American Ninja Warrior took a trip to Universal Studios for the Orlando finals during Monday’s episode, and 15 competitors earned a spot in Las Vegas for the national finals.
Here is a look at those who qualified and kept their dreams alive:
|Orlando City Finals—Top 15 Finishers|
|3||Flip Rodriguez||5:12.24||Invisible Ladder|
|4||Drew Drechsel||5:25.18||Invisible Ladder|
|5||Neil Craver||5:33.33||Invisible Ladder|
|6||Travis Rosen||3:06.12||Double Helix|
|7||Gordon White||5:35.18||Double Helix|
|8||J.J. Woods||3:31.12||Cannonball Alley|
|9||Sean Clayton||4:12.90||Cannonball Alley|
|10||James Bogle Jr.||4:19.01||Cannonball Alley|
|11||Hunter Sipes||4:29.87||Cannonball Alley|
|12||Eddy Stewart||4:50.62||Cannonball Alley|
|13||Rich Shoemaker||4:59.36||Cannonball Alley|
|14||Jo Jo Bynum||5:10.85||Cannonball Alley|
|15||Alexio Gomes||5:15.98||Cannonball Alley|
In a field of warriors, it was a Cinderella story that made headlines Monday.
Adam Arnold was the first competitor to complete the Orlando finals course, but it was the path he took there that was most noteworthy. He waited in the walk-on line for the Kansas City qualifiers but was passed over, so he drove more than 1,000 miles to wait in the walk-on line at the Orlando qualifiers. From there, he was chosen, made it to the city finals and then brought the crowd to its feet Monday.
The show passed along the triumphant moment:
While Arnold was certainly impressive, James McGrath turned in the most impressive performance in Orlando. He tore through the course, became the only other finisher besides Arnold and posted the best time along the way.
The show highlighted the incredible outing:
As is the case with any American Ninja Warrior course, there were a number of grueling obstacles for Arnold, McGrath and the rest of the field to overcome, including Cannonball Alley (where ninjas must essentially swing from cannonball to cannonball like monkey bars) and Salmon Ladder (where competitors must propel themselves upward with their arms after grabbing a bar).
That Salmon Ladder wasted little time stopping a fan favorite in the early going. Matt Jordan is a butcher from a small town in South Carolina and was appropriately nicknamed "The Butcher." However, American Ninja Warrior pointed out he couldn't handle the Salmon:
While the Salmon Ladder posed a problem for Jordan, Cannonball Alley was the most potent obstacle throughout much of the competition. This came as no surprise to fans of American Ninja Warrior, since 14 athletes failed on the cannonballs in last year's Venice city finals.
Not even doctor and rock climber Rich Shoemaker could handle them Monday, as the show noted:
Someone finally conquered the elusive cannonballs when Travis Rosen steamrolled his way through the obstacle. Although he didn't successfully complete the course, just making it past the thorn in everyone else's side was more than enough for Rosen to advance to Las Vegas.
The show highlighted the pivotal moment, while host Matt Iseman noted that Rosen was a worthy fan favorite:
Drew Drechsel then surpassed Rosen's performance and nearly became the first to complete the course before eventually bowing out at the Invisible Ladder, as the show highlighted:
However, Arnold outdid the efforts of Drechsel, Rosen and the rest of the early competition by moving from the walk-on line to Las Vegas as the first to complete Monday's course. Neil Craver almost joined Arnold as a finisher but ultimately ran out of steam in the final feet of the Invisible Ladder.
Craver still did more than enough to earn a spot in Las Vegas and likely used his experience on the show last year to his advantage given his comments, per Tim Clodfelter of the Winston-Salem Journal: "I learned a lot from the first experience of ‘Ninja Warrior.' You need to really be on as many obstacles as you can to really understand your body and the movements that you may or may not have to do."
David Rodriguez then followed Craver's example and just missed finishing at the Invisible Ladder. The show shared his final effort:
The Orlando finals saved the best for last when McGrath closed out Monday's competition in dramatic style.
The mere fact that he overcame such a physically grueling course that included Cannonball Alley, Salmon Ladder and the Invisible Ladder in dominant fashion should provide McGrath plenty of confidence heading to the bright lights of Las Vegas.
There will likely be plenty of difficult obstacles waiting, but McGrath looked like a serious threat to win the grand prize when American Ninja Warrior moves to the national finals.