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Seattle/Tacoma Qualifiers recap: A location full of firsts, twists, and fun

The show’s first indoor location featured great moments and a chilling shock.

Matthew Hayward/NBC

America Ninja Warrior decided to pack a lot of exciting firsts into one episode! The Seattle/Tacoma Qualifiers was the first time the show has taped indoors, at the Tacoma Dome. It was the first time the show has even visited the Pacific Northwest part of the country. It was also the first time we’ve ever had mega-star Ninjas Jesse Graff and Meagan Martin in the same Qualifying region! This was also Geoff Britten’s first time back on the course since he took a break two seasons ago.

Ninja viewers were gifted with a rollercoaster of a night. We cheered, we screamed, we wondered what the heck Jake Murray was up to. There’s a lot to break down, so let’s get into this!

By the numbers:

  • Course completions: 13
  • Mega Wall completions: 1
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Barrel Roll: 5
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Lightning Bolts: 12

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps
  • Lunatic Ledges - New
  • Barrel Roll - New
  • Broken Bridge
  • Lightning Bolts
  • Warped/Mega Wall
  • Power Tower for Speed Pass

The highlights:

  • Rose Wetzel started things off. She’s a top obstacle course racer who even kept up her training while pregnant. 2-year-old Taylor was on the sidelines to cheer mommy on. Rose looked like she was already grimacing on the Lunatic Ledges, but she wasn’t out until she showed us the new Barrel Roll.
  • 2000’s emo kids, get excited! Ryan Phillips is the lead guitarist for Story of the Year and the band is still at it, except they’re all dads now. After the Lunatic Ledges, Ryan waved to his family from the top of the Barrel Roll. It looked like he was having a blast all the way to the Lightning Bolts, where his run ended.
  • Rob Germakian fell on Lunatic Ledges.
  • Clover Street has the daunting job of training dogs for law enforcement and military. He spun out on the new Barrel Roll.
  • Eagle Scout and four-time Ninja Warrior veteran Jackson Meyer was looking for speed on the course, which may have contributed to his fall on Lighting Bolts.
  • Race car driver McKenna Haase is used to staying calm during a dangerous sport. She breezed right through the Lunatic Ledges. On the Barrel Roll, she accidentally pulled a nifty 360 degree turn, but it landed her in the water.
  • Kenneth Edwards traveled all the way from Brooklyn, New York to take part on the walk-on lottery for this region. While he admitted to not having much Ninja training, you wouldn’t have guessed it. He made it to the Lightning Bolts, and was even able to correct an off balance bar. He didn’t survive the obstacle, but he’s got a Ninja future for sure.
  • Olympic Decathlete Jeremy Taiwo was out on the Lighting Bolts.
  • Martial Arts Champion Jackie Ehlers ended her run on the Barrel Roll.
  • Michael Larlee fell from the Lightning Bolts.
  • Sandy Zimmerman is a 42-year-old mom of three and P.E. teacher. She’s also a former Martial Arts Champion who won the Nationals in Judo right there in the Tacoma Dome 30 years previous. And she looked confident on the course. Sandy had great form through the Barrel Roll and trotted across the Broken Bridge. If she was feeling tired on the Lightning Bolts, she didn’t show it. She looked GREAT out there! Her kids, and the whole Tacoma Dome, lost it when she planted her feet at the Warped Wall. Sandy missed the ledge on her first try, collected herself, took a breath, and then nailed it! She even stopped and flexed for Matt and Akbar before pulling herself up. Sandy is a competitor who hadn’t made it past the second obstacle before pulling herself up. She’s the first mom to complete the Warped Wall!
  • Michelle Schubert Claussen came out dressed in her “Dragon Lady” roller derby costume. She ditched the wheels, but then ditched into the water on the Lunatic Ledges.
  • 50-year-old Tim Schnee made it past the second obstacle this time around. He fell on the third, Barrel Roll.
  • Hailing from Alaska, Nick Hanson finally had a shorter commute to Ninja Warrior this year! His run ended on the Lightning Bolts.
  • Last year, Austin Gray was pretty fresh from surgery recovery when he ran the course after donating a kidney to a close friend, and he still made it to Stage Two of the National Finals. This time around, he made a valiant effort to save a fall on the Broken Bridge, to no avail.
  • Alex Ferreira is an Olympic Halfpipe Skier who earned a silver medal in the 2018 winter games. He was out on Lunatic Ledges.
  • Gym owner and Ninja Warrior veteran Sarah Schoback was also out on Lunatic Ledges.
  • Jake Murray is known for his antics. This year, he decided to make an entrance Hannibal Lector-style, carted on to the course by Grant McCartney. He ripped away his straight-jacket to reveal a tie-die outfit. A few extra swings on the rope of the Shrinking Steps didn’t stop him from quickly getting to the Barrel Roll. Jake looked good on the Lightning Bolts. He fixed an uneven landing, headed for the landing pad, and then sprinted up the Warped Wall for a completion time of 1:25.37.
  • Former Seattle Mariners pitcher Ryan Rowland-Smith ended his run on Lunatic Ledges.
  • Jon Stewart, known for breaking the record he set as the oldest man to finish a Qualifying course, announced it was his last season as a Ninja Warrior. He gave his final run everything he had, even when he was hopelessly stuck on Lunatic Ledges. He spent over three minutes trying various methods to build up the lost momentum before taking an unsuccessful leap towards the pads.
  • Israel Del Rio showed off some fancy sword work at the start. His run ended at the Lighting Bolts.
  • Meagan Martin returned for her sixth year of competition with a huge poster of herself hanging just beyond the starting line. She’s still in the process of recovering from a hamstring injury and her run reflected that she didn’t want to push it too hard. She made a low transfer on Barrel Roll, but that’s okay. Meagan splashed down on the Lightning Bolts with a time that made us wonder if she’ll advance.
  • Melisa Anderson took a bad landing on Barrel Roll before going out on the Broken Bridge.
  • Holly Beckstrand is from an accomplished family of Ninjas. She probably had the wildest dismount of the night from Barrel Roll, flipping upside down. Her run came to an end on the Lighting Bolts.
  • Sean Bryan made it to Stage Three of the National Finals last season for the second year in a row. Normally, he would have returned in Los Angeles, but he was still recovering from a broken ankle which kept him off his feet for 15 weeks. However, on the course, it looked like nothing was wrong at all. Sean kept a fast pace all the way to the Warped Wall. Interested in the time, and preserving his ankle, he opted for the Warped Wall and hit the buzzer at 1:14.27.
  • After a smokey, dramatic entrance Reko Rivera almost finished the course. He got stuck trying to complete the Mega Wall.
  • Dan Yager endured a similar fate when he too used all three attempts on the Mega Wall.
  • Rookie Alex Hatch didn’t have much Ninja training under his belt, but he did have his dog Lobo on the sidelines! Lobo kept a close eye on dad as he completed the whole course on his first time out.
  • Geoff Britten is the only Ninja to ever have a “perfect” season of all six buzzers. He took the last two seasons away from the show to focus on his family and new career with the chain of gyms, Ninja Nation. His return has been met with much excitement and anticipation. In a shocking twist, Geoff went out on the great Ninja equalizer, the balance obstacle. But he was still smiling as he climbed out of the water from the Broken Bridge.
  • Leif Sundberg is known for his Salmon Ladder stunts. In fact, he’s known for falling last year in Minneapolis while trying to attempt one of those stunts in his run. His run basically blew our minds when he ran through the course and up the Warped Wall without catching his breath. He clocked in a sub-minute time of 58:75, firmly declaring his intention of visiting the Power Tower.
  • Rookie and ICU nurse Mady Howard put up a strong run to the Lightning Bolts.
  • Scott Behrends, of the Backyard Ninja Kids, completed the Qualifying Course.
  • Nathan Green was one of the twins competing that night. He made a nice save on Lunatic Ledges, but ultimately ended his run there.
  • Fellow twin Marquez Green was up next. Marquez and Nathan lost their mother to breast cancer and they wanted to honor her with their runs. Both are juniors at the University of Wisconsin and have run track since high school. Marquez made it past the Lunatic Ledges that took out his brother. Then he made it past the whole course for an emotional finish at the buzzer.
  • Jessie Graff’s return was a big moment of the night. We all missed her when she had to skip season 10’s National Finals due to her work as a stunt person on the new Wonder Woman film. She shared she was nervous to be back, but she had a sideline full of Ninjas, and a stadium full of fans ready to cheer her on. Jessie absolutely didn’t look unprepared. She moved well through the course, taking a hard landing off the Barrel Roll and laughing about it. Jessie navigated the Lightning Bolts with the caution they deserved, finding herself safe on the other side. She needed only one try at the Warped Wall and announced she was back with a buzzer. She dropped to her knees in relief, saying it felt like she was home.
  • Karson Voiles was kept from the buzzer by three tries at the Mega Wall.
  • Bart Copeland and Josh Kronberg found themselves in the same situation at the 18-footer.
  • 11-time competitor Lorin Ball moved fast, but he missed one of his Warped Wall attempts, nudging him out of the running for the Power Tower.
  • 19-year-old Ben Martin earned his first buzzer.
  • Mom of three, Christi Marie was out on the Lightning Bolts. This was a very strong night for the women!
  • Megan Rowe (an ax thrower who ran in her sandals) was in an interesting position. She had to make it to the Lightning Bolts to make the top five for women. Meagan Martin was on the bubble, meaning Megan Rowe’s time would determine which of them returned for the City Finals. All Rowe needed to do in the end was quickly sprint across the Broken Bridge, and Martin would have been out. However, Rowe paused, giving the time advantage back to Martin and forcing Rowe to complete the Lightning Bolts in order to stay in the game. Something she was not able to do. It ended her Ninja season and moved Martin into the City Finals.
  • Cowboy Ninja Lance Pekus started his eighth season with his trademark hat. He quickly put it to the side to take down the first few obstacles. Lance needed to take a dive off the Broken Bridge, but whatever works. He looked strong on the Lightning Bolts and then eyed the Mega Wall. After a missed first and second attempt, we were very worried he’d suffer the same fate as many other that night. But Lance broke the curse on his third try, hitting a $2500 buzzer and the only Mega Wall completion of the night!

Power Tower:

  • Leif Sundberg vs Sean Bryan

We didn’t see this match up coming! With the times these two put up on the course, there was no doubt they’d be pushing each other on the bonus obstacle. Sean is consistently speedy, but Leif had brought something entirely new to his run. Off and running on the Power Tower, they stayed even on the climb up. Leif stumbled crossing the lower beam and Sean cruised into his element. With linked together, and flawless lachés, Sean pulled ahead and locked in his title as a National Finalist once more.

Winner: Sean Bryan

We won’t forget...

How honestly relieved Jessie Graff seemed when she completed the course. Jessie, we all knew you could do it! Were you doubting yourself? It just goes to point out the intense pressure these athletes put on themselves to perform at their best.

We didn’t see that coming...

Yes, we KNOW anything can happen to any Ninja. That still doesn’t make it any less surprising when a balance obstacle strikes out at a legendary Ninja. Case-in-point: Geoff Britten’s return and exit from this season in one fell swoop.

Shout out to...

Jon Stewart for his six year career on American Ninja Warrior. In season 10, he was the oldest competitor to complete a Qualifying course (breaking his own record) at 56. We completely understand that he’s ready to move on and head towards other adventures and we thank him for all his dedication to this show!

Next episode:

  • Baltimore City Qualifiers - Monday, July 1, at 8/7c on NBC