We are one step closer to crowning the next American Ninja Warrior champion after Stage 1 of the national finals.
Monday represented the first day of action in Las Vegas, separating the real contenders out of the 86 finalists who made it through the city competitions. With $1 million on the line for the winner, there was clearly plenty of drama throughout the show.
In Stage 1, competitors needed to advance through all eight obstacles in less than two minutes and 30 seconds in order to reach the second stage of the finals. This knocked out many top athletes, although several were able to showcase their ability when it counted.
Adam Rayl was one of the most impressive performers Monday, showcasing a lot of flair on the way to finishing the course in less than two minutes:
Announcer Akbar Gbajabiamila called him a real contender to win the $1 million on the broadcast, and it's difficult to disagree after that run.
However, Daniel Gil was the one who came through with the best time of the night:
Ryan Stratis, who has competed in every season of ANW, finished the course just under the wire with nine seconds remaining on the clock. It certainly wasn't an easy run:
David Campbell and Brian Kretsch also entered the day with experience in every year of this competition but couldn't get to the buzzer this time around.
Nate Burkhalter was the first person to finish the course, but he was joined by Karson Voiles, R.J. Roman, Lucas Reale, Chris DiGangi and several others who will be back in action in Stage 2.
Flip Rodriguez also made history as the first person to use the safety pass, which gave him a second chance after falling on the Diving Boards. He made it count by getting through the course despite an apparent leg injury.
Former Olympic gymnast Danell Leyva failed to finish but came extremely close after an impressive run, which featured one of the best saves ever seen in this competition:
This was his first year competing in Ninja Warrior, but Leyva clearly has what it takes to be a top contender next season with more training.
The course also took out some notable competitors, including Najee Richardson, Travis Rosen, Kevin Bull, Sem Garay and Conor Galvin. These were people who could've gone deep into the finals but saw their season come to an end.
Richardson's fall on the Tire Run was arguably the most surprising after reaching Stage 2 in each of the last three years:
Rodriguez also would have been a surprising exit if not for his safety pass.
Barclay Stockett and Jesse "Flex" Labreck each came through with impressive showings as two of the top women in the field, but both came up short of the buzzer.
Stage 1 will continue next week in Las Vegas with the other 43 competitors trying to get through the difficult course.