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American Ninja Warrior season 12 recap: Night one of Finals

16 of the 27 Finalists stepped up to the course.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

The theme of American Ninja Warrior’s 12th season is, “Together we rise.” That came into sharp focus during the first episode of the two-part Finals. The 27 remaining Ninjas came from all walks of life and all levels of experience. They had faced obstacles on and off the course, and together, they were moving into the last part of the competition. 16 of those Ninjas were up on night one.

On the 10-obstacle Finals course, only the top eight will advance to the Power Tower playoffs. Judging by tonight’s action, it’s not going to be an easy accomplishment. Only four Ninjas completed the course, including a thrilling run from Jesse Labreck. But we didn’t see all the Ninjas this night. Competitors like Daniel Gil, Joe Moravsky, and Jessie Graff will run next week.

Read on for the recap from night one of the Finals!

The course:

  • Shrinking Steps
  • Spring Forward
  • Falling Shelves
    A new obstacle where the Ninjas grab tiny ledges as the Xs fall into position. The final X includes a blind grab.
  • Diamond Dash
  • Spin Hopper
  • Warped Wall
  • Salmon Ladder
  • Slamdunk
  • Dragonback
    The ninth obstacle requires the Ninjas to jump a bar up the dragon’s back, and then slide down to an unstable landing. They must repeat this process twice.
  • Spider Trap

  • Jackson Twait:
    After a “Karate Kid” kick at the start, Jackson showed us the Falling Shelves, including the difficulty of the final blind grab.
    Result: Out on Falling Shelves
  • Jody Avila:
    After a strong and emotional season for Jody, he strode confidently through the first few obstacles. After a scary trip on Diamond Dash, Jody seemed to be favoring one leg. But he didn’t need his legs for much of the back half of the course. However, he was unable to score a point on Slam Dunk.
    Result: Out on Slam Dunk
  • Flip Rodriguez:
    Flip was absolutely devastated by the loss of his dog, Maui. Maui’s passing occurred exactly one year from Flip’s Semi-Finals run, causing Flip to show his broken heart after his fall on The Dungeon. Back for the Finals, Flip looked in control. He was an absolute pro on the Diamond Dash and drilled in on the Spin Hopper. Flip was the first to show us the Dragonback, and holy moly, it took him out almost immediately.
    Result: Out on Dragonback
Elizabeth Morris/NBC
  • Jeri D’Aurelio:
    As a JAG officer, Jeri has the stressful job of representing soldiers in court. But you wouldn’t guess that from her huge grin on the course. We were nervous for Jeri as she launched into the Falling Shelves and... Yup. She fell on the second one.
    Result: Out on Falling Shelves
  • Michael Torres:
    Michael is IN his element this season. With a huge group of supporters on the sideline, we were expecting a finish. That was until a stumble on the Diamond Dash flipped him into the water, making one of the biggest shocks of the night.
    Result: Out on Diamond Dash
  • Cameron Baumgartner:
    After the show gave a special shout out to Cameron’s very shout-y mom, he was off! But why wouldn’t you go nuts if Cameron was your kid? He was perfect on the front half of the course and stayed steady on Slam Dunk. Wow, Dragonback hands out some unpredictable rides. Cameron worked his way through the obstacle, navigating it’s unique challenges. Cameron must have been holding on to that bar for dear life because as he went down the final slide, he was unable to let go immediately. The bar dragged him back over the water and ended his run. Was he in position for the top eight? We’d need to wait to find out.
    Result: Out on Dragonback
  • Najee Richardson:
    In season 11, Najee didn’t hit a single buzzer. That’s not the case this time around. Back with a more relaxed attitude on the course, Najee has handled everything the course has dealt him. Whatever he was doing, it was working. Najee saved a one-handed grab on the Falling Shelves. He tripped on the Diamond Dash but kept his feet above the water. On the back half, Najee was done with the close calls. He nailed Slam Dunk. On Dragonback, Najee went FULL send. He skipped steps launching up the back, and instead of sliding down, jumped his bar right to the wobbling bungee. He was a Ninja on fire. After decimating the Spider Trap and tossing doors out of his way, we had our first finisher. Whoa. What a run.
    Result: Complete
Elizabeth Morris/NBC
  • Jamie Rahn:
    We joined Jamie during his time on the Spin Hopper. Jamie’s poor thumb held out during Slam Dunk, but the run ended when he was totally uneven on the first Dragonback slide.
    Result: Out on Dragonback
  • Dan Polizzi:
    With his buddy Brandon Mears watching from back at the fire house, Dan worked his way through the Falling Shelves. Dan hesitated before the balance obstacle and his fears came true when his run ended there.
    Result: Out on Diamond Dash
  • Lucas Reale:
    When Lucas’ father passed away when he was 16, his grandparents became even more important to his life. Their enthusiasm for his Ninja Warrior career is downright adorable. They watched from the virtual sideline as Lucas continued his great season. After expressing his excitement for the back half of the course, he executed it perfectly. Lucas nailed the technique on Dragonback and headed into the Spider Trap while outpacing Najee! He hit the buzzer with the fastest time to this point.
    Result: Complete
  • Sandy Zimmerman:
    The P.E. teacher didn’t let the lockdown dull her love of fitness. She made fun workout videos for kids. On the course, Sandy bounced through Spring Forward and chatted with the women standing on her sideline. But the conversation was cut short by the Falling Shelves.
    Result: Out on Falling Shelves
  • Donovan Metoyer:
    After an epic Warped Wall 360 during the Semi-Finals, the classy Ninja was out on the Spin Hopper.
    Result: Out on Spin Hopper
  • Austin Gray:
    After donating a kidney to his close friend, Kaylee, Austin has worked to inspire others to save lives through working with the National Kidney Foundation. He was also making quick work of the course. Austin isn’t a Ninja who’s prone to errors on the course, so we were pretty relaxed while watching him get to work. Slam Dunk? No problem. He opted for slow and steady on Dragonback and zipped right through it. After having no trouble on the Spider Trap, we suspected he was a shoe-in for the top eight.
    Result: Complete
  • Tyler Gillett:
    Tyler had dedicated his season to his cousin, Bill, who’s facing stage four pancreatic cancer. It was a surreal moment when Tyler missed a grab on Spring Forward and fell to the pool below. The stadium went silent as the Ninjas and crew processed the shock.
    Result: Out on Spring Forward
  • Chris DiGangi:
    Chris and Jesse have a habit of matching results on the course (which makes sense as they’re training partners). They had almost the exact same results in the Qualifiers and the Semi-Finals. But Chris ended his run on the Falling Shelves this time.
    Result: Out on Falling Shelves
  • Jesse Labreck:
    Jesse would have to put Chris’ fall out of her mind. She’s a pro. She knew it was her time to stay focused. No one breathed while she attempted the Falling Shelves and then whooped with excitement as she moved past them. Jesse laughed off a face-slamming fall on the Diamond Dash and moved into the back half. We knew Jesse was good, but we were reminded once again of HOW good she is when she completed Slam Dunk. On Dragonback, she cried out during the first slide. Would she be able to do this? Oh, she would be able to do this. With goosebumps rising on our arms, we watched as she finished the ninth obstacle and stepped to the Spider Trap, looking around her in wonder. The result was her second extended course buzzer and (we won’t know for sure until next week) a probably trip to the top eight.
    Result: Complete

The current top eight

  1. Lucas Reale - 4:33.36
  2. Najee Richardson - 4:36.66
  3. Austin Gray - 4:40.29
  4. Jesse Labreck - 7:31.02
  5. Jamie Rahn - Dragonback - 3:02.97
  6. Cameron Baumgartner - Dragonback - 3:10.15
  7. Flip Rodriguez - Dragonback - 3:31.96
  8. Jody Avila - Slam Dunk - 2:44.23