Vance Walker is having a pretty much perfect American Ninja Warrior season. At this point, most of us have to be wondering: Is this kid going all the way?
His performance on night three of the Semifinals only fueled that fire when Vance grabbed the Safety Pass. Now, as good as he is, if he makes a mistake in Vegas, he’ll have a chance to do Stage One or Two over again. The odds are moving in his favor.
However, you’d never guess the Vance has also confronted nerves and fears during all those stellar runs. Here’s what he told us about an hour before he ran the Power Tower on the third night of the Semifinals.
“I’m a little bit scared heading into the Power Tower. I haven’t done a side-by-side race in a long time. Hopefully, it goes well. Josiah is a lot taller than me. He definitely has a big reach advantage. It’s going to be a hard race. I’ve seen him do some pretty crazy stuff.”
After hitting the Mega Wall in Qualifiers, and after earning the fastest course completion on the third night of the Semifinals, Vance was still keeping himself grounded. He was about to head to the Power Tower to race Josiah Pippel. A race that, while it was very close, would go in Vance’s favor, earning him the Safety Pass. If Vance wasn’t already a favorite to go far at the National Finals, he just upped the ante.
We spoke to Vance after his time in Los Angeles. It was a few weeks later when we caught up to him in Las Vegas just a day before he would start the National Finals.
“I was really happy with my (Semifinals) run,” Vance said. “I was finally efficient. I haven’t been efficient in a while, since ANW Junior. I’ve been taking (competitions) a little more slowly, trying to go for the clear. In Qualifiers, I really wanted the Mega Wall so I was really slow. I was very happy with my speed. I think I was a minute and a half faster than second place.
That buzzer felt very good. I’ve been training longer courses like that ever since Junior. I’ve been going more slowly and longer courses. It felt really good to have that pay off and finally get a real, super long course buzzer.”
Remembering his initial hesitation on that Power Tower race, we asked him how it felt once things got going.
“The Power Tower was very scary. I’m a little scared of heights, so being 40 feet in the air was pretty terrifying. Luckily, I was able to hear the crowd screaming at me. So when I got to the shelves, I realized that we were even because someone screamed at me that we were even. I knew that I had to go faster and I was able to just power through them.”
The ability to find a new gear when he needed it made American Ninja Warrior history. Vance is the youngest person ever to hold a Safety Pass at the National Finals. What does that mean to him?
“Having the Safety Pass means a lot. Stage One is definitely my worst stage. I have problems with committing to things and big moves. Just running through everything on the first try. It’s a huge relief to have the Safety Pass. But it’s also very scary because if I fall on Stage One twice, that would be pretty bad. It’s exciting but scary at the same time.”
It’s quite clear at this point that Vance is capable of a lot and the fans are going to expect a lot as he moves into the National Finals. Where was his head at just 24 hours before Stage One?
“I don’t really know what I’m expecting. I’m just glad to be here. I really do want to win. I think that I have the ability. It’s just whether or not I can execute. But that’s the same for a lot of people. Whoever is just the best on that day. Hopefully, I can be at my best and make it happen.”
Vance Walker, one of the year’s favorites to go very far, has spent this season analyzing every aspect where he could have done “better” and overcoming fears. While on the other hand, the audience has witnessed nothing but a confident professional on the course. Will he even need that Safety Pass in Las Vegas? We’ll find out soon enough!