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American Ninja Warrior season 13 recap: Night one of the National Finals

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The first of the 68 National Finalists stepped up to Stage One.

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Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Here. We. Go.

The American Ninja Warrior season 13 National Finals have arrived! There are 68 Ninjas who all want to keep their seasons alive, including 18 teenagers. But there’s no room for error now. Hit a buzzer, or head home.

This year’s Stage One has an interesting update. The new Split Decision occurs once again. This time, with the clock ticking, Ninjas can pick The High Road, a risky move that would carry them to a literal ladder to the buzzer. Or they can stay with the safer, but time-consuming, Fly Hooks.

So much happened on night one of Stage One. Let’s get into this.

The course

  • Slide Surfer
  • Swinging Blades
  • Double Dipper
  • Jumping Spider
  • Tire Run
  • Warped Wall
  • Dipping Birds
  • Split Decision
  1. The High Road
  2. Fly Hooks
  • Time limit: 2:45

Christian Youst: The first run of the National Finals was also the first run from a younger competitor. Christian was fast right out of the gate and gave us our first look at the course. The Swinging Blades involve clinging to angled edges on the moving blades. Double Dipper is still terrifying fun. Christian nailed the Jumping Spider and had great control on Tire Run. With the clock running, he was the first to show us the new Split Decision when he hit the buzzer that sent The High Road running down its track. Christian was able to clear the Dipping Birds and get into position to jump for the ring but backed out when the moment came. Taking the Fly Hooks, time was counting down. Extra swings on the Fly Hooks sealed his fate. The course blared red when the clock hit zero with Christian still on the cargo net.
Result: Timed out on cargo net

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Cam Baumgartner: Cam has had a great season with two buzzers so far. After springing from the starting line, Cam was suddenly in the water. He’d missed the grab on the Swinging Blades.
Result: Out on Swinging Blades

Megan Rowe: Megan still has an axe to grind on the course. After getting through some extra swings on obstacle two, Megan was out on the Double Dipper. She just missed the landing pad when she peeled off the bar too soon.
Result: Out on Double Dipper

Nate Hansen: It turns out that Nate lives in a wild Ninja house. He’s roommates with Austin Gray and his girlfriend, Jonah Muñoz, and Kevin Carbone. On Stage One, everything was going well until the Jumping Spider. Nate didn’t land far enough in the chute to get traction and his inspiring season closed there.
Result: Out on Jumping Spider

Jonah Muñoz: Nate’s roommate was off to a strong start but he fell on Tire Run.

Devan Alexander: With mom, Pow, on the sidelines, the 16-year-old was fast, but out on the Jumping Spider.

Isaiah Thomas: Isaiah, 16, goes by the nickname “Flyboy” for good reason. He took a perfect ride through Double Dipper. Isaiah slipped slightly while locking into the Spider Trap but had it under control. This was obviously a good run. We thought he would be the first to jump for The High Road, but he let it pass him by. No worries though, he had plenty of time left on the Fly Hooks. Isaiah called the course “light work” after hitting the buzzer with over 30 seconds remaining. We had our first finish and our teen moving to Stage Two!
Result: Complete

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Nate Pardo: Nate, 16, had a good start with a steady pace. He hit the button to release The High Road but fell on the Dipping Birds while trying to catch up to it.
Result: Out on Dipping Birds

Rachel Degutz: Ugh, Rachel had a frustrating end to her season when she didn’t let go of the bar on Double Dipper and it dragged her back. There was just no way for her to build the momentum to swing to the landing pad and she had to dangle until her grip gave out.
Result: Out on Double Dipper

Ava Colasanti: Ava, 16, has had her dad by her side all season long and he was there to offer her support before her run. Ava looked nervous on the starting line but had a nice, steady beginning. It was clear she would need to pick up the pace. Although, her run ended on the Jumping Spider.
Result: Out on Jumping Spider

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Amir Malik: Season 12’s top rookie shared his story of rescuing and fostering dogs with his family. His Stage One run took place on his 21st birthday. After sailing through the Swinging Blades, Amir suddenly found himself in the water. On the Double Dipper, Amir didn’t let go of the first bar early enough and the momentum threw him up instead of forward enough to reach the next bar.
Result: Out on Double Dipper

Casey Rothschild: Casey came to the starting line with the flag that represents the LGBT+ community. She’s a founding member of Queer Ninjas Unite. Her run fell victim to a bad tramp jump to the Swinging Blades.
Result: Out on Swinging Blades

Owen Dyer: The Jumping Spider sent the 16-year-old, flamingo-hat-wearing Ninja into the water.

Matt Bradley: Matt has over 20 obstacles built in his “Ninja barn.” It’s a famous place to train in the community and Matt is known for his grip strength. Matt may get very nervous before his runs, but it doesn’t show on the course. Not even a little bit. He had no trouble with the Jumping Spider and tip-toed through the Tire Run. Matt opted to nose the button that released The High Road and made it apparent he wouldn’t be heading for it. After a little swinging about on the Fly Hooks, Matt got it together and hit the buzzer.
Result: Complete

Abel Gonzalez, John Uga, and Eric Middleton all fell on the Jumping Spider.

Tiana Webberley: We would love to see Tiana clear Stage One. She grabbed the Swinging Blades with just one hand at first, for a scary start to the run. Double Dipper whipped her forward. She was safely through the Jumping Spider but time was becoming a critical factor. After moving slowly on Tire Run, Tiana needed to motor if she had any chance of finishing. She wasn’t able to take The High Road and got on the Fly Hooks. That’s where she was when the timer hit zero. Tiana finished the course anyway to show us she has it in her.
Result: Timed out on Fly Hooks

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Francisco Barajas: His season wrapped up on Double Dipper.

Deren Perez: Showing his Guam pride, Deren powered through to Tire Run, falling there.

Sean Bryan: After dislocating his shoulder on Stage One in season 11, Sean got revenge on the obstacles by hitting the buzzer.
Result: Complete

Adam Rayl: Adam has moved in with Sean in Concord, CA where they focus on their spiritual journeys. Adam was smooth and calm on the course. He took a few extra swings on Tire Run and had only a minute left at the top of the Warped Wall, where he actually took a seat. We were screaming at him to hurry, but Adam wasn’t worried. He didn’t even release The High Road and trotted the Dipping Birds. On the Fly Hooks, Adam had just 30 seconds left. Hitting the cargo net with just 10 seconds left, we couldn’t even breathe as we watched Adam clamber to the top. He hit the buzzer just as the clock hit zero and... What? Did he get it? After a tense moment, Zuri confirmed Adam was safe by just 0.01 second. Whew!
Result: Complete

DeShawn Harris: At DeShawn’s first National Finals, he took a huge faceplant on the first obstacle.

Kevin Carbone: The obstacle designer whipped through the course to reach the buzzer.
Result: Complete

Tyler Gillett: Tyler was almost out when he nearly fell off the landing pad of the Double Dipper. He ignored The High Road and cleared a path to Stage Two.
Result: Complete

Lucas Reale: Lucas was trying to avoid the Stage Three curse. Of the 21 Stage Three competitors in season 11, only seven are still in the game this year. That number fell to six when Lucas got no bounce on the trampoline while trying to reach The High Road and hit the water.
Result: Out on The High Road

Isabella Wakeham: Staying true to her word, Isabella and Isaiah’s mom got (temporary) Matt and Akbar tattoos to celebrate both her kids making the National Finals. Isabella had a great leap into the Jumping Spider but the clock was not on her side. After a slow but successful trip on Tire Run, we knew the clock would be the end of this. Isabella missed the first Warped Wall attempt and made a last-second bid for The High Road. In the end, the clock hit zero as Isabella fell from the Dipping Birds anyway.
Result: Out on Dipping Birds

Elizabeth Morris/NBC

Jay Lewis: The 17-year-old who faced Joe Moravsky on the Power Tower ended his year on the Double Dipper.

Max Feinberg: Max, 16, has hit two buzzers already this year. After a close call on the Double Dipper, he bumped that up to three and now heads to Stage Two.
Result: Complete

Vance Walker: It would be hard for Vance’s season to get much better. He has two buzzers, the Mega Wall prize, and a Safety Pass. In case you needed any more reasons to be impressed with this 16-year-old, he shared that he was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy at 18-months-old. He never thought this level of athleticism would be possible for him and he still spends hours stretching his legs, which sometimes give out. But Stage One was... Flawless. Vance was quick and in control. He and his Safety Pass are on their way to Stage Two.
Result: Complete

True Becker: The Tufts University Freshman was out on Tire Run.

Elijah Browning: Elijah has a trading card business. When he hit the buzzer, Akbar increased the value of his rookie card by adding a signature for Elijah.
Result: Complete

Austin Gray: Season 12’s runner-up contemplated The High Road, but ultimately skipped it. He and his Safety Pass are clear to Stage Two as well!
Result: Complete

  • At this point, we learned that Daniel Gil was NOT at the National Finals because he tested positive for COVID-19. Jody Avila advanced to the National Finals as an alternate.

Jody Avila: With Daniel cheering him on, Jody wanted to make the most of this opportunity. We were cheering so hard for him. But he tripped up on the Dipping Birds.
Result: Out on the Dipping Birds

Donovan Metoyer: Donovan dropped the jacket from his three-piece suit to give himself room to move. And he needed it. After a lovely trip through the first part of the course, he pulled off a 360 twist on the Warped Wall. While we were still clapping from that, he hit the button for The High Road, chased it down, and was the first to get it! It carried him safely to a ladder which he climbed to the buzzer. In another classy move, Donovan placed a fancy handkerchief over the buzzer before pressing it.
Result: Complete

Caiden Madzelan: Caiden, 15, used a slow and steady approach to the course. It caught up to him when he timed out on the cargo net.
Result: Timed out on cargo net

Kaden Lebsack: The hype around 15-year-old Kaden is real. He hit the buzzer with the second-fastest time of the night.

Joe Moravsky: Joe wants this to be his year. And he didn’t want to use his Safety Pass. But his run didn’t go according to plan. He seemed a little slow and a little off from his normal style. He paused before and after the Warped Wall. Joe released The High Road and got into position. However, he missed the jump. A shock for Joe and the viewers. Joe angrily threw his Safety Pass into the water. We’ll have to wait until next week to see his re-run.
Result: Out on The High Road

Part two of Stage One will air on Monday, September 6. We’ll find out how Joe fares the second time around, as well as see Ninjas like Jamie Rahn, Meagan Martin, Jesse Labreck, and Kai Beckstrand try to make their ways to Stage Two.