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Cal Plohoros has very specific, practical goals for this season

The 15-year-old may have played around with his coach, Flip, but he’s serious about this season.

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Elizabeth Morris/NBC

“Flip Rodriguez motivates me more than anyone in the world. Thanks!”

That is not a quote from 15-year-old Ninja, Cal Plohoros. That was his mentor Flip Rodriguez, who playfully hijacked our interview with Cal prior to his American Ninja Warrior run. But Cal would have the last laugh when he teased his coach from the top of the Warped Wall on the final night of the Qualifiers. The student surpassed the teacher that night.

But beyond all that good-natured ribbing, Cal is pragmatic about his Ninja Warrior season. He’s had a lot of success already and he deals with the effects of that hard work.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

“I was on two seasons of American Ninja Warrior Junior where I made it to the elite eight and the sweet sixteen. I’ve competed in NNL every season that it’s been around. I’ve been training for a while. I’ve done pretty well before. About five or six years. A lot of time and effort, for sure.

I took a good amount of time off because I had some joint issues. I had to go to physical therapy and all this and that. I was mainly lifting and doing parkour. I was still strong enough to attack a course but I definitely changed up my training (when called for the show). I needed to get my technique back. Get my flow back. I did a lot of course work. A lot of balance. Weird techy things to make sure I can get through this course.”

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

“For this season, I’m not trying to win if I’m being honest. I took a lot of time off. I’m being realistic. I want to hit Stage Two in Vegas. I think that would be really fun. Just to get there, get that far. But for Qualifying, I want that fastest time.”

Cal came in second overall on his night of the Qualifiers, just shy of his goal. Again though, Cal isn’t one to get hung up on just one goal when he’s invested in the process.

“I want them to remember my swagger. I want (the audience) to remember it’s all about having a good time. I feel like you shouldn’t take it too, too seriously. The thing about Ninja is it’s not a consistent thing. They’re always throwing something new at you. Sometimes you go out really early because you’ve never seen something before. Other times you’ll be on top of the world.”

Cal and his mentor Flip will both aim for the top of the world when they return for the American Ninja Warrior Semifinals.