VeDepo just short on American Ninja Warrior |

VeDepo just short on American Ninja Warrior

Joel Reichenberger
Hayden High School graduate Mitchell VeDepo works his way across the tilted ladder section of the American Ninja Warrior course in Orlando. He fell soon after, when he tried to swing from one section of ladder to another.
Alex Menendez/NBC

He traveled so far and came oh-so-close, but Mitchell VeDepo said one late mistake didn’t ruin his experience on the NBC TV show American Ninja Warrior.

The Hayden High School graduate competed earlier this year for the show at its Orlando regional. That episode aired Monday night, although VeDepo wasn’t featured.

American Ninja Warrior tests contestants with a grueling obstacle course that requires tremendous strength, stamina and agility. Few competitors actually complete the course, and VeDepo said it was sweaty palms and a small mistake that ended his run near the finish.

Contestants had to work their way across a suspended ladder — think very intense monkey bars — that was separated in the middle, requiring a complicated jump between sections.

That gap doomed VeDepo. He caught the bar on the second section, but couldn’t hang on and fell into the water below, ending his run.

“It was a combination of nerves, humidity (sweaty palms), and I caught the bar with straight arms instead of bent to absorb my fall,” he said.

He only got the chance to try that section after getting through several other difficult components. A giant rolling log early in the course sent many competitors flailing into the water, and a tricky section featuring three dangling tires over water ended plenty more runs.

“Between each obstacle I would look down and see my mom and girlfriend, and seeing their pride in me was truly inspiring,” VeDepo said

The only obstacle that remained after the tilting ladder was the warped wall, a difficult component but one he’d worked hard to master before his trip to Florida.

“I feel very confident had I caught (the ladder), I would’ve finished the obstacle and got up the warped wall to finish the course,” he said.

In all, 25 of about 120 contestants finished the course, and 30 people advanced to the next round. The next five spots were decided based upon how far competitors got, and VeDepo only just missed advancing, placing 33rd.

He’s plenty busy now as a PhD student at the University of Kansas, but he doesn’t plan for this to be the end of his American Ninja Warrior career.

“I had a really great time, and just like I was hoping, I got a chance to play on the best obstacle course in the world,” he said. “You can definitely expect me to be trying again on ANW8!”

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253, email or follow him on Twitter @JReich9

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