The American Ninja Warrior Minneapolis City Finals gave us an excellent end to this part of the season. The course looked impossible and yet somehow, the Ninjas figured it out. Not only did most of the fan-favorites make it to the top of the tower, or far enough to move on to Las Vegas, but we had some delightful surprises in there as well. The one hiccup we could mention is not getting any women to the top of the Spider Trap this season (But Meagan Martin’s run was stellar nonetheless). Other than that, the city left us exhilarated and anxiously awaiting the action of the National Finals.
By the numbers
- Course completions: 5
- Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, The Hinge: 4
- Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Iron Maiden: 11
- Archer Steps (replaced Floating Steps)
- Double Twister
- Sky Hooks (replaced Ring Jump)
- Diamond Dash
- Battering Ram
- Warped Wall
- Salmon Ladder
- The Hinge (Ninjas jump between rotating boards)
- Iron Maiden
- Spider Trap
- Leif Sundberg, the Swedish Ninja, is known for his pretty incredible stunts on the Salmon Ladder. He was the third fastest finisher in the Qualifying round and quickly got to work on the City Finals course. Once he passed the Warped Wall, he eyed the Salmon Ladder and we couldn’t help but think, “No, Leif... Don’t do it...” He opted to go backwards on the Salmon Ladder and attempted to muscle up all the rungs. He landed uneven at the top and the bar slipped off as he tried to turn around, ending his run right there.
- Rookie James Gomez went out on Diamond Dash.
- Dan Delano, the Bowling Ninja, fell on the Sky Hooks.
- Jelani Allen made it to the National Finals last season as a rookie. His run ended on the Battering Ram.
- Abby Clark was the only woman to complete the Qualifying course in this city, creating an unforgettable moment for herself and her family. She took a few spins on the Double Twister and then powered through the Sky Hooks. This time, she didn’t need to take a dive to survive the Diamond Dash. Abby then had a great run through the Battering Ram. In Qualifiers, she needed all three attempts to get up the Warped Wall. Unfortunately, it was a similar situation this time as well. While she touched the ledge on her third try, she couldn’t hang on.
- Julius Ferguson is a rapper who also works at Drew Drechsel’s gym in Hamden, CT. When Julius was struggling on the Sky Hooks, Drew shouted up advice. He had to work hard, but he survived the obstacle. On Diamond Dash, Julius dove across the final panel to the landing mat. Gritting it through the Battering Ram put him at the Warped Wall. As he faced the back half, Drew reminded him to control his breathing. After the Salmon Ladder, Julius was the first to show us the new Hinge. He would have to turn 180 degrees in the air to grab a panel that would then rotate, allowing him to jump to a third panel and dismount. Julius made the first twist, and he made the second. However, his grip loosened and he slid into the water.
- Ben Antoine fell on Diamond Dash for the second time.
- Jamie Ross, a rookie, fought her way to the Battering Ram.
- Michael Silenzi made it all the way to The Hinge.
- Danny Bergstrom has a familiar last name because his dad, Jason, is also a competitor. After enduring abuse as a child, Danny was adopted by the Bergstroms at age 15. He had some trouble adjusting to the new home, but his family was there for him. He started training after watching his dad run the Daytona course last season. They both competed this year. Danny fell on the Diamond Dash in Qualifying, but it was a different story for City Finals. He was fearless on the Sky Hooks and across the balance obstacle. His glasses kept sliding down but he wasn’t distracted by it. On the back half of the course, he looked like a veteran on the Hinge, making it through. His time to this point was pretty spot on. He was out on Iron Maiden, but that was a run to remember.
- Four-time veteran Jake Murray went out early in season nine. He’s returned to the course with a much more serious attitude, taking the fifth fastest completion time in Qualifiers. There were no jokes on the City Finals course either. After the Battering Ram, he went right up the Warped Wall without pausing. On The Hinge, he showed off perfect jumps and landed safely. On Iron Maiden, Jake opted to use one line of pegs only. He navigated the first turn, but it looked like his arms were straightening out as he climbed. We were nervous but he was through. The doors of the Spider Trap looked heavy for Jake and he dug deep to power through them. Jake let out a deep sigh of relief as he hit the buzzer, and with a pretty strong time as well.
- Jaysen Saly fell on the Double Twister.
- Rookie Austin Gray failed the Warped Wall in Qualifying after a Mega Wall attempt. This time, he went almost all the way once again, making it to the Iron Maiden.
- Michael Torres had a bevy of Ninjas on the sideline supporting him. He flew up the Warped Wall with extra feet to spare. Michael’s first slip up came on the final board of The Hinge, but it did end his run, putting him in a precarious position.
- Roo Yori, the K9 Ninja, is dedicated to dog rescue. For the past two seasons, his faithful pup Angus has been on the sideline. (We can attest that Angus was a VERY good boy.) Unfortunately, Angus passed away this year at the age of 15. Roo still has his pup Johnny to cheer him on. Roo had a good jump from the trampoline to the Sky Hooks, but he simply missed the ring, hitting the water.
- Sean Darling-Hammond is going back to Vegas for the second season in a row. His run was shown picture-in-picture during the break. We saw him make it all the way to Iron Maiden.
- Sara Heesen was excited to compete on her home turf. She took extra spins on the Double Twister but was doing well. Her run was strong to the Battering Ram. She transitioned to the second rail but looked a bit stuck sliding it down the track. She ultimately fell there.
- The Cowboy Ninja, Lance Pekus, is now a spokesperson for the National Beef Council. He was on the Battering Ram when we joined him, and then it was right on to the Warped Wall. The Hinge wasn’t a roadblock for him. Iron Maiden did look like it took work. Lance used one row of the pegs, and made it to the top of the second panel. On the top of the third, however, he looked stuck. He fell when the handles spun out of his grip.
- Dalton Knapp made it to The Hinge.
- Drew Knapp, Dalton’s older brother, passed that by one obstacle, falling on Iron Maiden.
- Ian Dory hit his fifth straight City Finals buzzer when he completed the course.
- Tyler Gillett was one of last season’s breakout rookies. Since then, he’s been training with his mom, Renee. Tyler tripped on Diamond Dash but kept his feet out of the water. On the back half, he looked strong on The Hinge, going nice and high on the third panel. Tyler was working quickly on the Iron Maiden. There was a bit of an awkward twist as he moved to the second panel. He made it, but then fell while on the third portion of the obstacle.
- Sarah Schoback fell on the Sky Hooks.
- Karson Voiles was back to Vegas with his run to the Iron Maiden.
- Eric Middleton made Matt and Akbar eat a spider when he completed the Qualifying course. When he fell on Iron Maiden in the City Finals, he ate the mealworm lollipop himself in front of a baffled Kristine.
- We joined Joe Moravsky at the Battering Ram. It was clear he was still bitter about his failed attempt at the Mega Wall, but he didn’t have any trouble with the regular wall. Joe has never fallen on the Salmon Ladder in competition and this time was no different. The new Hinge wasn’t an issue. It took a minute for him to look comfortable on the Iron Maiden but he quickly found his rhythm. Joe locked in on the Spider Trap and locked in yet another buzzer, including the fastest time to that point.
- Meagan Martin has qualified for the City Finals for the past five years and she looked steady on this course. After the Sky Hooks, she bopped across Diamond Dash. She went out on the Battering Ram in Qualifying but had no trouble this time. It also guaranteed her a spot in Vegas. Meagan moved deep into the back half of the course. On the Hinge, she nailed the jumps and dismounted safely. Then it was time to begin the ninth obstacle. Meagan used both tracks of pegs and swung through the first transfer. At the top of the third panel, she started to struggle. Meagan missed the placement of one handle and tumbled into the water. It was one of her best runs and she’s heading back to Vegas.
- Hunter Guerard, the lizard, was a rookie last season. He also made it to the Iron Maiden.
- Jonathan Stevens, a rookie, impressively completed the course, getting emotional at the buzzer.
- We closed the night with Jon Alexis Jr. At 6’6”, he’s known as The Giant. We weren’t quite sure what to expect from the run. Jon fell on Diamond Dash in Qualifying. But he returned with unshaken confidence. He was right through to the Battering Ram. Jon put his shirt on the Mega Wall, signifying that he’s saving his spot there next season. When Jon flew through the Hinge, he bumped Michael Torres out of the top 15 and claimed a spot in Las Vegas. Near the bottom of Iron Maiden, Jon had to be careful his long legs didn’t touch the water. He was charging through the obstacle. At the bottom of the Spider Trap, Jon looked giddy. He locked his frame into the chute and shot up. He didn’t even stop for the doors, he just used his back to push right through. This was the best trip up the Spider Trap we’ve seen this season. Jon hit his first City Finals buzzer and claimed the fastest time of the night!
- There were five finishers overall.
We adored Jon Alexis Jr.’s closing run. We’ll be honest, his speed and ease were unexpected, and the surprise was awesome. He’s gotten close to the City Finals buzzer in the past few seasons. Moving on from the Qualifying round, he was just READY for it. After he finished The Hinge, we knew he was going all the way. We really don’t think we’ve seen anyone get up the Spider Trap with more efficiency and speed. Keep it coming, Jon.
Watching Michael Torres’ face as he realized he wasn’t going to Vegas was like a slow-motion car crash. We had a feeling it was coming, but we didn’t want it to happen. After his debut in season eight, Michael re-shaped his whole life to focus on Ninja. It’s easy for us as viewers to say, “There’s always next year!” For the Ninjas, it’s the close of a full year of painstaking work.
Shout out of the night:
Abby Clark is out there soaking up every experience like a sponge and turning it into applied knowledge. In season nine, she was out in Qualifying. In season 10, she beat the Qualifying course. She did get stuck on the Warped Wall in City Finals, but we have a feeling she’s not going to let that happen again. And she’s still heading on to Las Vegas!
Can’t believe we’re saying this, but next week is the start of the National Finals. Night one airs on Monday, August 27. The first batch of Ninjas will step up to Stage One.