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Los Angeles City Finals recap: Redemption for some, heartbreak for others

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The Ninjas had to navigate new obstacles in places they didn’t expect.

Tyler Golden/NBC

American Ninja Warrior is already on to the City Finals! It feel like season 10 is flying by. To start off this next step towards the National Finals in Las Vegas, the show returned to Los Angeles. It’s interesting to note there are a few new changes to the course.

Of course, there’s the addition of the four “back half” obstacles that extend the course to a grueling 10 obstacle gauntlet. In previous seasons, we have seen small adjustments to the front half obstacles between the Qualifiers and the City Finals. But this season, the starting obstacles of the City Finals are seeing two entirely changed out obstacles.

Obstacle one is now the Archer Steps, changed from the Floating Steps. Obstacle four is now the Flying Shelf Grab, changed from the Sky Hooks.

On the back half, the tenth obstacle is the new Spider Trap. This takes the Spider Climb we’ve seen before and adds in three doorways the Ninjas have to push through along the 35 foot climb. The doors are a staggering 50 lbs each, and Ninjas will have to rely on their own footing to shove through.

Let’s get into the action! (Remember, the Mega Wall was ONLY in play for the Qualifiers. The $10k prize is no longer up for grabs.)

By the numbers

  • Course completions: 9
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Baton Pass: 6
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Giant Cubes: 4

The course:

  • Archer Steps - new
  • Jumper Cables
  • Spinning Bridge
  • Flying Shelf Grab (replaced Sky Hooks)
  • Doorknob Drop
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Giant Cubes
  • Baton Pass
  • Spider Trap

Quick Highlights:

  • Joe Mardovich was the first run of the night. He shared that his father died on 9/11 when Joe was in third grade. Joe showed the challenges of the new Archer Steps when he fell back after trying to make his first landing. After a brief hesitation on the Spinning Bridge, Joe moved to the Doorknob Drop, which ended his run in Qualifying. This time he knew how to take down the obstacle and was able to move to the back half of the course. He took a lot of extra time on the Salmon Ladder but did advance to the Giant Cubes. He waved to his family has he braced himself between cubes. He slid into the water while trying to get to the third cube.
  • Jesse Orenshein almost fell on the Flying Shelf Grab and surprised even himself with his save. He continued down the course and up the Warped Wall, rolling himself (literally) to the Salmon Ladder. He was slowly working his way around the Giant Cubes when he slipped and was out.
  • Verdale Benson is a rookie and decorated army hero with four and a half years as a medical services officer who has also received the Bronze Star. He was flying down the course until he paused before the Spinning Bridge. However, he did trip and fall on this obstacle.
  • Anthony Trucks fell on the Flying Shelf Grab.
  • Samantha Bush was out at the Jumper Cables.
  • Westley Silvestri made a valiant effort to save a fall on the Spinning Bridge, but it was to no avail.
  • Zhanique Lovett moved quickly down the course and looked great on the Flying Shelf Grab. She then faced the obstacle that ended her Qualifying run, the Doorknob Drop. On the second panel, she looked tired. She ended up falling while trying to reach the last handles.
  • Ruben Arellano had a bit of a failed flip at the starting line. He then was out completely on the Spinning Bridge.
  • Gabe Hurtado fell on the Salmon Ladder.
  • Scott Willson took on his third consecutive City Finals. However, a trip on the Spinning Bridge sent him into a nasty looking scorpion fall and he was out.
  • Kevin Bull had his friends from the Children’s Alopecia Project on the sidelines once again. Kevin works with the group to help inspire children to be comfortable with themselves. Kevin is a consistent Ninja, so it was no surprise to see him doing just fine on the course, moving quickly to the back half. On the the Giant Cubes, he waved down to the kids as he traversed over to the third cube. Without looking taxed, Kevin became the first Ninja of the episode to clear the obstacle.

Then he was on to the brand new Baton Pass which required Ninjas to slide or carefully place loose batons into cradles positioned either parallel or perpendicular to the course. Kevin made sure to work fast on this obstacle to conserve his energy and he made it through. On to the Spider Trap, Kevin looked fresh. Not at all like he’d just taken on nine other obstacles. He flew up the climb, tossing the doors out of his way. Kevin hit the buzzer to become the first Ninja of the season guaranteed a trip to Vegas.

  • Anna Shumaker is a former gymnast with a long long roster of accomplishments. And her strengths are definitely still intact. She had a small slip on the Spinning Bridge but was still safe. Anna had perfect form on the Flying Shelf Grab and was ready to take on the Doorknob Drop that ended her Qualifying run. Looking strong, she became the first woman to clear the obstacle. This meant she was at the Warped Wall for the first time. She cleared it in one go and took on the Salmon Ladder.

Moving into the Giant Cubes, Anna made careful decisions. Bracing herself, she shook out her arms at various points. She had to use every inch of her reach to slide around the middle cube. But the transition to the third looked daunting. Anna stuck out her leg behind her in a full split to prepare for the move. But in order to attempt the move, her back foot was placed much higher than her front foot. So when she lunged for the swivel, she dropped into the water. Overall, that was a fantastic run!

  • Derek Miyamoto has competed in Sasuke and Ninja Warrior competitions around the globe, and this was his second time on American Ninja Warrior. We jumped into his run as he worked on the Doorknob Drop. He then toppled the Warped Wall and the Salmon Ladder. His technique on the Giant Cubes looked solid. He started to slide on the third cube and leaped for the dismount to keep his run alive. On the Baton Pass, one of the batons fell into the water, but Derek still was able to grab a baton in front of him and keep going. After all that, it was time for the Spider Trap. He moved a bit slow, there was struggle visible on his face, but he made steady progress. As he hit the buzzer, Derek was overcome with the emotion of his accomplishment.
  • Nick Hanson’s run was shown in an interesting new way. During a commercial break, they minimized the run to a corner, but we still got to watch it! Albeit in a tiny version, we saw Nick make it all the way to the Baton Pass before falling.
  • Thomas Kofron, a California firefighter, also made it to the Baton Pass.
  • Selena Laniel, also a California firefighter, was coming off a strong run in Qualifying. However, in the City Finals, she was out on the Jumper Cables.
  • In his two previous seasons on the show, Josh Levin hasn’t missed a buzzer outside of the National Finals. He kept the streak alive as he became the episode’s third finisher.
  • Davyon Hancox is an EMT in Englewood, CA who trains and watches Ninja Warrior on his 24 hour long shifts. He bolted up the Archer Steps and kept his run moving. He took a very hard fall on his back while dismounting from the Doorknob Drop, but it didn’t stop him. Davyon looked a little lost as he tried to settle on a tactic for the Giant Cubes. When he slipped low on the middle cube, he used sheer grit make a tough transfer to the third. He survived and moved to Baton Pass. He accidentally knocked two batons into the water. Davyon tried to move backwards to retrieve a baton that was behind him, but he fell there.
  • Grant McCartney was looking for redemption. In season nine, he fell on the Salmon Ladder and did not advance to the National Finals. Grant took huge strides across the Spinning Bridge. He made sure his feet stayed dry on the Doorknob Drop dismount. Dipping his foot into the water ended his Qualifying run. After the Warped Wall, Grant stared nervously at the Salmon Ladder for a moment. He handled the obstacle and moved to the Giant Cubes, where his long reach was definitely an advantage. He VERY slowly moved around the cubes, making it out safely. On Baton Pass, it was clear he was exhausted. He tried to wrap a leg around a baton for a break and the splash came not far behind.

An important note is that, while Grant made it quite far, he spent a considerable amount of time dancing and resting between obstacles. This would come back into play later.

  • Brock Taylor made it to the Giant Cubes.
  • Brian Rambo had the fastest time of the night in Qualifying and he zipped right back to the buzzer once again.
  • Tiana Webberley had her sights set on obstacle five, which has taken her out for the past two seasons. This time, she broke the curse as she passed the Doorknob Drop. She was over the Warped Wall in one try and on to the Salmon Ladder. On the Giant Cubes, Tiana looked calm and focused while she maintained a steady pace. This was a very strong run by any standards. She had to do the splits to wedge herself in for the transfer to the third cube. The strategy worked for Tiana and she completed the obstacle. Moving on to the ninth obstacle, Tiana was enjoying the best run of her Ninja career. She used a reverse strategy on Baton Pass to mix up which muscles she taxed. She tried to get her legs up for a rest at one point and the move sent her into the water. But that was an incredible run.
  • Austin Seibert, one of the new 19-year-old competitors, was out on the good old Salmon Ladder.
  • Spencer Clapp made it all the way to the Spider Trap. He ended up in an epic struggle with the obstacle and lost his traction when he was just a few feet from the top.
  • Adam Rayl scared everyone when he almost dropped from the Giant Cubes. He then went on to finish the course.
  • Flip Rodriguez had his “tadpoles” on the sideline cheering him on. With their energetic support, he moved to the back half of the course. On the Giant Cubes, he used only his fingertips to navigate the second portion of the obstacle. In a flash, he had that obstacle completed. He looked comfortable moving the bars on Baton Pass and had no issue getting through the obstacle. On the Spider Trap, he didn’t look worried as well. This became Flip’s first City Finals buzzer in five years!
  • Brian Kretsch (one of four Ninja Warrior OGs) reached the Baton Pass.
  • David Campbell completed the City Finals course for first time since season six, which was a great moment for the 10-year Ninja Warrior veteran.
  • Nicholas Coolridge also made it to the buzzer, and with a faster time than anyone else to that point of the night, clocking in at 6:10.92
  • The final run of the night went to Sean Bryan, the Papal Ninja. He had no issues getting back to the Warped Wall. He used his trademark move of skipping rungs on the Salmon Ladder to save himself valuable time. He completed the Giant Cubes on pace to challenge Nicholas Coolridge to the fastest time. Sean looked, well, fine on the Baton Pass, passing it quickly. He charged up the Spider Trap, barely slowing for the doors. Hitting the buzzer at 6:09.99 JUST nudged him into the lead spot of the night.
  • Those final runs meant that Grant McCartney was edged out of the top 15. His pace was too slow, and for the second season in a row, he was not through to the National Finals.
  • There were nine course completions in all.

Find the complete list of Los Angeles National Finalists here.

Heart-pounding moment:

We couldn’t hold it together during Tiana Webberley’s run. She has worked so hard every season to get better and stronger. This just felt like it was her season. It was her time. Knowing her history with the fifth obstacle, we were swaying along, willing her to the landing pad. Seeing her pass the Giant Cubes was a moment to throw you hands in the air with excitement. We have to admit we started dreaming of seeing her at the buzzer, but making it to the Baton Pass is an incredible accomplishment.

Heart-breaking moment:

Oh Grant. We not quite sure what to say here. Watching his run, we were screaming “GO!” when he took long breaks to play to the crowd and dance a little between obstacles. But who knows, maybe those breaks were the rests he needed to make it all the way to the Baton Pass. Maybe they were wasted precious seconds. Watching Grant’s face fall as he realized the National Finals had slipped away for a second time was depressing.

Shout out of the night:

Anna! Where have you been hiding? Well, we know. This is Anna Shumaker’s second season on American Ninja Warrior. In her first season, she was out early in the Qualifying round and didn’t get much screen time. She went home, worked even harder, and came back ready to show us all her true potential. Making it to the back half of a City Finals course is still considered a rarity among female competitors. Anna told us she really wanted to get to the Salmon Ladder. She did that and more. We’re so glad the audience will be well acquainted with her name now.

Next week:

Giddy up! We’re heading back to Texas! Can Daniel Gil lead the way in speed again? Can young upstart Mathis Owhadi continue his sensational rookie season? The episode airs Monday, July 23 at 8/7c!