Six out of the seven siblings in the Souter family, originally from Sandy, competed on "American Ninja Warrior," which aired Monday, July 17.
Only one sibling, Ryan Souter, advanced to the next round. He failed on the second to last obstacle, but only eight people completed the challenging course in Denver this year. So, he still went far enough and fast enough to qualify for the top 30 contestants who will move on to the city finals.
"Competing honestly was just fun," he said in an interview with the Deseret News. "If you watch my runs, it brought a smile to my face just being up there doing what I love doing."
But all the siblings agree just being able to train and compete together as a family was what was most important to them.
"(That was) the highlight of the whole 'American Ninja Warrior' experience for me," said Amy Egbert, the middle child of the family. They would meet at the gym at 6 or 7 every morning to climb or train on obstacles. "It was like a flashback to our childhood of being able to play every day together, and so that was my favorite part. Nothing energizes me more than being with my siblings and doing something active with them."
Kaden Souter, the youngest, at 18 was too young to compete (the age cut-off is 21), but he still trained with his siblings. Next month, he will be going on a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to the Chile Concepcion South Mission.
The older six who competed are married, though the second youngest, Sierra Coffey, got married a little while after they filmed their runs on the course. The first five have children as well (there are 17 grandkids total with two on the way), and the second oldest, Shandra Brown, was nine months pregnant when they submitted their audition video in January.
At first, Josh Souter, the oldest, insisted they would never get accepted out of the tens of thousands of people who would apply. He's since learned that "American Ninja Warrior" is more interested in applicants that have a unique story than people who can do hundreds of pull-ups, and the show had never had six family members compete at once. Within a few days, the Souters got a call from a producer telling them they had made it on the show.
The producers originally told Brown she wouldn't have to compete so recently after giving birth, but she still decided to train with her siblings because she didn't want to miss out on the fun. Just a few days before the family was scheduled to fly to Denver, "American Ninja Warrior" called to tell Brown they wanted her to compete as well.
Their dad called the trip to Denver his "favorite family vacation ever." Josh Souter said it made it easier to compete with so much family there for support. Their large group also got the attention of a lot of the other competitors.
"We wanted to make it a positive family experience," said the fifth Souter sibling, Tessa Meacham. "We were reaching out to a lot of people, making an extra effort to show others that we cared about them and we were cheering them all the way. By the end, I can't tell you how many competitors were like, 'Can we be adopted into your family?'"
As for whether they'll try to come back next year, the girls agree that they're all "ticking time bombs with babies." Egbert, in fact, is currently expecting. Josh Souter said Ryan Souter starting asking him if he would do it again only 10 minutes after running.
"I was like, 'Give me five or six months to forget how much stinking work it was and then we can talk about whether or not we'll do it again,'" Josh Souter said.
No matter what, the Souter siblings agree that they're thankful for the experience.
"It just felt like such a blessed little window to be able to have that opportunity," Egbert said. "Sometimes we lost (these experiences) because we all have growing families of our own, so it can be a really hectic and busy time for all of us individually. It was nice to have this to bring us back together."
"As adult (siblings), most of us in our 30s — how many adult (siblings) get to do something like this? It's super rare," Ryan Souter said. "It bonded us and connected us in ways I don't think most grown adult (siblings) get to do."
Here's a list of other Utahns who competed at the Denver qualifiers. Those marked with an asterisk are moving on to the next round: