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Orioles cameraman competes in 'American Ninja Warrior' finals

Cameraman Geoff Britten competes in Pittsburgh for the "American Ninja Warrior" episode that aired June 29.
Cameraman Geoff Britten competes in Pittsburgh for the "American Ninja Warrior" episode that aired June 29. (Justin Merriman / NBC)

Geoff Britten is comfortable behind a camera, filming everything from Orioles and Nationals games to the Olympics and gay rodeos.

But as soon as the lens is turned on the freelance cameraman, who does work for MASN, he just wants to run away. That might be because he's staring down a seemingly insurmountable obstacle course, ready to compete to become America's preeminent ninja warrior.

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"I get really nervous before I compete," he said. "As soon as [the camera] starts moving, I'm smiling, I'm having fun and I love what I'm doing. It's like an adult playground."

The Olney resident, 36, has made it to the Las Vegas finals of "American Ninja Warrior," a TV sports competition series in which participants face challenging obstacle courses. It's his second go-round on the show; though he also competed last year and flew under the radar, Britten grabbed attention this season when he and his Popeye forearms sailed through the Pittsburgh city finals, which aired Aug. 10.

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"Last year doing it, they didn't really show me much on TV, and it's amazing when you get shown on TV a bunch of people really want to come out and help you and support you," he said.

Out of about 50,000 applicants this year, the show selected 600 competitors -- 100 each in six cities -- and 100 competitors total move on to the finale in Las Vegas, which has already been filmed, Britten said. Up for grabs is a $1 million, though no one in the show's history has completed the final course and taken home the money.

To provide a comparison, Britten will have to complete a course in two and a half minutes that is the same size as Pittsburgh's, which took him six and a half minutes.

"Vegas is different," he said. "It's fast and it's big."

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Though Britten regularly has access to elite athletes through his day job, they don't contribute to his training regimen; rather, after he became interested in participating, Britten found a gym in White Marsh with several of the "American Ninja Warrior" obstacles.

"I think I've learned how to move and react. It's good copycatting. But I've never really talked to [the athletes] or picked up any tips," he said.

This time around, Britten also had his wife, Jessica, by his side. A personal trainer and fan of the show, Jessica made it into the competition, though she didn't advance and wasn't shown on TV.

"She is a badass. She started training really hard for it," Britten said. "She had a lot of fun and now she's really excited for next year."

The couple met through rock climbing, which Britten used to do professionally. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Allison, whose savings account would be the primary beneficiary of a potential Britten "American Ninja Warrior" win.

"My plans were to buy my wife a muscle car," Britten said with a laugh, "and honestly, put money aside for my daughter."

The Las Vegas finals air over three weeks, on Aug. 31, Sept. 7 and Sept. 14. Britten will also throw out the first pitch when the Orioles take on the Tampa Bay Rays on Sept. 2, he said.

twitter.com/quinnrkelley

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