American Ninja Warrior: OKC Qualifier Tough For Many

Welcome to the start of my weekly American Ninja Warrior column.  I know, I know, I started late, but this is something new I’m trying, and I just want to experiment with it and try something new.  Well, let’s get started with some of last night’s best runs.


  1. Floating Steps
  2. Ring Swing
  3. Log Runner
  4. Tire Swing
  5. Bar Hop
  6. Warped Wall


New Faces Thrive


Nate Burkhalter came in with a ton of enthusiasm and it paid off!  He was the first person to get past the Bar Hop and finish the course, and finished the course in under 3 minutes!  This guy was waiting in the walk-on line for 2 years, and he got it done.  The rookie even had the audience chanting, “Go, Nate” after a stellar performance on the Tire Swing, a puzzling obstacle that ended the night for many.  I’m looking forward to seeing him take on the city finals.

Kyle Mendoza, known as the Fedex Ninja,  not only is one of Fedex’s fastest delivery guys, but finished the course with a Top 5 time.  He also has parkour videos that have thousands of views.  Despite getting stuck at the Ring Swing and Bar Hop’s dismounts, Mendoza flew through the course like Tarzan, and did 3 flips at different points in the course to top off his performance.

Artis Thompson III had an inspiring story.  He lost his leg in a motorcycle accident, and his brother died in one!  But he proved that adversity does not mean that you are weak.  The crowd went crazy for this guy as he dominated the course, until he became the Tire Swing’s next victim.

Brian Beckstrand is known for his 40 obstacle course in his backyard, and all that backyard training paid off.  His whole family is obsessed with the show, and training is a family affair.  A father of five kids, Beckstrand managed to finish the course.  Guess all that backyard training with his family did pay off.

Allison Toepperwein may have finished last on the course, but she showed many that Parkinson’s Disease can be overcome.  She had plenty of fans, and inspired many with the disease.


Veteran Returns

Sam Sann had a good run going, but was a victim of the Tire Swing.  Unfortunately, the 49 year old veteran, one of the oldest people to make it up the Warped Wall did not make it to the city finals.

Jon Stewart, another older ninja, looked sharp as ever after losing 2015 to an injury on the other hand. The 54-year old finished in 13th place of 15 finishers.  This is amazing considering Stewart was the oldest on the course last night.  I’m a big fan of him.

Thomas Stillings flew through a complicated course and in less than 2 minutes!  He made it to Stage 2 last year, but right now he looks like a candidate to be the third person ever to become an American Ninja Warrior.  He had funny looking genie pants that were like good luck to him, and it worked.

Daniel Gil was ready to conquer the course as a vet for the first time, and he ended up looking like one.  The 23 year old was just seconds away from the top time of the night, and had an amazing, efficient and quick run through the course.  He was in good hands, Sam Sann was his training partner, and he’s done amazing things as well.

Brent Steffensen looked like he did in 2012, when he made it to Stage 3.  He flew through the course’s first four obstacles, then came Bar Hop.  He lost it on the Bar Hop, but still managed to make the finals in 22nd place.  I think this could be Brent Steffensen’s year to bounce back to dominance.  He hasn’t done anything near what he did in Season 4 recently, and it’s time.  But meanwhile…



Surprising Fails

Kacy Catanzaro was ready to return to her 2014 form, but a recent break-up with fellow training partner Brent Steffensen has held her back.  Catanzaro got stuck on the Log Runner, and she will not be at the Oklahoma City Finals.

Lance Pekus was coming off a record-breaking season.  The Cowboy Ninja had a lot of anticipation coming into the course.  However, on the log runner, he got stuck on the last one, and ended up missing the dismount and falling in the water.  Pekus will not be in the city finals and hopes to bounce back next year.


Run Of The Night

I’m sorry, but this has to go to Daniel Gil.  The second year ninja was just seconds away from the top run of the night, and was so nimble that he looked like he had just became the first American Ninja Warrior and won the prize.  This guy is on to something, and if he keeps it up, he could be the next Isaac Caldiero, Brian Arnold or Brent Steffensen.  Could Gil follow Isaac Calidero and Geoff Britten’s 2015 footsteps?



Next week, we will see ninja legends Joe Moravsky, Geoff Britten, Jamie Rahn and Michelle Warnky in the Philly qualifier?  Who will thrive and who will fail, next week, on American Ninja Warrior?




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