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Jeri D’Aurelio’s joyful run concealed a balancing act behind the scenes

She’s running the course one minute, and running to court the next.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

No one knows how to have fun quite like Jeri D’Aurelio. Whether it’s her antics with Ninja friends like Meagan Martin or Barclay Stockett, or just having a blast on the course, she knows how to enjoy herself.

That was more than apparent during her Semi-Finals run on American Ninja Warrior season 12. With a huge grin on her face, Jeri hopped, swung, and bounced through the obstacles. Her run ended on the fifth obstacle, Slingshot, but it earned her the second spot on the women’s leaderboard, behind Jessie Graff. That means Jeri will advance to the Finals, an elite position.

Behind the scenes, Jeri has an incredibly serious job. She’s a defense lawyer in the Army, defending members of the military in court. Jeri’s attention to detail and work ethic can literally change someone’s life. It’s not a job you can just pause because Ninja Warrior is filming. Jeri worked her cases while still working the obstacles.

Her ability to balance carefree fun with the cold sober realities of her job is a big part of what makes Jeri a Ninja Warrior. If you don’t know much about her, you should get to know this inspiring competitor. Read on for Jeri’s views on this wild season for her.

On season 12’s production and the shut down of the show in Los Angeles

“Oh man, this season, it’s crazy because unlike any other season, I mean every season you only find out a few weeks before you need to be there, but you know when, okay, if it’s going to happen, it’s going to have around this time. I need to be trained up for it. That wasn’t the case this year. I was trying to work in LA, and at a certain point, you just start thinking it’s not going to happen this season.

Work got way more crazy after LA, and then we’re currently in like the second big spike for the lower 48. So a lot of us really thought, even once we heard about this, that it was going to get shut down. Because I thought there’s no chance in hell that that could happen, but then I was in LA. I was there when we finished doing interviews and all of that, and then they’re like, we had to call it. So I was like, okay, so it can happen. And so this is just really a whirlwind of a season. So I’m absolutely honored that they thought of me as one of the people that they wanted to be a captain. Absolutely. I mean, absolutely honored.

And even more thrilled that it just happened to fall in between my trials. I mean, this is the only time it could have possibly happened.

On believing in herself and finding success

(Jeri had previously fallen on the fifth obstacle many times. In season 11, she broke that streak in the Cincinnati City Finals and advanced to the back half of the course.)

“I was 13th all around last year and you had to be top 12, and you’ve got to be top 12 this time. And so last season I really saw that I can do that. I’ve always like known it, but when I did it, when I got past the fifth obstacle and I felt good, I wasn’t even tired. I was like, ‘Holy crap. It’s just in my head.’ Like, it really is in my head when I fall. I’m kind of like, ‘Oh, this is where I stopped.’ This is where I go out, you know? And it doesn’t have to be. So, you can say all kinds of things and I’ll say, ‘Oh yeah, no, I know I can make it past.’ But I don’t think I really knew it. I think I just expect this is where I go out until I got past the fifth obstacle and I still felt awesome. And I was like, there’s no reason I haven’t done that. Like each season I’ve gone out on the fifth. So hopefully I do that this time.”

On training for season 12

“I’m very much relying on experience and body movement and kind of the strength that I’ve built over the years this season. I think I was in a very different place in LA, just in March. But between March and now, my life has changed very much when it comes to workload. Like then I was at least climbing a few times a week and stuff like that since then all of the gyms are shut down and I would be outdoors if it weren’t for work, but that has been a seven day job, pretty much since March.

So, I get out when I can. And if you look at my social media, a lot of that’s from very few incidents where I’ve been able to get out of the office. And I’m just aware that people don’t want to see somebody just sitting there in an office everyday, but that’s the reality of my day to day right now is a lot of hours in the office.”

On the challenges of balancing her career and Ninja Warrior

“Juggling this and work. I mean, I filed a motion this morning. I’m taking the course this morning, and I still have clients that rely on me and there’s a lot of different players and you can’t change the facts of the case, but in large part, my actions have a big impact on the outcome. And so I don’t ever want to feel like I negatively impacted a client and definitely not for myself to compete on the show. So, I’m doing my very best to juggle the two at the same time, and it’s hard.”

Jeri’s juggling act will continue as she moves into the American Ninja Warrior finals!