Playoffs Episode 2
S1 episode 13 Aired on May 28, 2018

By Nikki Lee

The American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs Ninja playoffs returned after a one-week hiatus and delivered what has to be the most rousing episode of the season. We say that because we honestly don’t know how it’s possible to get more exciting than this. History was made by one competitor and it was breathtaking.

TL: DR:

Frostbite face Labreckfast Club in the first round. After one loss on their record, Labreckfast Club hit their stride and nudge Frostbite out of the competition. In the second round, Phoenix Force faced an aggressive Team Wolfpack, who pulled off a sweep. The last round was a thrilling match between Labreckfast Club and Team Wolfpack. Jesse Labreck became the first woman to finish the extended course. The team then rallied together to pull off one of the best relay tie-breakers of the season, moving on to the playoffs.

The match-ups:

Labreckfast Club vs Frostbite
Phoenix Force vs Team Wolfpack

The obstacles:

Sonic Swing
Tick Tock
Parallel Pipes
Floating Tiles
Hanging Staircase
Warped Wall
Salmon Ladder
Rumbling Dice
Zig Zag Climb


The rules are the same that were used during qualifiers. Each match-up is a best of five format. If there is no winner after three individual heats, we move to relay races. The winning teams face each other in a final round on the extended course. The first team to three points moves into the finals.

ROUND ONE

Labreckfast Club

Jesse Labreck
Jon Alexis Jr.
Chris DiGangi

Frostbite

Nick Hanson

Zhanique Lovett

Jackson Meyer

Heat one:

Nick Hanson vs Chris DiGangi
Labreckfast Club hadn’t lost a match-up yet this season, adding pressure to the first heat. Nick took an early lead and was the first to the Parallel Pipes. Chris missed his transition to the first pipe, which allowed Nick to open the lead further. Nick was on the Hanging Staircase while Chris pushed to catch up from behind. When Nick moved quickly on to the Warped Wall, Labreckfast Club tasted their first defeat.

Point = Frostbite

Heat two:

Zhanique Lovett vs Jesse Labreck
This race was very close all the way to the Parallel Pipes. Jesse dismounted first. Zhanique went for an awkward dismount and ended up struggling to leave the obstacle behind. While Jesse was on the Hanging Staircase, Zhanique moved to cross the Floating Tiles. However, she tumbled there and was wet. When Jesse completed the Warped Wall, the match-up was guaranteed to move to a relay.

Point = Labreckfast Club

Heat three:

Jackson Meyer vs Jon Alexis Jr.
Jon slipped right through the Parallel Pipes in a smooth move, gaining a lead on Jackson. Jackson joined Jon on the Hanging Staircase, but Jon was pouring on the speed. He completed the Wall well ahead of Jackson.

Point = Labreckfast Club

Heat four - relay:

Zhanique and Jesse were in position one. Nick and Jon were in the middle. Jackson and Chris were in the third slot.

Jesse and Zhanique were tied all the way to the first tag. It was Jon who was off the Pipes first. Nick fell out on the Floating Tiles, which handed Jackson a five-second delay. By the time he got moving, Chris was already at the Warped Wall.

Point = Labreckfast Club

Labreckfast Clubs WINS
Frostbite is OUT.

ROUND TWO

Team Wolfpack


Ian Dory
Jeri D’Aurelio
Dan Yager

Phoenix Force

Najee Richardson
Cassie Craig
Michael Torres


Heat one:

Michael Torres vs Ian Dory
These Ninjas didn’t want to give an inch. Ian was through the Parallel Pipes first but just barely. Michael was right behind him the whole time. Ian was able to gain more of a lead on the Staircase and zoomed up the Warped Wall.


Point = Team Wolfpack

Heat two:

Cassie Craig vs Jeri D’Aurelio
Jeri was able to get on to and out of the Pipes first. Cassie missed the transition to the first Pipe. She ended up in a battle with the obstacle here. In an effort to pull the pipe towards her, Cassie accidentally pulled her shoe off. She did manage to escape, but Jeri was already on the Staircase.

When Jeri missed her first Warped Wall attempt, it opened the door for a comeback from Cassie. However, Cassie fell on the Hanging Staircase which promised the win to Jeri. Jeri completed the Warped Wall on her second attempt just for good measure.

Point = Team Wolfpack


Heat three:

Najee Richardson vs Dan Yager
If Najee didn’t get this point, then the Phoenix Force would be out for good. That meant both Ninjas were on high alert. In their haste, they both got their feet wet on the Sonic Swing. Dan was then the one able to get through the Pipes and Tiles first. In a moment that made us gasp out loud, Najee fell on the Tiles, struggled to stay in the game and then hit the bottom of the pool. That meant Phoenix Force had been swept. Dan finished the course to add another buzzer to his collection.

Point = Team Wolfpack

Team Wolfpack WINS.
Phoenix Force is OUT!

ROUND THREE

Team Wolfpack vs Labreckfast Club
We now moved to the extended course for the last match-up of the night. This added in the Salmon Ladder, Rumbling Dice, and Zig Zag Climb.

Heat one:

Jon Alexis Jr. vs Ian Dory
Ian clung to a slight lead into the Parallel Pipes. He was out of there quickly, strengthening his bid for the buzzer. But Jon wasn’t going down without a fight. Ian was over the Warped Wall with Jon just seconds behind him. Ian started work on the Salmon Ladder first. Jon was looking a bit tired as he started the Rumbling Dice. But that was just an illusion, he powered through the obstacle and managed to dismount before Ian. Both reached the Zig Zag Climb.

While Ian seemed at home, Jon was struggling to find a position that worked for his large frame. He did work it out and steadily climbed, but Ian was too far ahead. Jon eventually fell after Ian hit the buzzer.

Point = Team Wolfpack

Heat two:

Jesse Labreck vs Jeri D’Aurelio
It’s important to note that to this point in the season, no women had hit the buzzer on the extended course. It was something we were all anxiously waiting to see. Both these Ninjas had the power to pull it off.

They raced through the Parallel Pipes. Jeri fell on the dismount while Jesse quickly moved on, but Jeri was still in it. Jesse was far ahead on the Hanging Staircase. Jeri collected herself and started her own charge down the course. At the top of the Warped Wall, Jesse glanced back to see Jeri still coming.

As Jesse was at the Salmon Ladder, Jeri was coming over the Warped Wall. Both Ninjas were now in the back half of the course. Jesse held the lead. She completed the Rumbling Dice and eyed the Zig Zag Climb. Jeri was diligently working on the obstacle behind her. After a breath, Jesse stepped up to the climb, taking a slow and careful approach. As she navigated the turns of the climb, it was coming into the view: The first time we’d see a woman at the buzzer of the extended course. You could see the genuine happiness on Jesse’s face as she hit the buzzer.

Point = Labreckfast Club

Heat three:

Chris DiGangi vs Dan Yager
Dan was in a slight lead to the Parallel Pipes, but it was Chris who would leave the obstacle first. Dan reclaimed the lead on the Hanging Staircase and led the way up the Wall for Chris. By the time they were at the Rumbling Dice, things had evened out again. After biting our nails through the Dice, Chris claimed the lead and the first dismount. Dan got his foot wet on his dismount, which might have been the worst possible timing for a splash.

Chris lodged himself into the Zig Zag climb and took off. Dan couldn’t get any traction thanks to his wet shoe, which turned a close finish into a runaway success for Chris.

Point = Labreckfast Club

Heat four - relay:

Moving into the relay rounds, Jesse and Jeri went first. They would tag in Chris and Dan. Jon and Ian planned to close it out.

Jesse set her team up for a lead by slipping through the Pipes first, enabling her to reach Chris before Jeri was able to get to Dan. Chris zipped through the obstacles and was up the Wall to bring in Jon. Ian was hot on his heels. Both went for the Zig Zag Climb. Jon looked a bit uncomfortable again while Ian looked like he was made for the obstacle. Ian seemed to be picking up speed the farther up he went. He finished the course and kept Team Wolfpack in the hunt for the finals.

Point = Team Wolfpack

Heat 5 - relay:

This was now a knock-out round with the teams tied. But there was another huge element on the line. There was a major order change for the teams. Team Wolfpack’s line up was the same. On the other side, Labreckfast Club put Jon Alexis Jr. on the first leg. This gave the final leg to Jesse Labreck and squared her up against Ian Dory. This entire season, we had yet to see a woman take the anchor leg of a relay.


The race kicked off with Jon taking a strong lead over Jeri through the first three obstacles and bringing in Chris. Jeri tagged in Dan, who rushed to catch up. This may have caused his fall on the Hanging Staircase, triggering a delay for Ian.

Jesse now had a five-second head start on Ian. She didn’t squander it and quickly moved from the Salmon Ladder to the Rumbling Dice. Ian was behind, but he was coming up fast. Jesse finished the Dice and began the final climb. And she was GREAT at it. She shot up the climb better than we’d seen from her before. Ian had to push his limits to attempt a comeback and it resulted in a shocking fall for him. Jesse completed the climb for one of the best victories we’ve seen this season.

Point = Labreckfast Club

Without a question, this was the Mitsubishi Drive of the Night. Labreckfast Club all worked together to best one of the strongest teams out there.

Labreckfast Club is through to playoffs.
Team Wolfpack is OUT!

Next week:

The playoffs continue on June 4 with the next 4 hungry teams with their eyes on the finals.

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