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Competing for a Cause

September 20, 2016

Even though Josh Levin, ME'17, didn't make it all the way through stage 2 of the American Ninja Warrior finale, his driving motivation was to raise awareness of organ donation to benefit his rock climbing mentor Stacey Li Collver.


Source: News @ Northeastern

Josh Levin had given Amer­ican Ninja War­rior every­thing he had. When he lost his grip on a tricky obstacle and fell into the water, ending his thrilling run on the NBC reality show this season, he was phys­i­cally and men­tally drained.

But, as he had been all season, Levin was upbeat when he spoke last week, two days after the episode aired. “I feel very sat­is­fied,” he said. “I did the best I could’ve done. I’m very proud of how it went.”

Levin com­pleted two stages of com­pe­ti­tion in Los Angeles to advance to the national finals in Las Vegas, which aired over the past sev­eral weeks. Of the hun­dreds who par­tic­i­pated on the show, he was among only a handful of com­peti­tors to make it to stage 2 of the finale. The show pro­vided the cham­pion climber with chal­lenges that tested his agility, his strength, and his mind. But it also pro­vided a national plat­form to raise aware­ness for a cause of great per­sonal impor­tance: organ donation.

A dri­ving moti­va­tion throughout the com­pe­ti­tion was his rock climbing mentor Stacey Li Col­lver, who is on a wait list for a second double-​​lung trans­plant. “It’s been a really pow­erful expe­ri­ence, and I’ve taken this to be much bigger than myself.”

In fact, he noted that approaching the com­pe­ti­tion as an oppor­tu­nity to sup­port this cause—and not just for per­sonal accomplishment—actually alle­vi­ated much of the pres­sure. He knew that regard­less of how he per­formed, he’d be helping people—a mindset he said that allowed him to have more fun and pro­vided a richer experience.

I feel very sat­is­fied. I did the best I could’ve done. I’m very proud of how it went.
— Josh Levin, E’17

Still, Levin is a fierce com­petitor, and this is hardly the last we’ll see of him on this national stage. He will next be seen com­peting on Team Ninja War­rior, a spinoff of the series that will air in the coming months. And he’s eager to apply for season 9 of Amer­ican Ninja War­rior and con­tinue training to improve his per­for­mance if he makes it.

Levin is a mechan­ical engi­neering major and co-​​founder of the North­eastern Climbing Team. He has also worked on co-​​op at the NASA Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory, where he was part of a team designing the Mars 2020 rover.

Northeastern student Josh Levin competes on Stage 2 of the American Ninja Warrior season 8 finale in Las Vegas. Photo by David Becker/NBC

North­eastern stu­dent Josh Levin com­petes on Stage 2 of the Amer­ican Ninja War­rior season 8 finale in Las Vegas. Photo by David Becker/​NBC

On Amer­ican Ninja War­rior, he dis­cov­ered that the training and skills that have con­tributed to his rock climbing success—upper body strength, coor­di­na­tion, grip strength, and problem solving—all helped propel him through Amer­ican Ninja War­rior. He said the fun of par­tic­i­pating on the show was encoun­tering entirely new obsta­cles, ones that forced him to make dynamic move­ments and use his lower body strength much more than he’s used in climbing.

It’s also made me a better climber,” he said of com­peting on the show. “I did more upper and lower body training. My bal­ance and agility is better. I’m more aware of how to move myself through the air. There are a lot of things I can still improve on.”