CLEVELAND (NEWS CENTER) — Showcasing superhuman strength, Oakland native Jesse Labreck was shown Monday night advancing to American Ninja Warrior's (ANW) Cleveland city finals, elated as she slammed the buzzer to complete her very first course on the show.
Her run closed out the two-hour, tape-delayed season nine Cleveland qualifier on NBC.
Labreck, whose nickname is "Flex," finished the six-obstacle course in an unofficial 4 minutes, 22 seconds, punching her ticket to the city finals, which air Monday, Aug. 21.
The Messalonskee High School grad and former University of Maine heptathlete enjoyed an impressive rookie season last year, which culminated with a trip to the national finals in Las Vegas. This season, it's perhaps no surprise she's among the most promising competitors.
Labreck, 27, and fellow competitor Allyssa Beird, 25, made ANW history Monday, becoming the show's first two women to complete a qualifying course on the same night.
“I’m just glad to represent the women here," Beird said after her run, "and we’re getting stronger and stronger every year, so this is pretty cool."
Cleveland's course featured tough obstacles: Floating Steps, Rolling Log, Razor's Edge, Ring Jump, I-Beam Gap and the Warped Wall. Razor's Edge and Ring Jump alone accounted for 17 of the competitors' demise, but not Labreck, who seemed to execute both challenges with ease.
Last year, Labreck became the first woman to qualify for the national finals in her first season. That was despite starting season eight in Philadelphia — now considered the hardest course in show history. All 15 competitors failed to finish in the city finals, which had never happened before. Labreck was the top female at 10th overall.
In Philadelphia, Labreck was the first female competitor to conquer Rolling Thunder, just the fifth woman ever to scale the Warped Wall and earned the "Pom Wonderful Run of the Night" for her efforts. In Vegas, the 27-year-old failed to pass Stage 1 but was still one of only three women to make it that far.
Labreck's far from home these days as a resident of Doylestown, Pennsylvania, but she's fortunately not alone when it comes to competing and training. Along with fellow Maine competitor and intermittent training partner Jon Alexis Jr., a native of Waterville, she's got boyfriend Chris DiGangi by her side.
DiGangi, a former collegiate pole vaulter, also hit a buzzer during the qualifier — his first since season five. He took to Instagram after the airing of Monday's episode to express excitement, sharing a side-by-side comparison of the couple celebrating post-buzzer.
"Wow, completely overwhelmed by the love and support we've been getting all night," he wrote. "Thanks so much to everyone for watching tonight and supporting us, it was a very unreal experience for us to both hit buzzers!"
Wow, completely overwhelmed by the love and support we've been getting all night! Thanks so much to everyone for watching tonight and supporting us, it was a very unreal experience for us both to hit buzzers! I haven't hit a buzzer since season 5 and it felt great getting up that wall again! @flexlabreck #americanninjawarrior #anw9 #anwnation #buzzerbeater #plantpowered #flexgangi #plantbasedathlete #fitness #fitlife #motivation #relationshipgoals #goals
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Alexis Jr. also took part in the Cleveland qualifier but did not finish the course.
Taping for Cleveland's qualifier and finals, hosted in Public Square, took place May 8-9.
American Ninja Warrior is back next Monday from Denver with the last of six city qualifiers.