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Atlanta Qualifiers recap: It looks like some Ninjas can have it all

The Ninjas just couldn’t stop smashing through their goals in Atlanta.

Quantrell Colbert/NBC

The Los Angeles Qualifiers set the bar high for action on American Ninja Warrior this season, and yet Atlanta was somehow able to top that with Ninjas hitting goals left and right. The night was tied into the release of the new film, “The Secret Life of Pets 2,” so it included some adorable special elements, like a doggie Warped Wall. Extra fun is all well and good, but we’re here for the runs! The night included superstar Drew Drechsel, the return of Travis Rosen, and some rookies who were ready to announce their presence.

NBC better get ready to write some cheques since the Mega Wall found itself in good company this time around. And one veteran Ninja seems to be eyeing every prize put in his way...

Let’s break it down.

By the numbers

  • Course completions: 17 (Whoo!)
  • Mega Wall completions: 4 (Heck yeah!)
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Ferris Wheel: 6
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Bouncing Spider: 10

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps
  • Off the Hook - New
  • Block run
  • Bouncing Spider
  • Ferris Wheel - New
  • Warped Wall/Mega Wall
  • Power Tower for Speed Pass

The highlights:

  • Mindy Hylton is a mom and cervical cancer survivor who wanted to show her daughter what strength looks like. Mindy was almost out on Off The Hook, but made it to the Bouncing Spider.
  • Glenn Davis trained more than a dozen of the Atlanta Ninjas through his gym, NinjaQuest. The 56-year-old put together an impressive run and was the first to show us the new Ferris Wheel, where he fell on the descent.
  • Kavon Sadler was out on the Shrinking Steps.
  • Grace Sims ended her pattern of falling on the second obstacle with a run to the Bouncing Spider.
  • Caleb Watson ended his run on the Bouncing Spider.
  • Caleb Bergstrom was a 19-year-old rookie from the “Bergstrom Bunch” of Ninjas. His father and brother had already competed in previous seasons, and his sister was running in Atlanta as well. But Caleb broke out of the bunch by becoming the youngest competitor to land the Mega Wall, which he got on his second try!
  • Chris Fail met his end on Off the Hook.
  • Caitlyn Bergstrom, Caleb’s sister, put together her own respectable run to the Bouncing Spider.
  • Tyrone Pool is a former New England Patriots player who experienced winning two Super Bowls during his time with them. He made it all the way to the Ferris Wheel.
  • Professional poker player Tony Miles decided to add a little pressure to his run with a bet that would have left him $125,000 richer if he completed the course. He might have to keep his day job for awhile longer, as he splashed down at Block Run.
  • Andrey Collins represented his small town from Mississippi. He made it to the Bouncing Spider.
  • Michael Johnson was a towering figure on the course with his 6’1” height and his 215-pound weight. He charged to Block Run.
  • R.J. Roman made it to the National Finals last season as a rookie. This year, it was clear he wanted to get back there with the Speed Pass. He didn’t even consider the Mega Wall as he raced to the buzzer for the fastest time to that point of the night.
  • Eddy Stewart ended his run when he couldn’t get up the Warped Wall.
  • Emily Durham fell on the Bouncing Spider.
  • Walk-on Nick Yokum was also a victim of the Bouncing Spider.
  • Alyssa Varsalona had a scary fall on Block Run, especially considering how many times she’s torn her ACL, but her run was safe! She powered all the way through to the Ferris Wheel.
  • Roo Yori, the K9 Ninja, was on a mission to continue his work saving dogs through his Wallace the Pitbull Foundation. He made it all the way to the buzzer. As if that wasn’t exciting enough, the makers of “The Secret Life of Pets 2” gave him $20,000 to continue his work in the dog community.
  • TJ McCallum was out on the Shrinking Steps.
  • Ryan Stratis made history by becoming the first Ninja to beat the Mega Wall... TWICE. After beating the Mega Wall in Miami during season 10, he was back at it again in Atlanta.
  • Travis Rosen had the kind of comeback Disney films are made of. After breaking his ankle at the National Finals last year, he returned to the course to complete the whole dang thing in an emotional show of fortitude.
  • Charity LeBlanc tested out her mermaid skills after her fall at Block run.
  • Neil Craver opted for the Mega Wall but ultimately wasn’t able to reach the buzzer.
  • Josiah Singleton collected a buzzer with his course completion.
  • Math and P.E. teacher DeShawn Harris was out on Block Run.
  • Tim Saguinsin is known as the Papercut Ninja for his work as an artist, making elaborate paper cutouts of the Ninja Warriors. He struggled on the rope of the Shrinking Steps and was out on Off The Hook.
  • Bootie Cothran’s bandwagon cheered him through to the Bouncing Spider.
  • Devin Harrelson fractured his skull in a terrifying training accident last year. His return put him all the way through to the Ferris Wheel.
  • Chad Hohn managed to cut his head on the Bouncing Spider. But he still completed the course in dramatic fashion with blood running down his face.
  • This was Jessica Clayton’s third year competing and she planned on making it count. She shimmied to safety after falling on Block Run, and worked hard to make the exit on the Bouncing Spider. Reaching the Ferris Wheel put her in the top five for women, but she wanted more. Jessica carefully controlled her movements and became the first woman to beat the Ferris Wheel. In the end, she was unable to get to the top of the Warped Wall, but it still put her in the top 30 for the night.
  • Elie Cohen was bit by the Bouncing Spider.
  • Morgan “Moose” Wright ended his return to the course at the Ferris Wheel.
  • Kevin Carbone, the creator of the Wingnuts and Deja Vu, decided to try for the Mega Wall and it paid off with $10K.
  • Tyler Gillett knew that with all the finishes, competition was steep for the Power Tower. He lit up the course. It only took him around 33 seconds to get to the Ferris Wheel, and he was off in just over a minute. Without messing with the Mega Wall, he clocked in the fastest time to that point.
  • Ashley Harel was out on the Bouncing Spider.
  • Ben Wilson made it to the Ferris Wheel.
  • Last but not least was Drew Drechsel. You know he wanted ALL the prizes. Once we saw those headphones go in, we knew it was game on. He breezed through the course like it was a quick 100-yard dash. Faced with the Mega Wall, he had a choice. Time or money? Hmmm... How about BOTH? Drew sealed the Mega Wall on his first try, and hit the buzzer at 1:08, locking in the second fastest time.

The Power Tower

  • Tyler Gillett vs Drew Drechsel

One thing was completely palpable as we watched Tyler and Drew line up for the Power Tower: They both really wanted to win this. They bolted up the stairs together, but things fell apart when Tyler tumbled off his side. He could have attempted to climb back up, but Drew’s lead was so advantageous at that point that it wouldn’t have mattered. With Drew safe to the National Finals, we can only wonder what he’ll pull off at the Atlanta City Finals. Can he possibly return to the Power Tower?

We won’t forget...

Travis Rosen’s comeback. There’s no forgetting witnessing his potentially career ending injury at the National Finals. He broke his ankle in several places and required surgery right there in Vegas. The doctors weren’t sure he’d even ever run again. But Travis had a jaw-dropping recovery.

When he decided to return to Ninja Warrior less than a year later, his kids, and everyone else, were worried for him. Everyone held their breath after he fell on Block Run. We couldn’t relax until Travis safely reached the buzzer and even pressed it with his bad ankle. Travis went from the lowest of lows to right back to the top of the competition.

We didn’t see that coming...

Jessica Clayton’s run to the Warped Wall, and we mean this in the best way possible. We knew Jessica was strong. However, seeing her stumbles on Block Run and the effort on Bouncing Spider had us worried. Would she have enough energy left for the Ferris Wheel? The draining obstacle was setting itself up to be the “make it or break it” point of the night.

But this is what we love about Ninjas, they always shock us in the best way. Jessica found that reserve fuel tank and leveled the obstacle. It put her in the 21st position overall for the night and we can’t wait for her City Finals return!

Shout out to...

Our history makers of the night! Caleb Bergstrom is now the youngest Ninja to ever clear the Mega Wall. Ryan Stratis is now the first Ninja to clear the Mega Wall two seasons in a row. More young rookies and Mega Wall vets are up later this season, but these two have the claim to fame of getting there first.

Next episode

  • UPDATED: Oklahoma City Qualifiers - Monday, June 17 at 8/7c on NBC.

You can find a list of all the Ninjas advancing to the Atlanta City Finals here.

You can find a full list of all the Atlanta competitors here.