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'American Ninja Warrior' returns with several Maryland competitors

NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" kicked off last night with the premiere of its ninth season, and like past years — which have featured Olney resident Geoff Britten, the first competitor to complete the "American Ninja Warrior" obstacle, and Towson University alumna Kacy Catanzaro, the first woman to complete a city finals course and compete in the finals in Las Vegas — Marylanders are not shying away from the competition. Here's a list of this year's ninjas:

  • Jessup aerospace engineer Nick Kostreski, 30, returns for his second year in the competition in the Denver city qualifying round, which will air July 17, according to NBC. “Anyone who saw my run saw that I timed out just seconds after the buzzer on the stage of Vegas,” said Kostreski, who has been rock-climbing for just over a decade, often with Britten. “I’m a very stubborn athlete and person in general, so I had to come back and defeat my demons … and see if I could win the whole thing.” Kostreski, who said he was introduced to the fitness reality TV show competition through his “ninja father” and ninja veteran Adam Grossman, said he’s been preparing for the competition this year by training at more ninja gyms. But the competition is heating up, with old faces and “new kids on the block,” he said. “The course gets harder every year, and the competitors are getting better. Gyms are popping up left and right. People are able to hone in on skills.”
  • Gaithersburg resident Dustin Fishman, a 26-year-old Verizon technician, will compete in the Daytona city qualifier this year along with ninja veterans Grossman and Jessie Graff, an alumna of Urbana High School in Ijamsville in Frederick County. The episode will air June 26, according to NBC. Fishman, a friend and “ninja son” of Kostreski, said he’s been rock climbing for a year and a half and working out on ninja courses for about 10 months. Fishman said competing in the same round as Graff was a cool coincidence: The two went to the same high school and hold the school’s record for women’s and men’s pole vaulting respectively.
Obstacle-style fitness bonds families, who can do the workouts together.

To many viewers' dismay, Olney resident Britten, the first competitor to beat the "American Ninja Warrior" course, will sit this year out. But there is a chance Britten will make an appearance. A video posted to Britten's Instagram shows that he has already demonstrated some obstacles for competing ninjas on the show's stage.

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If you know of a Marylander competing in this year's season of "American Ninja Warrior," email bbritto@baltsun.com.

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