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The history of American Ninja Warrior is replete with thrilling finishes, but sometimes the most inspirational runs come from competitors who are unable to complete the course. Monday night’s Pittsburgh Qualifiers provided at least two such stories in Michelle Warnky and Ryan Ripley.


Last season, Warnky inspired a slew of young girls when she became just the second-ever female competitor to complete an ANW obstacle course. She has since flourished as a role model as evidenced in her video posted to Instagram last week.

Dressed in hot pink shorts and shoes, knee-high Technicolor socks, and Psalm 121 written in black marker on each leg, Warnky came into Pittsburgh with high expectations. She made quick work through the obstacles — albeit with a bit of a hiccup on the Snake Slider — but ultimately succumbed at the tail end of the Devil Steps when she couldn’t stick the landing.

Still, Warnky’s ebullient run was good enough to earn her a spot in the City Finals. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if seasoned rock climber and former cross country runner is ultimately able to advance all the way to the National Finals.


Ripley’s mother was told he probably wouldn’t make it past the age of five after he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. Now, many birthdays later, he is stronger than ever after discovering that vigorous athletic training helps to break up the mucus in his lungs.

Like Warnky, the self-anointed “CF Warrior” also made it to the Devil Steps where his grip finally gave out, but not before wowing the audience with his fierce determination.