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Dallas City Finals recap: New and old obstacles alike pose challenges

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There was a scary new obstacle on the course, but the Ninjas had to survive an old enemy first.

Cooper Neill/NBC

American Ninja Warrior circled back to the debut city of the season, Dallas, Texas. The Qualifiers here set some high expectations for action with Daniel Gil clearing the Mega Wall and young Mathis Owhadi making it to the buzzer.

As we move into the City Finals, remember that things are different now. The Mega Wall is done for the season. The Ninjas can expect new challenges on both the front and back half of the course now. And yes, the longhorn was back.

By the numbers

  • Course completions: 5
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Fall Out: 2
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Nail Clipper: 10

The course:

  • Archer Steps (replaced Floating Steps)
  • Catch and Release
  • Bouncing Spider
  • Broken Bridge (replaced Tuning Forks)
  • Crank It Up
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Nail Clipper
  • Fall Out (inspired by Mission: Impossible Fall Out)
  • Spider Trap

Quick Highlights:

  • Josh Norton, a janitor at Iron Sports fitness, spent 22 day in the walk on line for his shot at the course. He had no trouble on the Broken Bridge, which replaced the Tuning Forks from Qualifiers. He even passed Crank It Up, which ended his Qualifying run. Josh made it all the way to the Nail Clipper.
  • Venn Johns fell on the second obstacle, Catch and Release.
  • Veteran Andrew Lowes surprisingly went out on the Broken Bridge.
  • Steven Tucker, another walk on, made it to Crank It Up.
  • Abel Gonzalez started his Ninja Warrior career as a walk on. Now he’s a role model for children, inspiring them to make healthy decisions. After a strong trip through the front half of the course, Abel was on the Nail Clipper. This obstacle was a Ninja Killer in Cleveland during season nine but Abel was able to best it. This put him at Fall Out, a new obstacle inspired by the upcoming Mission: Impossible film. It forced Ninjas to swap their grip in mid-air, and then laché between two spinning disks before dismounting. Able fell from the first of the two disks.
  • Tremayne Dortch had to power his way through Crank It Up, but still handled the Warped Wall with ease. For a moment, he looked uneven on the Salmon Ladder. In the next moment, he was in the water.
  • Kat Ratcliff is a police officer in Austin, TX. Her father died from cancer when she was just 8 years old. Her mother then committed suicide when Kat was 15. That’s when Ellen stepped in and became Kat’s adopted mother, giving her lots of love and guidance. Ellen was there to watch Kat live out her Ninja Warrior ambitions. Kat previously fell on the Bouncing Spider in Qualifying. Unfortunately, the same obstacle took her out again in the City Finals.
  • Tyler Humphrey fell on the Salmon Ladder.
  • At age 39, Karen Wiltin is the oldest woman to qualify for the City Finals. It was a huge bummer to see her fall on the new Archer Steps.
  • Adam Ster went out on Crank It Up for a second time.
  • Jeremiah Morgan is certainly not a Ninja newbie. He first ran the course in Dallas during season six. In season seven, he made it to Stage Three of the National Finals. He actually qualified for the National Finals in season nine, but was unable to compete.

That’s because between the City Finals and the National Finals, Jeremiah had a terrifying life or death experience. Less than a year ago, Jeremiah tried to move a wire that had become live while he was camping with his family. He was electrocuted for almost two minutes. His heart stopped. He was placed in a medically induced coma. His wife was told it was likely he would be a vegetable.

But Jeremiah’s body woke back up. His struggles weren’t over then. He had to re-learn how to walk. After his experience, Ninja seemed like nothing. He completed the Dallas Qualifying course. Back for the City Finals, he flew through the front part of the course. Jeremiah took a moment to pick a strategy on the Nail Clipper but then had no trouble with it. He showed the same steadiness on Fall Out, completing the obstacle. He looked great on the Spider Trap climb. Nothing was going to get in his way. It looked easy for him. After a near-death experience, Jeremiah put himself back at the buzzer.

  • Nate Burkhalter fell on the Salmon Ladder.
  • Elliot Jolivette made it to the Nail Clipper.
  • Brittany Hanks had a tough upbringing where she and her mom didn’t always have enough to eat. Brittany taught herself how appreciate everything she had. We were a little worried about her on the Bouncing Spider, as she was wearing a knee brace and trampolines are tricky under the best of conditions. She survived that obstacle. It was the balance on the Broken Bridge that ended her run.
  • Louis Moore hit the water on Catch and Release.
  • Brian Burkhardt made it to the Nail Clipper with a time that kept him in the top 15.
  • Mathis Owhadi’s City Finals run was highly anticipated. He’s one of the hyped, new 19-year-olds. Mathis lived up to the reputation by finishing the Qualifying course. He happily trotted across the Broken Bridge and looked super powerful on Crank It Up. There was a brief moment on the Salmon Ladder where he was uneven but he had no trouble fixing it. On Crank It Up, things looked scary as he tried to move from the third to the fourth cylinder. Again, it didn’t prove to be a roadblock. Mathis spun out a bit on the disks of Fall Out but he didn’t panic and put the obstacle behind him. He looked unpeturbed by the Spider Trap and hit the second buzzer of his Ninja career.
  • Thomas Stillings’ run was minimized during a commercial break. It looked like he had a little trouble getting through the Bouncing Spider. He was caught in a spin cycle on Fall Out and was unable to recover, falling there.
  • Brent Steffensen almost ended his run on the Broken Bridge, but got himself through to the Nail Clipper and the National Finals.
  • Jon Stewart made it to the back half of the course and the Nail Clipper.
  • Josh Salinas made it to Stage Two of the National Finals in his rookie season last year. He’s looking strong again this season. Josh took his time on the Salmon Ladder and maintained control on the Nail Clipper. He showed the same restraint on Fall Out. The 50 pound doors on the Spider Climb offered him no trouble. Josh claimed the fastest finish to that point of the night at 4:38.49.
  • Andrew Swinghamer survived up to the Nail Clipper.
  • Chris Cambre and his shrimp boots were back for another trip to Crank It Up.
  • Quest O’Neal made it to Crank It Up during the Qualifiers in a run so filled with joy that it spread to the entire audience. However, this time she ended up in a battle with the pipes of the Bouncing Spider. After a gutsy fight, she ended her run here. She still popped out of the water ready to tell everyone how much fun she had.
  • Matthew Day is another 19-year-old wunderkind. He scored the second fastest time in the Qualifying round and he was looking smooth again. It looked like he might fall on the Salmon Ladder but was soon moving fast again. On Fall Out, he was caught in a spin. Matthew was able to bring it under control and put the obstacle behind him. He looked like he was standing on solid ground as he pushed through the Spider Trap doors. Matthew set a new fastest time of the night at 4:37.10.
  • Electric utility lineman Erik Brown is a Ninja Warrior rookie who made it to Crank It Up in Qualifying. This time, he ran into trouble trying to dismount both from the Bouncing Spider and Crank It Up. In the end, he completed his run on the Nail Clipper.
  • Barclay Stockett went out on the Tuning Forks on the Qualifying course. She took the fall hard as a Ninja who feels a lot of pressure while she competes. Back for the City Finals, Barclay was in a better mindset. She crossed the Broken Bridge and used some big throws on Crank It Up. She was finding her groove as she traversed the Warped Wall. Making it to the Nail Clipper put her back at the National Finals!
  • Mike Murray was the tenth competitor to fall on the Nail Clipper, but still moved on to Vegas.
  • It was the same story for Karsten Williams. The Nail Clipper closed the run, but his season was still alive.
  • The last run of the night was Daniel Gil. He was the first Ninja we saw clear the Mega Wall this season. We almost missed the first part of his run because we glanced down for a second. Daniel somehow reached the Warped Wall in less than a minute. He hasn’t failed to reach a buzzer outside of Vegas yet in his career and that wasn’t about to change. The obstacles of the back half barely slowed him down. He took a few trips around on the disks of Fall Out, but it wasn’t anything to worry about. When Daniel was on the Spider Trap it was clear he was about to get the fastest time by A LOT. He hit the buzzer at 3:54.73, putting him in the fastest position by 42 seconds, taking home the top times in Qualifiers and City Finals.
  • There were five finishers overall.
  • The Nail Clipper, a Ninja Killer in Cleveland last year, returned with a vengeance.
  • Daniel Gil, Matthew Day and Josh Salinas had the first, second, and third fastest times in both Qualifiers and City Finals.

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

Heart-Pounding Moment:

Jeremiah Morgan’s story isn’t something a lot of us can really conceive. One minute you’re totally healthy, camping with your family, and the next, your family is facing losing you. All of that happened less than a year before Jeremiah ran the Dallas course. Watching him on the course, you knew there was more than just prize money on the line for Jeremiah. This was his demonstration of survival. It felt like they could have added five more obstacles to the course and he still would have taken them down. He was going to the buzzer. No matter what.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

This is another example of a moment that’s not REALLY heart-breaking, but it’s the one that made us say, “Dang it!” Quest O’Neal is such a supreme joy to watch on the course that we would have loved to see her again in the National Finals. She’s an example of defying expectations through sheer will. We were bummed to see her go down early, but we can’t wait to see her back next season.

Shout out of the night:

It’s pretty nifty to notice that the top three positions stayed the same through the Dallas Qualifiers and City Finals. Daniel Gil, Matthew Day, and Josh Salinas held the first, second, and third top times in both rounds. Daniel Gil has the most experience out of the group. Josh is in his sophomore season and Matthew is a young rookie. It certainly looks like they’re going to be chasing Daniel’s times for years to come.

Next week:

American Ninja Warrior returns on July 30 with the Miami City Finals. Drew Drechsel, Jessie Graff, and Ryan Stratis will try to push through to the National Finals.