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ME Josh Levin Competes on American Ninja Warrior LA Finals

July 11, 2016

Congratulations to Mechanical Engineering student Joshua Levin, E'17,  who was the ONLY competitor to finish the Los Angeles finals of American Ninja Warrior with a time of 8:21:30! Next he will compete in Las Vegas. He completed the LA qualifiers last month with a time of 4:35:21.

Source: News @ Northeastern

North­eastern senior and cham­pion rock climber Josh Levin zipped through the first round of Amer­ican Ninja War­rior, the NBC show on which con­tes­tants nav­i­gate chal­lenging multi-​​stage obstacle courses.

He made it through the Los Angeles qual­i­fier in 4 min­utes and 35 sec­onds, and Monday night’s episode will fea­ture him com­peting in the Los Angeles finals for a chance to advance to the national finals in Las Vegas. North­eastern is hosting a viewing party with Levin, E’17, in the Vis­itor Center in West Vil­lage F begin­ning at 6:30 p.m. The episode begins at 8 p.m. EST, and the event is free to stu­dents, fac­ulty, staff, and alumni.

Levin is co-​​founder of the North­eastern Climbing Team, and he says his exten­sive rock-​​climbing expe­ri­ence pre­pared him phys­i­cally and men­tally to com­pete on Amer­ican Ninja War­rior. Here, he explains how he put his expe­ri­ences to use in the qual­i­fier round.

His greatest strengths

Levin says the problem-​​solving ele­ment of rock climbing is what dif­fer­en­ti­ates the sport from others. It’s not simply about mem­o­rizing a routine—you have to adapt on the fly. “You can be the strongest person out there,” he notes, “but if you don’t know how to break down a problem into small pieces, you won’t get very far.” Strength, he says, is still very impor­tant; in par­tic­ular, his upper body strength and grip strength from rock climbing served him well in competition.

Expe­ri­ence in competitions

Levin is no stranger to com­peting on a big stage, and he says some of his youth climbing com­pe­ti­tions were way more intense than the first round of Amer­ican Ninja War­rior. He won his first national cham­pi­onship at age 9 in speed climbing. Over the next decade of com­peting in the U.S. and more than 20 coun­tries, he cap­tured 18 more national cham­pi­onships as well as mul­tiple U.S. speed climbing records and the bronze medal at the 2008 Youth World Championships.

You can be the strongest person out there, but if you don’t know how to break down a problem into small pieces, you won’t get very far.
— Josh Levin

Training reg­imen

Levin says that his training for Amer­ican Ninja War­rior was very sim­ilar to that for rock climbing. But he also trained at Amer­ican Ninja War­rior gyms across the country. From watching pre­vious sea­sons of the show, he saw that con­tes­tants had to hang onto var­ious parts of the course for extended periods of time, and so he focused on building up his forearm endurance. He also did a fair amount of parkour training, which involves quickly moving through an envi­ron­ment and nav­i­gating obsta­cles by run­ning, jumping, and climbing. “Body aware­ness is obvi­ously impor­tant when you’re flying through the air,” he says.

Trapeze, please

Speaking of body aware­ness, the second obstacle in the Los Angeles qual­i­fier chal­lenged con­tes­tants to get from a trapeze bar to a pen­dulum. Thank­fully, Levin had flying trapeze expe­ri­ence from when he was 7 or 8 years old. “It was some­thing I’d done in the past, and I remember thinking that hope­fully I can instinc­tu­ally remember it,” he says. “It came back enough to get through the obstacle, though it wasn’t pretty.”

Amer­ican Ninja War­rior feels like being part of a huge com­mu­nity. It’s not cut­throat. We don’t want to see others fail. We want to see these obsta­cles con­quered.
— Josh Levin

Co-​​op to the rescue

Levin is com­peting on season 8 of Amer­ican Ninja War­rior. He’d hoped to com­pete last year on season 7, but he was side­lined with a torn labrum in his left shoulder. How­ever, during his recovery he had what he called a “life-​​changing expe­ri­ence” as a co-​​op stu­dent at the NASA Jet Propul­sion Lab­o­ra­tory, where he worked on a team designing the Mars 2020 rover. Engi­neering, Levin says, is all about problem solving—“It’s what I’ve loved to do my whole life”—and he sees par­al­lels between facing engi­neering chal­lenges and those he faces rock climbing and com­peting on Amer­ican Ninja War­rior. In par­tic­ular, he says, working on an engi­neering team was sim­ilar to the team­work he expe­ri­enced with other Amer­ican Ninja War­rior competitors.

Amer­ican Ninja War­rior feels like being part of a huge com­mu­nity,” he says. “It’s not cut­throat. We don’t want to see others fail. We want to see these obsta­cles conquered.”

He adds: “On co-​​op, it was really great to have others I could talk to, bounce ideas off of, and get feed­back to solve prob­lems. That’s the same men­tality we used on Amer­ican Ninja War­rior.”