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Jessie Graff returned “home” to the American Ninja Warrior course.

Jessie’s homecoming at the Seattle/Tacoma Qualifiers included a buzzer and a lot of smiles.

Jessie Graff wasn’t even gone for a full season, yet everyone was beyond excited to see her back on the course in Seattle/Tacoma! And Jessie delivered. A little laughter after a rough dismount, a buzzer, and a whole lot of smiles -- we couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Matthew Hayward

Except maybe an interview… We couldn’t wait to hear what Jessie had been up to, and how it felt to return to Ninja Warrior. And Jessie delivered again.

Of course, our first order of business was getting the scoop on what kept Jessie from the Vegas Finals last year. Jessie had started Season 10 off so strong, and then she wasn’t able to finish the season…

“Last season was great. I was nervous because I hadn’t really had any time to Ninja train specifically. I’d just been working on pull ups and what I could do in a hotel gym. I finished City Qualifiers, and I made it as far as I usually do on City Finals. I got fifth place. That was huge for me because I just didn’t think I’d be able to do what I usually did…Because of work stuff, because of my dream job doing some of the coolest stunts I’ve ever done, I wasn’t able to make it to Vegas…which was heart-breaking, but at the same time, I couldn’t pass up such an amazing opportunity.”

This year, the Seattle/Tacoma Qualifiers were a homecoming for Jessie, and she described how it felt to walk into the Tacoma Dome.

“It was a little scary in the sense that it was like walking into your home after you’ve been away at college for a long time. You’re like, ‘Is it still my home? Do I still belong here? It looks beautiful. I hope I still belong here!’ …The second I stepped on to the platform and saw everyone there, it was just... I was just flooded with this warmth and comfort. The moment you think would be the most terrifying, being on the starting platform, was where I suddenly relaxed like, I am home.”

Jessie also reflected back on the physicality of the Seattle/Tacoma course and her strategy, on the Lunatic Ledges and Barrel Roll in particular.

Matthew Hayward/NBC

“I think kind of the theme of this course for me is that everything feels uncomfortable, especially that second obstacle (Lunatic Ledges). People who are amazing at swinging, pump it and they do everything right, but it just doesn’t get any higher. So there’s no point in doing a second swing…So the plan was, jump to it, hit the right body position, and just go. It’s going to feel wrong. Just go.”

“I think I took too many swings on the Barrel Roll. Again, I kind of thought I could work that swing, but I’ve consulted with Brian Kretsch and Sean Bryan and some of my most trusted Ninjas, and they agreed it’s kind of like the ledges. The more you pump your swing, after a certain point it gets more awkward. So jump, pump once, back swing, and go. That’s the plan for tonight.”

Despite those uncomfortable feelings, Jessie powered through and hit the buzzer. Jessie described her buzzer moment as so satisfying, and said, “Getting to stand up on that platform and look back at everyone who’s been cheering you on and supporting you, I felt like I was going to cry, but smiling too hard or something.”

After Jessie’s successful homecoming to Ninja Warrior on the Seattle/Tacoma Qualifier Course, she’s heading to the City Finals, and she’s feeling hopeful. “I don’t feel like I’m strong enough for where I need to be. But I never feel ready. You know, just like everything else. You’re not going to feel ready. Just do your best. Everything you have, put it all out there. My adrenaline will take me farther than I think it will and hopefully that will be to the top buzzer.”

For Jessie, the biggest motivating factor in Ninja Warrior is feeling strong. “There is always an impossible challenge to conquer. I keep doing things that I didn’t think I was capable of, and that is the biggest drive in my life -- to see something impossible and prove myself wrong. To be like, ‘See? You’re even more than you think you are.’”