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Ninja Warrior Dallas Qualifier recap: Mega action for the premiere episode

The show debuted season 10 with legendary veterans, fierce new competitors, and inspiring rookies.

Cooper Neill/NBC

American Ninja Warrior fans, pat yourselves on the back. We did it. We survived the offseason and season 10 is HERE! The show kicked off with the Dallas Qualifiers and put two of this season’s changes on display.

We saw the first 19-year-olds attempt the course, and we saw the first runs up the Mega Wall. If the Ninjas can get to the top of that massive 18-foot wall in one attempt, they earn a cool $10,000.

For more on the rules of the Mega Wall, read this article.

Dallas was a return to a historic location for the show. The Ninjas last took over Fair Park in season six, where Kacy Catanzaro became the first woman to complete the Warped Wall and a City Finals course. She’s since moved on the WWE, but she stopped by during the night.

Let’s dive into the premiere’s action!

Cooper Neill/NBC

By the numbers

  • Course completions: 13
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, the Tuning Forks: 7
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Crank It Up: 12 (six seen on the episode)
  • Ninjas who completed the Mega Wall: 1

The Course:

  • Floating Steps
  • Catch and Release
  • Bouncing Spider
  • Tuning Forks
  • Crank It Up
  • Warped Wall

Quick Highlights:

  • Father Stephen Gadberry started out the season. He was slow but steady on the Floating Steps and barely survived the dismount from the Catch and Release. It was a bad trampoline bounce on the third obstacle that ended his run.
  • Veteran Ninja Karsten Williams was the first to trip up on the Tuning Forks, a tricky new balance obstacle.
  • Dr. Favia Dubyk is both a cancer specialist and a survivor. An 11 cm mass in her chest was identified as Advanced Stage Lymphoma and she was given just a few weeks to live. After about six months of treatment, the mass had shrunk from 11 cm to 4 cm. Although Favia was in remission, she had to relearn how to walk and use her arms. But the former Harvard sprinter never gave up.

She let out a primal scream on the course as she finished the Steps. On the Catch and Release, she made it to the second pole before coming up short on the transition to the landing pad. But just getting out there was a triumph for her.

  • Andrew Naquin introduced us to something called the Bayou death grip, which he apparently uses in his frog catching. We didn’t get a chance to see this grip strength in action though, as he was out on the Bouncing Spider. His pet bullfrogs, Dumbledore and Frodo, watched from the sidelines.
  • Karen Wiltin was a steely-eyed rookie on the course. The mom of two and physician’s assistant had great form on the Catch and Release and had no issues with the trampoline on the Bouncing Spider. By the time she was on Crank It Up, we were wondering how in the world she was a rookie. She almost completed the obstacle and fell on the second transition.
  • Mathis ‘Kid’ Owhadi was the first 19-year-old on the course. He’s been training with Ninjas like Daniel Gil for years and he’s well known as a future top competitor in the community. He was ready for his early debut. Mathis took the Floating Steps one bound at a time and finished the Catch and Release in about three moves. It only took him 23 seconds to reach the Bouncing Spider.

A small trip on the Tuning Forks didn’t break his concentration. His efficiency on Crank It Up displayed his innate ability at this sport. After all that, he still looked fresh standing at the bottom of the Mega Wall. He bounded towards it with such power that his fingers grazed the rim, but he didn’t grab hold. No matter though, as he breezed up the 14’6” wall for his, and the season’s, first buzzer.

  • Nicholas Fordney was another promising young competitor who had a much different experience. He lost his balance on the Floating Steps
  • Quest O’Neal shared her inspirational story of a tough upbringing and how she pushed on no matter what life threw at her. Her positivity was infectious even through the TV. Quest hopped from platform to platform on the Floating Steps. She was able to maneuver through Catch and Release but we weren’t sure how she’d handle the trampoline on the Bouncing Spider. Quest kept her legs strong and completed the obstacle. She was screaming with joy as she finished the Tuning Forks and we might have been too.

Quest went out on the first Crank It Up transition, but it was a run that would move her to the City Finals.

  • Olympic gymnast Jonathan Horton returned to the course. He was taken out by the Tuning Forks.
  • Five-time veteran Abel Gonzalez shared the heart-wrenching story of his struggles with his father. This was the first season his dad was on the sidelines to support him. Abel made the most of it and completed the course with his father beaming with pride from the sidelines.
Cooper Neill/NBC
  • Kacy Catanzaro stopped by to help call Brent Steffensen’s run. The veteran looked comfortable on the course until the Tuning Forks ended his run.
  • Victor Gonzalez’s mom could barely handle watching him. She looked so nervous as he put up a great run all the way to Crank It Up.
  • Chris Cambre swore his shrimp boots were proper course attire and we can’t really argue with him since he made it to Crank It Up and the City Finals.
  • Thomas Stillings made an attempt at the Mega Wall but came up short. He did complete the course and will be back!
  • Brittany Hanks put up a top run of the night for the women when she made it to the Tuning Forks.
  • Season nine was a breakout moment for Barclay Stockett. She plans on living up to the hype with an even better season 10. She looked flawless through the first three obstacles while Kacy Catanzaro and Nastia Liukin watched from the sidelines. A misstep ended her run on the Tuning Forks. She was visibly disappointed in herself as she talked with Kristine Leahy.
  • Bull rider Venn Johns made an attempt at the Mega Wall that sapped his energy. He was the first competitor to reach the Warped Wall and not hit the buzzer.
  • Josh Salinas zipped through the course to snag the fastest time of the night up to that point.
  • At 56 years old, Jon Stewart was one of the oldest competitors of the night. No matter though, he was calm and experienced on the course. When he started to tire on Crank It Up, he didn’t panic. He even shook out his hands one at a time until he was ready to clear the obstacle. When he hit the buzzer, he became the oldest competitor to complete a Qualifying course.
  • Mike Murray and Tyler Humphrey added their names to the list of finishers.
  • Matthew Day, another 19-year-old rookie, completed the course in just two minutes and nine seconds.
  • But Matthew was followed by Daniel Gil, who’s known for his epic runs. Daniel shared that his family’s home was ravaged by Hurricane Harvey and they needed to be rescued by boaters. Wanting to show the strength of Houston, Daniel ripped into the course. It took him only 25 seconds to get through three obstacles. He barely paused before dancing across the Tuning Forks and made Crank It Up look like playground equipment.

Then it was the moment we were all waiting for. Could Daniel be the first up the Mega Wall? No one else had been able to grip the ledge. Daniel took one look at the beast and lunged for it. Stretching one hand up with everything he had, his fingers just grazed the ledge.


Daniel Gil walked away with the fastest time of the night and $10,000!

  • Both Quest O’Neal and Karen Wiltin cracked the top 30 overall competitors.

Find a full list of who moved on to the City Finals here.

Heart-Pounding Moment:

Daniel Gil’s run is the kind of stuff that keeps American Ninja Warrior fans rabid for more.

While we were pretty confident that Daniel would handle the obstacles with ease, there’s always the nagging concern that anything can happen on the course. We held our breath through the Tuning Forks. Balance obstacles are always a wildcard.

Then the question wasn’t will he make it, but can he take down the Mega Wall? It looked nearly impossible. The short run-up, the numerous other Ninjas who’d gotten close but failed, the sheer height. But the moment couldn’t have gone better if it was directed in a movie. The set fell silent as everyone stared intently at Daniel. You could hear every single one of his steps. There was a collective intake of air as he reached up, and a simultaneous explosion as his fingers grabbed hold.

The Mega Wall is not undefeatable, which will leave us waiting to see it tackled in every Qualifying episode.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

Barclay Stockett’s run was a stark reminder of the pressure on these athletes. They can pour themselves into their training. They can re-shape their entire lives to prioritize their course preparation. But it’s all for nothing if one tiny thing goes wrong on one night.

Barclay’s success in season nine puts all eyes on her for season 10. She knows this. Which is why she took her slip on the Tuning Forks so hard. There were tears in her eyes as she climbed out of the pool and while she spoke with Kristine Leahy on the sidelines. Her loved ones immediately closed in to comfort her, but you could tell the fall has shaken her.

We just want Barclay to understand that there’s still so much more for her this season. Her run even moved her on to the City Finals, and there’s not a fan in the world that was “let down” by her performance.

Shout out of the night:

We’re now HUGE Quest O’Neal fans. She approached the course the same way she approaches her life, with dedication and appreciation. It wasn’t shown on the episode, but when Quest climbed out of the pool on the night of competition, she was beaming with joy and eagerly reciting every person in her life that she wanted to thank for their support. She made every exhausted crew member smile with her energy.

Cooper Neill/NBC

Next week:

On June 6, American Ninja Warrior returns to the Universal Studios backlot! The Los Angeles Qualifiers will include returning Ninjas like Josh Levin, Natalie Duran, Kevin Bull, Flip Rodriguez.