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Atlanta City Finals recap: Weather tried to dampen this competition

The Ninjas faced a damp course and the challenging obstacles.

Quantrell Colbert/NBC

American Ninja Warrior’s second round of City Finals was a return visit to the Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta. When we last saw the location seven weeks ago, we had great moments. There was Travis Rosen’s epic comeback from injury, Jessica Clayton’s fight to the Warped Wall, and Drew Drechsel starting his season with the Mega Wall and the Speed Pass.

Drew is safe to the National Finals, but there was no way he’d miss out on running the course. The 10 obstacle gauntlet featured the new eighth obstacle, Up For Grabs. But there was another foe lurking around the course. Inclement weather had drenched the course before the competition started, but the moisture still lingered in the air. It proved to throw a wrench in a few Ninjas’ plans...

By the numbers:

  • Course completions: 5
  • Ninjas taken out by the new obstacle, Up for Grabs: 8
  • Ninjas taken out by the returning obstacle, Fall Out: 1

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps
  • Off the Hook
  • Block Run
  • Bouncing Spider
  • Ferris Wheel
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Up For Grabs - new
  • Fall Out
  • Spider Trap
  • Power Tower for Safety Pass

The highlights:

  • Former NFL plater Tyrone Poole snagged two Super Bowl rings during his time with the New England Patriots. He fell on the Ferris Wheel in Qualifier. His run was shorter this time around, with a fall on Off the Hook.
  • Josiah Singleton is a through-and-through farm boy from Virginia. He completed the Qualifying course and did fine on the front part of course for his City Finals return. Josiah was the first to show us Up for Grabs. Kind of. He fell early on the obstacle.
  • Neil Craver married his new bride Chloe on New Year’s Eve with a flashy, gold themed wedding, of course. On the course, he shocked us all with a fall on Block Run.
  • Caitlyn Bergstrom and her brother Caleb both did great in the Qualifiers and were the first brother/sister duo to make City Finals. Caitlyn was looking good again on the course, surviving the Bouncing Spider that ended her first run. She was so close to finishing the Ferris Wheel when she couldn’t make the dismount and fell there.
  • Russian circus performer Kirill Rebkovets was out on Off the Hook.
  • Jon Dilullo had just graduated high school before the Atlanta City Finals. He was out on Block Run.
  • Chad Hohn had a tough fight with the Bouncing Spider during Qualifiers that left him bleeding from the head, but he still finished the course. In City Finals, he was out on the Ferris Wheel, but at least he was in one piece!
  • Returning Ninja Devin Harrelson welcomed twin boys Asa and Adonis this year! They must be helping him stay quick on his feet, as Devin survived a trip on Block Run. He beat the Ferris Wheel that ended his Qualifying run and then completed his first Warped Wall! Devin looked solid on the Salmon Ladder, but splashed down on the first transfer of Up For Grabs.
  • Alyssa Varsalona ended her run on Block Run.
  • Glenn Davis was the oldest competitor in this region at 56. He tapped out after using all three of his attempts at the Warped Wall.
  • Kenny Niemitalo never fails to get the feelings flowing on the course. After American Ninja Warrior helped his family find a kidney donor for his daughter, Hazel, Kenny has been committed to paying it forward. During the City Finals, he was on a mission for Jordan, who is in desperate need of a living donor. Kenny considers every second on the course important as it helps his message get out there. He earned several minutes with that run, becoming the first to get through Up For Grabs, and then Fall Out. But at the Spider Trap, it looked like Kenny’s shoes just couldn’t get traction and he slipped back to the mat below.

Please go to Kidney.Org/LivingDonors to learn more about kidney donation.

  • Eddy Stewart, known for his pec flex, was out on Block Run.
  • 22-year-old Caleb Auer put up a strong run all the way to Fall Out, where he fell.
  • Kevin Carbone is a bit of an obstacle-inventing legend. He came up with the Wingnuts in 2017 for the Obstacle Design Challenge. It also happened to be his first year on the show and he beat his own obstacle. This year, it seems like Cincinnati’s Slingshot was another idea of his. On the Atlanta course, Kevin was walking on his heels to keep his shoes as dry as possible on the moist mats. Kevin apparently felt the front part of the course was just too basic and mixed things up by twisting around 360 degrees on his trip up the Warped Wall!

Continuing through the course, it seems like Kevin’s tactics to keep his shoes dry did work. He was able to find purchase on the Spider Trap and climb his way to the top. That made Kevin the first finisher of the night, and in line for the Power Tower.

  • Five-time veteran Emily Durham didn’t survive Block Run.
  • Roo Yori made it to the back half of the course but was out on Up For Grabs.
  • Casey Suchocki was making good time on the front half of the course. But things came to a screeching halt on Up For Grabs.
  • Travis Rosen had an epic comeback from his ankle injury during the Qualifiers. He continued the magic on the City Finals course with a sound, efficient run. His timing was actually faster than Kevin Carbone’s, but Travis fell on the new Up For Grabs.
  • Ronald Washington lost his grip on Up For Grabs.
  • Walk-on Travis Rust shared a similar fate on the obstacle.
  • Ryan Stratis was already on the Ferris Wheel when we joined him. He made it up the Warped Wall with no problem, and then added a little war paint to his run. Ryan ripped a flap of skin from his hand and smeared the blood on his face. Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do. Ryan then made it through Up For Grabs and was safely through Fall Out. On the Spider Trap, he found his traction and made his move. Hitting the buzzer was emotional for the long-time veteran, as be broke down in his interview with Zuri on the sidelines. It was Ryan and Kevin Carbone in line for the final competition of the night at this point.
  • Grace Sims made her first trip to the City Finals, but she repeated her fall on the Bouncing Spider.
  • Grace’s husband Brett Sims, is a nine-time veteran who lost the “beard bet” to Ryan Stratis last year. The bet is on again this season, and will once more carry forth to the National Finals. Brett was also able to complete the whole course!
  • The youngest and lightest competitor of the competition was Jody Freeman. Jody was born premature and grew up as the small kid. But he found a strength through rock climbing that is pretty darn noticeable. He had a strong completion time in the Qualifiers and it was looking like more of the same for City Finals. Jody looked like a pro on the back half of the course as he moved right from Up For Grabs into Fall Out. At that point, Jody was safe to Vegas, but he had more in him. He attempted the Spider Trap, but also fell victim to the moisture messing with Ninja traction.
  • The last woman of the night to run the course as Jessica Clayton. Jessica serves in the National Guard, which is tough on the single mom. In the Qualifiers, she made it to the Warped Wall and hoped for revenge in the City Finals. She endured a disappointing fall on the Bouncing Spider, but got the good news that she will be heading to the National Finals.
  • Sophomore Ninja and rock musician R.J. Roman made it all the way to the Spider Trap with his quick run. He, like others, was kept from the buzzer by finding himself unable to climb the slippery plexiglass.

R.J. is the latest guest on the American Ninja Warrior podcast. There he breaks down exactly what happened with the Spider Trap and how much the Ninja Warrior world means to him.

  • Tyler Gillett had the fastest course completion time in Qualifying. When we saw his run in the City Finals, he hit the buzzer for the second fastest time to that point.
  • Caleb Bergstrom ripped right through the first half of the course, but fell from Up For Grabs. However, he and his sister Caitlyn are now the first brother/sister pair to make it to Vegas together!
  • The last runner of the night was the legendary Drew Drechsel. Remember, Drew had the Speed Pass, meaning no matter what happened, he was going to Vegas. But, this is Drew we’re talking about. He had work to do. Drew looked like a pure pro on every obstacle with zero extra movements or exertions. His friend Flip Rodriguez kept track of his time while he was on the course, but there was really no need to worry. He was pacing far ahead of Carbone’s timing. Singing along to whatever music he was listening to, Drew was smoothly through Up For Grabs and Fall Out. After locking into the Spider Trap, he elevated up the final obstacle for the fastest finishing time by over a minute.

Power Tower

  • Drew Drechsel vs Kevin Carbone

Kevin looked hungry to win this head-to-head race, but he was up against Drew, who already had Power Tower experience from the Qualifiers. It’s interesting to note that the challenge now also included a rope climb down to the handles that we didn’t see in LA. The two competitors exchanged a quick high five and were off. Kevin actually made a move first from the rope to the handles. But then Drew just starting...well... being Drew. He quickly gained a lead and that was pretty much it for Kevin. Drew can now say he earned the trifecta of Mega Wall, Speed Pass AND Safety Pass!

Winner: Drew Drechsel

We won’t forget...

Kenny Niemitalo’s dedication. His runs are for more than just him, and when he says that he MEANS it. Anyone who’s had a chance to speak with Kenny knows he feels a deep responsibility to these children looking for kidney donors. There is nothing “for the show” about Kenny’s mission.

We didn’t see that coming...

The Spider Trap having a moment of notoriety. Generally, only a few competitors a season struggle on the obstacle. We usually assume that if someone is past the ninth obstacle, they’re home free. Not this time around. Due to rain earlier in the night, and moisture lingering in the air, three competitors were unable to complete their otherwise strong runs.

Shout out to...

Drew for just singing along to his music and getting his work DONE. And to Kevin Carbone for sticking it out till the end in what was a blow out on the Power Tower.

Next Episode:

  • Oklahoma City Finals - Monday July 29, 8/7c on NBC