GOSHEN — Two local men, representing Goshen and LaGrange, competed in a grueling physical test of strength, agility and endurance, and gave their all on a massive national stage.
Hugh Birky and Jesse Maurer both appeared on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior Monday night. The show, now in its 11th season, features contestants running an extreme-sports obstacle course few complete, vying for an eventual national championship, broadcast to an audience of millions on network TV.
No pressure, right?
“There’s so much pressure,” Birky said. “When it’s at this level, and you’re testing yourself both physically and mentally, it’s just totally next level.”
The 20-year-old is preparing to enter his junior year at Goshen College in about a month while working a landscaping job for the summer, while also making a name for himself as an amateur magician, while also skilled as a musician.
Birky enjoyed about 30 seconds of screen time during Monday’s episode, set in Cincinnati as part of the season’s regional qualifying rounds. He debuted on the big stage and ran the start of the course but fell about halfway through.
He didn’t make the cut for the next round this season. He hopes to return to the show in a couple years for a second try.
“I’m not gonna lie, running the course got me kind of addicted,” Birky said.
Maurer, an engineer at Lambright Woodworking in Topeka, was also featured for about 30 seconds. The air time focused on his attempt at surmounting the course’s sixth and final obstacle: Scaling a large, almost sheer wall.
Maurer didn’t make it to the top of the wall, but he did succeed in advancing to the next round, he said.
“It was definitely very surreal,” Maurer said. “It went super great. I felt really good going through the whole obstacle course.”
He’s expected to appear on ANW again in about six weeks when the show airs its regional finals. The top contenders from those will perform in the national championship rounds in Las Vegas. They’re expected to be televised around the end of the summer.
Monday’s episode was taped over Memorial Day weekend, Maurer said. He stayed tight-lipped, due to confidentiality agreements, about his performance in the regional finals.
Fans will just have to wait about a month and a half to tune in and see how he performed.
Aimee Ambrose can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 316.