6 Utahns have competed on ‘American Ninja Warrior’ this season (so far). Here’s how they did
‘American Ninja Warrior’ has long had a strong Utah following, and this season is no different
Here’s a look at how the Utah ninjas fared — and who is advancing to the semifinals.
When Kai Beckstrand made his “ANW” debut in Season 13, he beat out professional athletes and seasoned veterans of the show to secure the fastest time of all the competitors in the first round (he did it in 1:38.83).
Now 17, Beckstrand has returned — and he’s even faster.
The teenager appeared to cruise through the six obstacles that put balance and upper body strength to the test with extreme ease — a challenging course that only 11 competitors completed during the two-hour season premiere, per NBC.com.
On top of that, Beckstrand finished the course in a little over 54 seconds — more than 20 seconds ahead of the second-fastest time of the night.
In a major change to the show this season, the height of the Mega Wall has been increased to a record breaking 18.5 feet. Competitors who complete the first round course in under 1 minute and 20 seconds get a shot at running up this wall for $10,000.
Beckstrand didn’t even seem fazed by the height change. He quickly ran up the wall, hit the buzzer and became the first ninja of the night to claim the $10,000 prize — only one other competitor accomplished this during the season premiere.
According to the “American Ninja Warrior” announcers, Beckstrand is a favorite to win the whole show.
“American Ninja Warrior” lowered the age requirement to compete from 19 to 15 during Season 13 — leading young competitors like Beckstrand to make an impressive run all the way to the national finals.
Now, another Utah teenager has joined the “ANW” competition.
Violet Kepo’o, a 15-year-old from Pleasant Grove, made her “ANW” debut during the Season 15 premiere. Before her run, the teenager — who is a big “Harry Potter” fan — shared how it’s been a longtime dream of hers to compete on “ANW” and that she hoped “to make a lot of magic” on the show.
Kepo’o was visibly emotional before she started her run on the obstacle course. And she was expressive as she worked her way through the course. She seemed genuinely surprised every time she made it through an obstacle, and jumped up and down after she survived the third obstacle, the Domino Effect, which required her to run across a series of dominos that vary in height.
The teenager’s run came to an end on the fifth obstacle, a new obstacle called Ring the Bells that took down a lot of competitors during the season premiere. Ring the Bells requires contestants to swing across a series of four bells on a pendulum. Kepo’o almost made it through, but fell before she could stick the landing, run up the wall and hit the buzzer.
But making it that far secured the teenager’s place in the semifinals as she snagged the No. 3 spot among the episode’s female competitors (the top four female competitors from each episode advance to the semifinals).
Last season, the former Southern Utah University gymnast competed on the show and made it all the way to the national finals — roughly six months after giving birth to her son, Beckham.
Now, the 27-year-old nurse from Washington, Utah, has returned to the competition for a fourth time. In the Season 15 premiere, Howard said she was “feeling more prepared” and noted that she wanted her son to see her complete a course and hit the buzzer.
But like Kepo’o, Howard also fell victim to the new Ring the Bells obstacle. Howard managed to swing across all of the bells and land on the platform, but she couldn’t stick the landing and fell backward into the water. Although Howard was visibly upset that she didn’t get to hit the buzzer, she still advanced to the semifinals with a time of 1 minute and 20 seconds, securing the No. 2 spot among the female competitors in the episode.
Kai Beckstrand and his father, Brian Beckstrand, made history when they became the first father-son duo to complete a course, hit the buzzer and advance to the semifinals during the 13th season of “ANW,” the Deseret News previously reported.
In his return to “ANW,” Brian Beckstrand wasn’t able to finish the course this time — like several of his fellow competitors, he got bested by the Ring the Bells obstacle. But his time of 1 minute and 21 seconds placed him No. 8 among the male competitors in the episode and landed him in the semifinals (the top 12 male competitors from each episode advance to the semifinals).
Josh Ferguson, a 38-year-old photographer based in American Fork, got into “American Ninja Warrior” as a way to cope with his wife’s breast cancer diagnosis — and “to give his family a lift,” the announcers said ahead of Ferguson’s “ANW” debut.
Wearing a pink shirt in support of his wife, Libby, who was on the sidelines with their three kids, Ferguson was beaming as he prepared to run the obstacle course. He lasted on the course for roughly 23 seconds before getting tripped up by the third obstacle, Domino Effect. But it was enough to secure his spot in the semifinals as he placed No. 11 among the male competitors during his episode.
“I had a blast and as a ‘38 year old dad of three’ it was pretty awesome to be racing against kids 20+ years younger than me,” Ferguson shared in an Instagram post. “Let’s get ready for the semifinals.”
After a four-year hiatus — which included giving birth to her daughter, Jovi — Larissa Cottle has returned to “American Ninja Warrior.” The competitor from Lehi has previously competed on the show a whopping six times, beginning in Season 8.
In her energetic return, Cottle made it to the fourth obstacle before falling. In a new twist to the season, she competed in a run-off with Jaelyn Bennett in an attempt to claim the fourth spot among the female competitors. Although she didn’t end up securing a spot in the semifinals, Cottle shared in an Instagram post that she “had so much fun” and was happy to be back competing again.
“I’m still trying to get over the rushed silly mistakes I made on this season but take them to heart as necessary lessons to learn and grow from!” she wrote. “I had just had a chest surgery in November of last year getting lots of scar tissue removed and it set my training back big time (no hanging on anything for at least 8 weeks) it felt like starting all over again! But ultimately SO happy to be out there again and be a part of this season! Thank you all for love and support.”