clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The runs that led us here: Jessie Graff’s unflinching path to that Stage One buzzer

Once Jessie sets her sights on a goal, it’s hard to stop her.

There are a few “runs heard ‘round the world” type moments on American Ninja Warrior. They are runs that transcend the show’s core audience and set off ripples of discussions and new fans far and wide.

Jessie Graff defeating Stage One at the National Finals is one of those moments. In the second article in this series, we’re taking a look at the runs that needed to happen to create those historic moments. Here are the runs that led us to Jessie Graff’s accomplishment.

American Ninja Warrior - Season five

Jessie began her career on the Venice Beach course in a chicken costume. On the Qualifying course, Jesse tumbled down from the Flying Nunchucks. We couldn’t find her full run, but you can see a flash of her splash at the 35-second mark in this video.

But the fall still put her on the leaderboard for the Venice Finals. Still in the chicken outfit, Jessie reached the Warped Wall, not even realizing that getting that far was still a rarity for women on the show.

Jessie snagged a wildcard pass to the National Finals. On Stage One, she fell on the Jumping Spider and a genuine drive to defeat the course was born within her.

American Ninja Warrior - Season seven

In a twist of fate, Jessie needed to sit out of season six to focus on recovering from a knee injury. The downtime fostered her love of Ninja Warrior when Jessie suddenly had the opportunity to focus on her upper body strength.

Jessie returned in season seven with a whole new outlook on American Ninja Warrior. Back on the Venice Qualifying course, she fell victim to the Hourglass Drop but still made the top 30.

On the City Finals course, Jessie truly started to show what she was capable of accomplishing. She defeated the Warped Wall, a first for her, and moved into the back half of the course, finally succumbing to the Clear Climb. That strong run put her high up on the leaderboard and locked in her place at the National Finals.

On Stage One, Jessie had a few goals. First was to pass the Jumping Spider that had ended her run in season five. The second goal was, as Jessie herself said, “I really want to finish Stage One. It has to happen.”

She did make progress on her goal. Jessie beat the Jumping Spider but ultimately timed out while stuck on the Warped Wall.

American Ninja Warrior - Season eight

Jessie’s steady progress was quickly coming to a head. It was time.

First, it was time for Jessie to hit a buzzer, which she did on the Los Angeles Qualifying course. She was also the first woman to clear the taller, 14.5-foot Warped Wall, placing 11th overall.

Then, it was time for Jessie to lead the way. In the Los Angeles City Finals, she placed second out of all the competitors. She worked her way to the ninth obstacle, the Double Helix. There was no doubt all eyes would be on her at the National Finals.

We all know what happened next, but talking about it never gets old. Jessie stepped up to Stage One with all the momentum of the season behind her. Jessie rarely stays stagnant. What has stumped her once rarely stumps her again. Stage One didn’t stand a chance.

Jessie Graff brought the dream of a woman beating Stage One (in regular season competition) into reality. The accomplishment was followed up by Allyssa Beird in season nine. Jesse Labreck has been SO close to locking it in for herself. More will follow suit, that’s for sure.