SALT LAKE CITY — Two competitors with Utah ties are headed to the national finals of “American Ninja Warrior” for a shot at the $1 million prize.
Karson Voiles of West Haven, Weber County, and owner of Ninja Warehouse, is headed to the finals in Las Vegas for the fourth time.
He competed in Minneapolis and was one of the top 30 in the city qualifying course, comprised of six obstacles that test speed, strength and agility. In the next round, the city finals course with 10 obstacles — including several from the qualifying round — he made it to the ninth obstacle before splashing down.
Also competing in Minneapolis was entomology student Eric Middleton, who is a University of Utah alumnus and currently at the University of Minnesota.
During the city qualifying round, he had tempura-fried tarantula for hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila to eat if he finished the course. Middleton made it through the five obstacles and then up the warped wall and the two hosts ate half of the spider.
During the city finals course, Middleton made it to the ninth of 10 obstacles before splashing down. He had brought lollipops with mealworms for Iseman and Gbaja-Biamila to eat if he completed the course. As he didn’t, he ate one on the sidelines after his run. This is his third time to qualify for the finals.
The top 15 competitors from each of the city finals move to the national finals and there were five competitors who completed all 10 obstacles. Middleton was No. 7 and Voiles was No. 8.
Isaac Caldiero, who was the first winner of “American Ninja Warrior” three years ago, again wore khakis and a collared shirt on the city course in Indianapolis.
The Orem native and rock climber who now lives in Tennessee, fell on the fourth obstacle — running over a series of several blocks that spin — shocking both Iseman and Gbaja-Biamila, who dropped his microphone.
“I was ready to put on a good performance and crush the finals course,” he told Kristine Leahy. “I just didn’t move."
When she asked if he would be back next year, he said “there is a very good chance.”
“I’ve definitely got the bug now,” he added. “I’m definitely psyched to get back.”
Also competing from Utah was Jon Stewart, a rock climber from St. George who started a bakery with one of his daughters. He finished the Dallas city qualifying course and, at 56, became the oldest man to make it up the warped wall at the end of the course. He also made it through the Jumping Spider, the obstacle that he fell on during the qualifying course last year. At the city finals, he made it to the eighth of 10 obstacles and was 16th overall.
However, only the top 15 from each city move on to the national competition in Las Vegas.Comment on this story
Robots were on the sidelines during the Minneapolis city qualifying course when Steve Mascaro, an associate professor in mechanical engineering at the University of Utah, took the course. He fell on the second obstacle.
The first of the four stages of the “American Ninja Warrior” national finals airs Monday, Aug. 27, at 7 p.m. MDT on NBC. Those who finish the first stage in the allotted time move on to the next stage. The competitions on the second, third and fourth stages are scheduled for Sept. 10.