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Los Angeles Qualifiers recap: New changes are already shaping season 11

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Surprises abound, be them both good and not so good.

Michael Becker/NBC

Welcome back, American Ninja Warrior fans! Season 11 has arrived! We’re all fresh with new hopes for the year and ready to get things started. The season brings with it several new elements, including the Power Tower, and our new sideline reporter, Zuri Hall. We can finally stop musing about the things to come and really dive into them. The Los Angeles Qualifiers started things off with a bang and showed us just what we can expect from the fresh aspects of the show.

By the numbers

  • Course completions: 11
  • Mega Wall completions: 1
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Walk the Plank: 14
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Spin Hopper: 7

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps (new, learn more here)
  • Walk the Plank (new): The 13-foot plank dips forward as the Ninja reaches for the bar that will slide them to safety.
  • Spring Forward (new): Three bars extending from springs. The last bar is angled down 20 degrees.
  • Diamond Dash
  • Spin Hopper
  • Mega Wall (learn more about the new rules here)
  • Power Tower (learn about the Speed Pass here)

The highlights:

  • The first splash of the season belongs to Kevin Fisch, known as the “fittest marine on the planet.” He was out on the Diamond Dash.
  • Yoga teacher Aubry Wiltcher ended her run on Walk the Plank.
  • Ben Udy, AKA - Chad Flexington, was out on the Spin Hopper after kicking the last pipe by accident.
  • Greg Freeman and Leah Duhon were both victims of the new Walk the Plank.
  • Remember Alex Weber from the digital series “Crashing the Course”? He must have missed us all because he returned to try his hand as a Ninja. He fell on Spring Forward.
  • Wine maker Margaux Alvarez fell on the new first obstacle, the Shrinking Steps.
  • 19-year-old super fan Seth Rogers lived out his Ninja Warrior dream with a comfortable looking run to the Spin Hopper and a respectable time.
  • First tears of the season belong to David Alvarez. He shared his story of searching for his sister, who he was separated from in foster care. In an incredibly moving moment, he also earned the first buzzer of the season.
  • Former NBA star Kareem Rush was out on Walk the Plank.
  • Emmi Rose was the first female competitor to pass Walk the Plank. She then ended her run on Spring Forward.
  • Noah Garfield was out on the Spin Hopper.
  • Back for his ninth season on the course, veteran star Flip Rodriguez wanted revenge on the Mega Wall. He got himself all the way there, and then found himself in a situation when he was unable to top it and reach the buzzer.
  • Derek Miyamoto and Thomas Kofron, both returning competitors, both fell on Spring Forward.
  • Anna Shumaker and Jesse Orenshein met the water with Walk the Plank.
  • Milton Nkunku was out on the Shrinking Steps.
  • Tyler Fidler was stopped by Spring Forward.
  • Tiana Webberley left us all reeling with her fall on Walk the Plank.
  • Samantha Bush lost her father at the age of 14 and grew up watching her mother’s work ethic as a provider. After a dramatic save on the Diamond Dash, she put up a fantastic run all the way to the descent of the Spin Hopper, leaving her in a great position to make City Finals.
  • The “Godfather” David Campbell returned for his 11th season. Known for speed in the past, he has put up slightly slower course times in the recent seasons. He felt the Power Tower calling to him as he left it all on the obstacles and cleared the course for the fast time of 1:35.99.
  • Christian Brown-Johnson fell on Walk the Plank, as did Charles Dimaano Jr. and Victor Chan.
  • Brian Burk is not defined by his autism diagnosis. He fell in love with Ninja Warrior training about 2.5 years ago and he looks like a natural to us. Every obstacle made him smile and he celebrated a joyous course completion with the splits on top of the Warped Wall.
  • Rebekah Bonilla was out on the Diamond Dash.
  • Corey McCoy failed the Warped Wall.
  • Four-time veteran Arnold Hernandez had never gotten past the fourth obstacle until this season when he cleared the course!
  • Cheyenne Arrington lost her home in Paradise, CA when one of the state’s worst wildfires decimated the area. She and her family are safe and she made it to Walk the Plank on the course.
  • Adam Rayl was one of the first competitors to beat the Mega Wall in season 10. Could he do it for a second time? We didn’t get to find out. Adam pushed for time, and shockingly slipped off the Spin Hopper. His quick moves did bump him into the City Finals.
  • Verdale Benson was out on Diamond Dash.
  • Gondolier Jonah Bonner can thank all that rowing for his course completion!
  • Former Team USA Olympic gymnast Danell Leyva complete the course, and with a top time to boot!
  • Hunter Guerard came all the way from Minnesota to compete alongside his best friend, Kyle Soderman. Hunter is known for speed and he went for broke on the course. Even after missing his first attempt at the Warped Wall, he set the fastest time at 1:34.03.
  • Kyle Soderman has found pretty unique employment as a velociraptor at Universal Studios. He was eyeing both the Mega Wall money and the Power Tower with his run. Kyle was fast, but after just grazing the top of the Mega Wall, the seconds ticked away. Unable to return to the Warped Wall, he ended his run after three attempts at the 18-foot Wall.
  • Anthony Porter and Alex Zanes both experienced the wrath of Walk the Plank.
  • Jon Bundy and Mikayla Fong stumbled on the new Shrinking Steps.
  • Davyon Hancox made his way to the buzzer after a near-miss on the Spin Hopper.
  • 11-time competitor Brian Kretsch celebrated his return by completing the course.
  • Scott Willson enjoyed his fifth season start. He moved steadily but didn’t rush. At the Mega Wall, he gave it a quick glance over before nabbing the rim on his first try, taking home $10,000 for himself.
  • Walk-on Greg Schwartz was overjoyed for his chance at the obstacles. His run ended at Walk the Plank.
  • Angie Olson, another walk-on, ended her run at the Shrinking Steps.
  • While walk-ons Steven Barbarito (Spring Forward) and Austin Seibert (Spin Hopper) moved themselves into the City Finals.
  • Fan favorite Kevin Bull started his career as walk-on five seasons ago. He opened his season with a great course completion, but wasn’t fast enough to qualify for the Power Tower competition.

The Power Tower

  • Hunter Guerard vs David Campbell

Hunter came in to the last part of the competition with the fastest time of the night. The first example of the Power Tower quickly showed us how breathless this competition is going to leave fans. It looked like Hunter had a lead until David took a bold leap across the bottom bar. At the end, both lachéd for the landing platform at the same time. Hunter narrowly secured his win and the first guaranteed spot on the National Finals

Winner: Hunter Guerard

We won’t forget...

When David Alvarez revealed he had his little sister, Wallyssa’s, pacifier on him his whole run. The siblings were separated when he was just 13 and his sister was just two. David has been looking for her ever since. Breaking down in tears at the buzzer, David hoped his sister was out there watching somewhere. He’s looking for any information on her and can be found on Instagram @MrSuccessfu1.

We didn’t see that coming...

The abrupt end to Flip’s run at the Mega Wall. It clearly illustrated the risks of the season’s new rules. Unlike last season, where a Ninja moved back to the Warped Wall after a failed attempt at the Mega Wall, Flip was stuck there. It certainly wouldn’t keep him from the City Finals, but it did stop him from adding another buzzer to his collection.

Shout out to...

Scott Willson, Hunter Guerard and David Campbell. The first Mega Wall winner, and the first two Ninjas to take on the Power Tower.

Next episode:

  • Atlanta Qualifiers - Wednesday, June 5, at 8/7c on NBC

You can find a full list of all the Los Angeles Qualifier competitors here.

You can find a full list of the competitors moving on to the Los Angeles City Finals here.