last night’s episode we saw the first six redeem teams toe the line in three winner-take-all style match ups. The pressure was on as Midwest Muscle battled Lizard Kings, Frostbite dueled the All-American Ninjas, and Dark Horse raced the NorCal Ninjas.
If you missed the action, check out our episode recap. Although, we should warn you that it’s best to keep your feet away from the rest of your body while reading as you’ll be kicking yourself for not catching the races live.
In the meantime, we will take you inside the minds of last night’s winning captains, Hunter Guerard of Lizard Kings, Nick Hanson of Frostbite and David Campbell of NorCal Ninjas, to get a look behind the curtain at the magic within the mayhem.
How did your team feel going into the wildcard round?
HG: I think I speak for my whole team when I say that we were fired up for the Wildcard round. We knew we had another chance to get back into the game, and we were ready for redemption.
NH: We felt amazing! To be honest, we were just glad we got as far as we did, haha! And when we got chosen for the Wildcard round, it was like a fresh start!
DC: We felt great. Our previous match was very close and I personally felt like I crushed it. So my confidence was high, and my teammates were looking strong as well.
Did you make any strategy changes from the qualifiers?
HG: The only strategy changes we made were to go faster, and be more aggressive.
NH: We definitely thought more about who had the most endurance and who could handle the back half of the course more efficiently. But for the Wild Cards, we just wanted to ensure a spot in the Sweet 16.
DC: I decided to change the run order as I felt Brian would have a better chance against Lance than against Karson.
What were your thoughts on the Bungee Pipeline?
HG: The bungee pipeline was tricky because I grabbed the bungees way too low and had to fight my way back up to the tops.
NH: Bungee pipeline was a blast! I thought it was going to be the most dangerous obstacle since it converged to one pipe and was about who was faster or more aggressive. But when you’re in a race, everything becomes a blur and you just have to go.
DC: I have encountered the bungees before and know how they react and how NOT to grab them. I felt like that was an obstacle I could make up some time with by making big moves. Unfortunately, during my run against Karson, I hit my left quad on one of the steel cables holding the tiles in place (they look padded, but are not) so I could barely walk. I knew I would be fine on the bungee pipeline, but was worried I may fail the wall!
What was the most exciting moment from your team’s match-up?
HG: The most exciting part was when we tore through the relay and won our way back into the game.
NH: I’d say the fact that we got to not only meet, but race against a team of amazing Olympians, including one of the best of all time! After the races we took some photos with them and their medals ... What an honor.
DC: On the second relay, Anna’s head got caught in the net and team Dark Horse had a significant lead. Brian did well and prevented them from getting any more of a lead, but I thought it was over. I remained calm, just went full out as soon as Brian tagged me, moved through the bungees faster than I knew I could, and caught up to Lance as he was on his backswing about to transfer to the pipe. I grabbed the same bungee that he was swinging on and swung on it myself, which killed his energy and I was able to swing around him effortlessly for the win!
How did it feel to know your team made their way back into the playoffs?
HG: We were on fire when we made the playoffs. We knew that if we kept the momentum, we could have a fighting chance.
NH: I can’t say enough about my team. From day one we became family, even with how far apart we live from each other. I couldn’t ask for more motivating and positive teammates and I couldn’t be prouder.
DC: It felt so amazing to win after such a close call, but I knew I’d have to start rehabbing my leg immediately if I was going to be able to be competitive on the next round. Most of all though, on a personal level, it felt great to really hit everything right and perform to my ability in this matchup and the previous against Young Bloods as well.
Next week, eight more teams will be fighting it out for their chance to qualify for a coveted spot in the playoffs. And, perhaps more importantly, the chance to be interviewed by us in next week’s article.