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National Finals night two recap: Stage One wraps up with another brutal battle

Stage One and the Ninjas went head to head once again.

David Becker/NBC

We went into night two of the American Ninja Warrior National Finals with the same feeling we get on a turbulent flight. We know it’s going to be okay, but, oh wow, there’s going to be some uncomfortable moments. Night one was as emotional as it gets. Night two followed the same formula. Let’s talk about all those twists and turns.

By the numbers

  • Course completions (seen): 15
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Twist and Fly (including timing out): 4
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Double Dipper: 7

The course:

(Fun fact: The course is made up of over a 1000 feet of metal)

  • Archer Alley
  • Propeller Bar
  • Double Dipper
  • Jumping Spider
  • Jeep Run
  • Warped Wall
  • Razor Beams
  • Twist and Fly
  • Time Limit: 2:25

Quick Highlights:

  • Alex Carson, tuba player and cheesecake baker, started things off. We gritted our teeth during the Double Dipper, but this first runner was safe. Alex locked in well on the Jumping Spider. However, he took some hesitant strides on Jeep Run and stumbled over the final wheel. The pace was worrisome at this point. Over the Warped Wall, Alex only had about 28 seconds left. When he only had 10 seconds left while on Twist and Fly, we were pretty sure it wasn’t going to happen. Just before the clock ran out, Alex hit the water jumping to the next set of handles. Matt and Akbar decided to enjoy the cheesecake anyway.
  • Bootie Cothran is having a magical season. He got his first buzzer in the Miami Qualifiers and is enjoying a hard-earned first trip to Stage One. Bootie had trouble with the rope on Archer Alley and barely got his fingers on the Propeller Bar. He fell victim to the Double Dipper when he didn’t catch the second bar.
  • We got an update onJessie Graff! After having fantastic runs on the Miami Qualifiers and City Finals courses, she was unable to make it to Las Vegas. That’s because she’s busy being a stunt person on the upcoming Wonder Woman film. It’s a dream job for Jessie and we’re so happy for her!
  • Abby Clark was the only woman to complete the Minneapolis Qualifying course. Here on Stage One, she has some trouble on Archer Alley and needed two swings to get to the landing pad. Abby grabbed the Propeller Bar with just her fingertips and spun around twice. But through staying calm, Abby survived the obstacle. Then the Double Dipper happened again. She held on for a second too long and couldn’t grab the second bar.
  • Kevin Bull had his CAP (Children’s Alopecia Project) kids and his parents on the sidelines. He’s completed Stage One twice before and was quickly through the first two obstacles. He gave a textbook example of the Double Dipper. The Spider Jump looked a bit slippery for Kevin but he made it. He had 1:10 left on the clock after Jeep Run. Kevin gave up a few seconds when he walked to the Warped Wall. However he only needed one try. He still had 36 seconds on the last obstacle, which is do-able. But Kevin shocked us all when he tumbled into the water after trying to grab the cargo net.
  • Judas Licciardello did a flip off the Double Dipper last season. There wasn’t a chance for stunts this year when he fell on the Propeller Bar.
  • Abel Gonzalez was able to complete Stage One in Season Nine. Tonight, it was another Double Dipper fall.
  • Mike Wright, the speedo wearing diving couch, hit the water on the Jumping Spider.
  • Brian Kretsch is one of four Ninjas who has competed on all 10 seasons of the show. We got to learn all about the hysterical resting Kretsch Face. Then we got an example of it when he fell on the Propeller Bar.
  • Lucas Reale had a very powerful run. He’s just 19 years old and three years ago (to the day of the competition), his father committed suicide. This run meant a lot to him and his family. Watching Lucas run, you’d never guess we was a rookie. He handled all of the obstacles with confidence. He jumped into the Twist and Fly with around 43 seconds on the clock. He took a couple of spins but landed on to the cargo net with 30 seconds. Come on, Lucas! He hit the buzzer with 15 seconds left and was so emotional over the accomplishment.
  • Anna Shumaker had her best run ever in the Los Angeles City Finals. Unfortunately, she joined Allyssa Beird and Michelle Warnky with a fall on Archer Alley.
  • James Bartholomew stripped out of his suit and then took a bad fall from the Propeller Bar.
  • Karsten Williams was on his fourth trip to the National Finals. He too ended his run on the Double Dipper.
  • Eric Middleton certainly keeps Matt and Akbar on their toes. They had to eat a fried tarantula when he hit the buzzer on the Minneapolis Qualifiers course. This time, they agreed to munch on a candied scorpion if Eric finished Stage One. Eric had the very smart strategy of running the course with a watch on so he was fully aware of his timing. Of course, he had no trouble with the Jumping Spider, considering his love of bugs. Eric had 1:13 after Jeep Run and frequently checked his watch. When he hit Twist and Fly with plenty of time, Matt and Akbar started to get a little scared. Eric left himself about 29 seconds for the cargo net climb. He hit the buzzer and Matt and Akbar took a big bite. Neither looked happy.
  • Lance Pekus had his wife Heather on the sidelines for his fifth year at the National Finals. Matt and Akbar donned the cowboy hats, but they didn’t wear them long. Lance fell on the Propeller Bar.
  • Barclay Stockett looked fierce and focused on the starting line. She whipped through the first two obstacles for a strong start. Passing the Double Dipper was a relief for everyone watching. Barclay had to stretch out every inch of her frame to lock into the Spider Jump. She was the second woman to make it this far down the course this season. Suddenly, Barclay looked unbalanced on Jeep Run and paused before the jump to the first steering wheel. That stumped her momentum and her leap came up short.
  • Reko Rivera brought the fire to the starting line. He had a great run to the Twist and Fly.
  • David Campbell is another 10-time veteran. He was also another Double Dipper fall.
  • Chris Wilczewski continued his stunning season with one more buzzer.
  • We were scared for Najee Richardson on the Double Dipper, but the phoenix flew through. He sprinted right into the Spider Jump. One step was slightly off on Jeep Run but it was perfect otherwise. Warped Walls have never been an issue for Najee, and he had a minute left after that. Najee moved to the buzzer with 22.14 seconds left and is through the Stage Two.
  • We saw Mike Murray’s run during the commercial break. He had a bit of slip on Archer Alley but was still dry. Mike had a butt landing on the Double Dipper and quickly got to his feet. He landed on the cargo net with 17 seconds and climbed with all his heart for a last second completion.
  • Six-time veteran Chris DiGangi fell on the Double Dipper.
  • Rookie and metal band member R.J. Roman took down the course and hit the buzzer!
  • Zach Day is one of the four 19-year-old rookies who made it to the National Finals. His father passed away this year and it was an emotional run for him as he hit the buzzer with seconds to spare.
  • The battle of the beards continued with Brett Sims. Brett and Ryan Stratis have a deal whichever Ninja goes farther, faster in the season gets to shave the beard of the other. Both are two for two buzzers this season so far. But things started looking bad for Brett’s beard when the eight-time veteran fell on the Double Dipper.
  • So far, 26 athletes have fallen on Double Dipper. That’s 41 years of combined Ninja experience. YEESH.
  • Ryan Stratis was the third ANW OG to run the National Finals course. When he passed the Double Dipper, Brett needed to start saying his goodbyes to his beard. He paused before the Jumping Spider but made it through. He looked like he was zipping along when just his right foot landed on the final, spinning tire of Jeep Run. He fell forward and hit the mat hard.

We were worried he was injured seriously, but we saw him giving Brett a shave just a short time later.

  • Kenny Niemitalo found a kidney donor for his daughter Hazel through sharing his story on the show. This season, he’s been trying to raise awareness for other children. Kenny shared that 13-year-old girl Liza is now in desperate need of a donor. If you’d like to find out more about donating a kidney, please visit Kidney.Org/LivingDonors.

On the course, Kenny barely made it through the Double Dipper. It looked like maybe he’d hurt his leg. Kenny soldiered on down the course. He struggled through the Jumping Spider. After Jeep Run, we were sure Kenny was feeling some pain, but he was pushing through. He only had 35 seconds after the Warped Wall. He landed the jump to the cargo net with less than 10 seconds and timed out on the very top.

  • Nicholas Coolridge stepped up for his fourth time on Stage One. He looked fantastic on the course. He survived the Double Dipper even though he only grabbed the second bar with one hand at first. Nicholas stumbled over the last tire of Jeep Run and was soon flexing his knee. Don’t let another Ninja be hurt... Nicholas ran into the Twist and Fly and jumped for the net with 19 second left. We were worried because he seemed low. Nicholas skillfully scaled the net and hit the Stage One buzzer for the third time in a row with seven seconds left.
  • Rookie Jonathan Stevens was two for two on buzzers. Now he’s three for three!
  • Josh Salinas completed the course for the second season in a row.
  • Brittany Hanks was still recovering from a knee injury. She fell on the Propeller Bar.
  • Meagan Martin was the final woman of the season to run the course. We SO badly wanted her to hit the buzzer. She’d timed out twice previously on Stage One, so she’d need to move. She almost fell on Archer Alley but landed on her feet after the Double Dipper. Just as Matt reminded us that Meagan was the first woman to beat the Spider Jump, her feet slipped out from under her on that obstacle. There will be no women on Stage Two this season.
  • Drew Knapp was on his second trip to Las Vegas. He celebrated that by hitting the buzzer with a strong time.
  • Thomas Stillings was ALMOST out on the Jumping Spider and made a great save. He completed Stage One for the fourth time in a row.
  • Hunter Guerard was almost out on the Razor Beams. He completed the course to become the 28th finisher.
  • Okay, Drew Drechsel, no surprises, please? He’d never failed Stage One before, but we don’t know what the heck is happening this season. We didn’t exhale until he was locked into the Jumping Spider. It was clear he was eyeing Mathis Owhadi’s fastest completion time. Drew slipped right along the steering wheels of Jeep Run. He had 1:25 left after the Warped Wall. Come on, Drew... He had 1:09 for Twist and Fly. With massive swings, he landed at the top of the cargo net and hit the buzzer with 48.80 left, the new fastest time!
  • Jake Murray hit the starting line with Grant McCartney. Grant pretended to be his “shoe caddy.” He seemed more relaxed than he was in Minneapolis. This was confirmed when he floated down the course with ease. He did a roll off the Jumping Spider and ran right to Jeep Run. He just never stopped after that! While on Twist and Fly, he had 1:13 left. He pulled off a perfect climb up the cargo net and managed to sneak the fastest time away from Drew by 0.02 seconds. Just to show us that the fun Jake was back, he jumped into the water.

Heart-Pounding Moment:

In a National Finals that has exhausted our emotions, we were biting our nails during Drew’s run. Yes, we had confidence in him. But we were confident a LOT of Ninjas were heading to Stage Two who went out early. We couldn’t even really look until he was through the Double Dipper. Drew gave us a flawless run, but, yeah, we were pretty darn anxious during the whole thing.

Heart-Breaking Moment:

This moment doesn’t fall on any competitor specifically, it’s just how things played out this season. We’re pretty bummed that no women moved into Stage Two. After two seasons of one woman making it through, we were hoping for multiple female Ninjas on Stage Two. All the women were great this season. They shined in the Qualifiers and City Finals, and they fearlessly faced Stage One. Next year, we want ALL of them back!

Shout out of the night:

We’re all about Jake’s glorious comeback season. Not only did he take the fastest time on Stage One this year, but he brought back the Jake-flair we missed out on in Minneapolis. We’re so happy to see him smiling on the course again and heading to Stage Two.

Next week:

Here it comes, the finale of American Ninja Warrior season 10. The 30 surviving Ninjas will head to Stage Two. After that, we’ll have to wait and see if we move on to Stages Three and Four. But it all comes to a close on September 10.