When I’m not writing for this newspaper, I’m a fitness trainer. So naturally, I’ve become a fan of NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior” over the years. Part of me wants to try it once, just to cross it off the “bucket list.”

Now, Jesse Labreck has given people throughout Maine even more reason to tune into the hit show featuring some of the fittest athletes in the world tackling challenging obstacles, now in its eighth season.

Labreck, an Oakland native and former track and field standout at the University of Maine, made her home state proud on Monday night by qualifying for American Ninja Warrior’s Philadelphia City Finals.

Labreck, a first-time ANW competitor known as “Flex Labreck,” breezed through the Philadelphia qualifying course with inspiring precision, using her experience in track and field to tackle the challenging course.

She made every obstacle look easy before succumbing to a challenging obstacle called “Rolling Thunder,” in which participants had to use their upper bodies while suspended in the air and roll a very heavy wheel from one platform to the other. In spite of getting hung up a few times, Labreck never gave up, making it more than halfway across “Rolling Thunder” before falling, and showed why she’ll be among 30 people heading to the Philadelphia city finals later this season.

Even though Labreck didn’t hit the buzzer signifying completion of the course, she was among the top 21 “non-finishers” who will head to the city finals among nine prospective Ninjas who completed the course. They are competing for the right to head to Las Vegas and compete for a $1 million grand prize.

“Flex Labreck” is right up there with Paul Kariya and Cindy Blodgett as far as some of the best athletes ever to come out of UMaine. She won a whopping five events at the 2010 America East Outdoor championships, powering the Black Bears to a runner-up finish and earning her Outstanding Performer honors.

In addition to her accomplishments at UMaine, Labreck is the proud owner of five Maine high school state track and field records, three indoors and two outdoors.

Labreck’s run is something the entire state of Maine can be proud of, and we wish her nothing but the best of luck in the Philadelphia city finals later this season! Labreck is also one of four women to advance to the city finals. Just another thing that is inspirational to young female athletes everywhere.

If you missed Labreck’s run, check out the YouTube video below. It’s pretty darn inspiring!


Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective...