The first stage of the Las Vegas finals for American Ninja Warrior wrapped up on Monday night's episode as a number of competitors earned their places in Stage 2.
In total, 38 men completed the Stage 1 course in Sin City, and you can see all of their finishing times below:
|American Ninja Warrior: Stage 2 Qualifiers|
|17||Jo Jo Bynum||2:07.17|
|Source: NBC Broadcast|
Grant McCartney was the first of Monday's competitors to complete Stage 1, and his success may or may not be solely attributed to this pre-run shimmy. You can draw your own conclusions, per the American Ninja Warrior Twitter account:
The Knoxville, Tennessee, native is one of the sentimental favorites in this year's competition. He lost both his mother and grandma over the space of a year prior to appearing on the show. In an interview with Steve Butera of WBIR in Knoxville, McCartney admitted American Ninja Warrior has helped him overcome the losses.
"Trying to learn how to deal with that, the sadness and things, I had to hope in something," he said in May. "I had to have something that built hope and joy when I didn't have any."
While McCartney had one of the more emotional runs of the night, nobody could match the drama of Pavel Fesyuk's journey across the course.
The Rochester, New York, exterminator nearly failed on the "Coin Flip." He stumbled on the first of the three coins but somehow managed to reach safety. Then, as he neared the end of the stage, Fesyuk found himself in a race against the clock as he climbed the cargo net. With 0.99 seconds remaining in his allotted 2:30, Fesyuk reached and hit the buzzer to complete Stage 1.
The NBC affiliate in Rochester was watching Fesyuk's run with rapt attention:
Monday's episode represented a shot at redemption for Lance Pekus, who looked great in city qualifying this year but has had past issues when attempting to traverse the "Jumping Spider."
Wanting to move past his bad luck, Pekus showed up in Vegas meaning business this year, losing his trademark cowboy hat and jeans. Perhaps swapping jeans for athletic shorts made the difference for the big Idahoan, as he not only scaled the Jumping Spider, but he also reached the final buzzer to qualify for Stage 2.
That earned a tip of the hat from show hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila:
Pekus' pre-run video package showed him practicing for the Jumping Spider using bales of hay, which couldn't have been pleasant for his hands. He obviously has no regrets:
Given his combination of strength and speed, Pekus will be one of the top competitors to watch when the next stage gets underway.
Kacy Catanzaro was among the bigger names in action during Monday's episode. She had earned a wild-card spot for Stage 1 after a disappointing finish during the Houston city finals.
Looking to be the first female competitor to complete Stage 1 of the Vegas finals, Catanzaro fell victim to an obstacle that proved troublesome for a number of combatants: the "Propeller Bar."
Given her weight, Catanzaro needed to get as much force as possible into her jump to reach the propeller suspended in midair. She took that strategy to the extreme, getting so much speed during her approach to the trampoline that she essentially missed the jump altogether and fell to the water below.
With Catanzaro falling short, the chance to make history then fell into Meagan Martin's lap.
Martin had already reached an American Ninja Warrior first last year, becoming the only woman to complete the Jumping Spider during the Vegas finals. She ran out of time during her run while trying to scale the "Warped Wall," though.
Martin's 2015 run was a mirror image of 2014, as she was unable to reach the top of the Warped Wall before running out of time.
Brent Steffensen closed out the show with the fastest time of the night, narrowly beating out Jake Murray for the honor. Steffensen looked to have some trouble with the "Sonic Curve" but caught himself as he made the rope transition. From there, he breezed through the rest of the course.
This year, it seems like the less experienced competitors are having the most success on American Ninja Warrior, but Steffensen proved that the wisdom gleaned from multiple ANW runs can be invaluable:
The seventh season of American Ninja Warrior will conclude next Monday with the end of Stage 2 followed by Stage 3, should anybody advance that far, which you'd expect with nearly 40 participants reaching Stage 2.
And maybe this is the year an American conquers Mount Midoriyama and collects the $1 million prize.