Utah is a ‘hotbed’ for ‘American Ninja Warrior.’ These 5 Utahns are in the semifinals
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s someone from Utah being on ‘American Ninja Warrior’
If there’s one thing you can count on, it’s someone from Utah being on “American Ninja Warrior.” The state has had a strong presence on the competition show for years — in fact, Salt Lake City’s Isaac Caldiero is one of only two people in the show’s history to be declared an “American Ninja Warrior” champion and claim the show’s $1 million prize.
But this season might be Utah’s strongest showing yet. In just one episode alone, five Utahns attempted the tricky obstacle course for a spot in the semifinals, leading one of the show’s announcers to proclaim that “Utah is becoming a hotbed for ‘American Ninja Warrior.’”
Now, at least five Utahns have made it to the “American Ninja Warrior” semifinals, which air July 18 and 25. Here’s a rundown of the Utah competitors to watch out for.
Meet ‘American Ninja Warrior’ competitor Mady Howard
This season marks Mady Howard’s third time competing on “American Ninja Warrior,” but this one may stand out above all the rest because at the time of filming, it had been just six months since she gave birth to her son, Beckham.
Howard, 26, is a former Southern Utah University gymnast, and first competed on the show in 2019, the Deseret News reported. The show’s announcers said Howard — who is also a nurse and resides in Washington, Utah — was a “breakout star three years ago and instantly became one of our top competitors.”
A recent clip shared on “American Ninja Warrior” showed Howard doing workouts and training for the show with her baby by her side in a bouncer.
“Beckham might be a ninja in training,” she said with a smile.
During her first run of the season, which aired July 11, Howard had Beckham and her husband, Tyler, cheering her on from the sidelines. At one point, Beckham seemed to get distressed as his mom faced the pressures of the competition.
Howard ended up getting knocked out on the fifth obstacle of the course, the Final Frontier, which brought down countless ninjas during the episode. But her fast time landed her in the top 30 and secured her spot in the semifinals.
Meet ‘American Ninja Warrior’ competitor John Mack
At 6-foot-5, John Mack is one of the tallest competitors on “American Ninja Warrior.” The 21-year-old from South Jordan competed for the first time on the show last season and made it to the semifinals.
Ahead of his second appearance on the show, which aired July 11, Mack shared how “American Ninja Warrior” helped lift him out of depression after he suffered two head injuries at the age of 12 and 13 and was no longer able to play contact sports. His dad built some “American Ninja Warrior” obstacles in their backyard and encouraged Mack to strive for the show.
A few months later, Mack’s father took his own life.
“We had finally really started to connect over something again and then one day he just wasn’t there anymore,” Mack shared in a clip that aired during the episode.
“It wasn’t easy to be 13 years old, have a concussion and then have your dad die and then have to find a way to keep going, but John did,” his mom, Melinda Mack, said. “One of the things that really saved him was being able to go outside and be on his ninja course. I’m so proud of John.”
With his mom and other family and friends cheering him on, Mack ended up completing the course and securing the fastest time of the night — 1:49.65. As he hit the buzzer at the end of the course, he couldn’t help but get emotional.
“My mom is my hero and my role model,” he said. “And she’s been by me through all the bad moments, so it’s finally good to have her here for a good one.”
Meet ‘American Ninja Warrior’ competitor Tyler Kurtzhals
He’s competed on “American Ninja Warrior Jr.,” and now, 18-year-old Tyler Kurtzhals is officially in the running on “American Ninja Warrior.”
Kurtzhals, who is from Herriman, recently graduated from Mountain Ridge High School. Kurtzhals made an impressive run on “American Ninja Warrior,” but like many ninjas before him, fell on the Final Frontier obstacle. Thanks to his fast time, though, the teenager finished the night at No. 20 and secured a spot in the semifinals.
Meet ‘American Ninja Warrior’ competitor Mark Farrell
Mark Farrell didn’t get a lot of screen time during the June 27 episode, but “American Ninja Warrior” did briefly show the competitor from Ogden making his way across the obstacle course — in jean shorts. Ultimately, Farrell — who the show described as a “break dancing software engineer” — got knocked out on the Final Frontier obstacle.
It was Farrell’s first time on the show, and his 2:05 run time placed him at No. 23 for the night, securing his spot in the semifinals.
Meet ‘American Ninja Warrior’ competitor Eric Middleton
Eric Middleton knows his way around an “American Ninja Warrior” course — this season marks his sixth time on the show.
An entomologist who completed his undergrad in biology at the University of Utah, Middleton is known as “The Bug Ninja” in the “American Ninja Warrior” world, the Deseret News previously reported. When he completes a course, he’ll often challenge hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila to eat bugs — like the tempura-fried tarantula Middleton had them eat back in 2018.
Middleton appeared during the Season 14 premiere in June, and ended up placing No. 25 for the night, securing his spot in the semifinals. Over the years, he’s made it to the national finals four times, the Deseret News reported.
Throughout his runs on “American Ninja Warrior,” Middleton has enjoyed sharing his passion for bugs with the show’s viewers.
“It’s been really great to bring more awareness about entomology,” he previously told the University of Utah. “I’ve had people reach out to me on Facebook saying their kids saw me on the show and they’re really excited about bugs and excited that there’s somebody else out there who thinks bugs are cool.”
“American Ninja Warrior” airs on NBC Monday at 7 p.m. MDT.