Sunday, June 10, 2012

ANW: Northwest Regional Qualifying Round

Seven regions are sending their best fifteen ninjas to Mt. Midoriyama in Las Vegas -- the fourth region along this journey is our Northwest Region and tonight's Qualifying Round took place in Venice Beach, California. Just as in the previous three regions, the competitors took on a unique course that tested their physical strength, agility and endurance. The obstacles that faced the ninjas was a variation of what we've seen so far this season:

  1. A familiar start with the Quad Steps, predictably followed by
  2. the Log Grip, then
  3. the Spinning Log and onto
  4. the Jump Hang and right into
  5. the Pipe Slider, which relies on strength and momentum.
  6. And then finally, the intimidating Warped Wall.
Click below for a comprehensive recap of the Northwest Region's aspiring ninjas:


Janine Cundy: Another one of Moseley's favorite, Cundy was the most heavily hyped female ninja warrior of the season. The parkour instructor/pre-med student has an inspiring story about having to live on the streets in order to be able to pay tuition. Strong through the first three obstacles, she just came up short on her trampoline bounce towards to rope net on the Jump Hang.

Brandon Bleiu: This stuntman was the first to complete the Jump Hang, complete with a great roll down the net. Unfortunately, his balance let him down as she shifted the bar off the Pipe Slider tracks.

Sgt. Cameron Corson: This Army veteran was clearly inexperienced as he barely made it past the first quad step. Somehow he did, but would immediately succumb to the Log Grip.

Audrey Pflening: This Russian immigrant had interesting technique that showed off his great agility. Perhaps getting a bit ahead of himself, Pflening appeared to let go off the Pipe Slider a foot from the end and fell into the water.

Ryoga Vue: Our first costumed ninja of the day is an ANW veteran (with no success to speak of). Our second straight competitor to reach the Pipe Slider, he too falls inches away from completion.

Casey Blackletter: After camping out to get a coveted walk-on spot, Blackletter was a motivated man on the course. Having flown through the first four obstacles, he relied on his momentum and allowed his body to twist on Pipe Slider resulting in his fall to the water.

Kyle Cochran: One of Jonny Moseley's favorites from the beginning, this diabetic rookie has an insulin pump on his stomach be able to compete at a high level. Motivated by his own inspiring story, Cochran was the first ninja to get through the Pipe Slider. This was his first try at the Warped Wall and it showed as it took him all three tries to get to the top, becoming the first ninja of the day to complete the course.

Josh Horsley: One of the best rock climbers in the country, Horsley competed last year but couldn't climb the Warped Wall. One of the cleanest runs through the first five obstacles, Horsley would not let the Wall defeat him as he got up on his first try and landed a spot in the Finals.

Justin Sweeney: "Looking like a bat out of hell," according to Matt Iseman at the start of the run, this parkour athlete dominated the course in just over a minute fifteen, for the number one spot to this point.

Lance Pekus: A ranch-hand out of Idaho, this cowboy built his own ANW training center in one of his barns back home. Despite having a slip up on the Spinning Log that cost him time and energy, Pekus made it to the Warped Wall but just came up short on his third attempt.

David Campbell: Campbell has been one of the most consistent American ninjas over the past few years and was the closest to total victory last year in Japan. David ran the course like a pro and, as expected, the 34 year old finished the course in 00:58.55, one of the fasted times we've seen in Qualifying this season.


Ivan Flores: This 21 year old training partner of Brian Orosco, has the skills to succeed, but he clearly lacked mental toughness as he fell into the water on the Log Grip.

Danielle Martin: Our second female ninja of the Qualifying Round got some tips from Orosco before her run and started strong, however a slip up on the Spinning Log cost her precious energy and she just didn't have enough strength to grab onto the cargo net of the Jump Hang.

Tom Hutchman: Our oldest competitor (and rookie) of the round, this 51 year old personal trainer has been studying parkour and gymnastics for the past eighteen months. He was very smooth through the Pipe Slider and on his second attempt of the Warped Wall, he dug deep and with a battle cry reached the peak. Very inspiring.

Ben Musholt: A very well rounded athlete, Musholt ran the course with precision, and got up the Warped Wall on his second try though he was clearly injured in the process. Update: Dislocated shoulder; misses Final Round.

Adam Truesdell: A Mt. Midoriyama veteran, this self proclaimed "zen warrior" was very speedy through the first few obstacles but an early dismount from the Pipe Slider resulted in a fall to the water. Disappointing run from a memorable competitor.

James McGrath: Last year James arrived in Japan as a rookie living a dream, but fell on the Cliff Hanger. This year, his experience showed in his run as he cruised through the course despite a sore ankle. The Ice Cream Scooper from Seattle, WA is one to watch in the Finals.

Patrick McGrath: James' older brother decided to join in on the fun this year. The ninja warrior mentality runs deep in the McGrath family as the rookie completed the course in a very respectable fashion.

Aldwayne Simpson: A boxer with past Olympic aspirations, Simpson's athleticism was overshadowed by his inexperience as he was unable to grab onto the cargo net on the Jump Hang.

Justin Walker: Having battled Tourette's Syndrome his whole life, Justin was very composed on the course. This rookie showed great form on the Pipe Slider and climbed the Warped Wall on his second attempt.

Andre Wilson: After a slip up on the Spinning Log, Wilson recovered and flew through the first five obstacles, however; a misstep on the ramp up to the Warped Wall resulted in his disqualification.

Brian Orosco: Perhaps the most decorated ninja warrior in ANW history (if any are considered decorated), Orosco is confident yet careful in his approach on the course, however he put a little too much thought into the Jump Hang and was unable to grab onto the net. Shocking finish to the Qualifying Round.

With 26 ninjas having completed the course, this Region is one of the deepest that we've seen. My top five picks, based on ability and likability, are: James McGrath, Tom Hutchman, David Campbell, Justin Sweeney and Josh Horsley.

Who do you like going into the Regional Finals? Is the first American Ninja Warrior in this bunch? Share your thoughts below.

Catch the Northwest Regional Finals on NBC Monday Night.

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