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Bug bites aside, Eric Middleton is having a great year

He’s hit two buzzers already and has the National Finals in his future.

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Elizabeth Morris/NBC

We can’t imagine there are very many Ninjas that Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbajabiamila don’t cheer for on the course. Our energetic hosting team loves to see the competitors do well and go far. However, we have to wonder if they flinch a little when they see Eric Middleton’s name on the run roster.

Season 13 marked Eric’s fifth season on the show. As an entomologist, he’s made it his mission to spread the bug-love with his runs, by making Matt and Akbar eat them.

So Matt and Akbar must have cringed when Eric crossed the Warped Wall during his Semifinals run on the final night in Los Angeles. Because now, they had to eat a bug-dish per obstacle. And Eric took it all the way to the buzzer while the guys enjoyed tarantula sushi.

Fun bug stuff aside, Eric is having a great season. He cleared the course in the Qualifiers and, as Matt and Akbar can attest, cleared all 10 obstacles of the Semifinals course.

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

“Semifinals went better than I thought and I’m really, really happy with the results,” Eric told us after his run. “I haven’t been able to train quite as much in the past year due to COVID and all these other different things. Being able to finish a full Semifinals course and hit the buzzer at the end, it was really, really great.”

Eric may have had to cut back on training during the last year, but he ramped it up to prepare for the upcoming National Finals.

“Between Semifinals and National Finals, I was trying to up my training a little bit. Tried to get a lot more cardio in. That was a little bit of a problem in the Semifinals. I was gasping a bit for breath at the end. I’ve been trying to do more cardio, a little bit of strength, but mostly just trying to get my mental game ready for running a bunch of courses like Stage One, Two, Three. Hopefully, Four.”

Eric, like most of us, has felt some ups and downs over the last couple of years. But his first two runs of season 13 have helped him find his Ninja spirit again.

“This season has been really, really great. It’s been nice to get back and actually hit some buzzers and feel like I’m back to form. I wasn’t able to compete in season 12. Back in season 11, I did quite badly. I went out in Qualifying on the third obstacle. An obstacle I completed years ago as well. Being back here, getting through Qualifying, getting through Semifinals, it really feels great. It’s really validating that, yes, I still am pretty good at Ninja.”

Eric, who is definitely pretty good at Ninja, and his bug dishes, will next face Stage One of the National Finals. We hope Matt and Akbar are hungry!