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SALT LAKE CITY — Mady Howard had a secret.
It was a pretty big one, too.
In May, she competed in the Tacoma city finals of Amerian Ninja Warrior and did pretty well. Actually, she did really, really well. But she didn’t want to spoil the surprise.
“I wanted to tell everyone but I thought it would be more exciting if I kept it a secret,” Howard told KSL.com.
On Monday, the secret was finally out.
The former Southern Utah University gymnast advanced to the American Ninja Warrior national finals in Las Vegas after placing eighth overall in the Tacoma city finals in an episode that aired on Monday. She was the second-place woman finisher.
The national finals will be shown in four episodes, with the first one airing on Aug. 26.
Howard, who resides in St. George as an ICU nurse, made it through seven obstacles in a time of 2:55.42. And she got some redemption on her run, too, making it past the lighting bolts — the obstacle where she fell during the qualifying round.
The lightning bolts consist of bolt-shaped rotating hanging cradles, and competitors must jump a bar from cradle to cradle.
“It was pretty intimidating because the lighting bolts were taking out everybody and so falling on the last one the first night (the qualifying round was the night before the city finals), I was really nervous going into the second night,” Howard said. “I just tried to take it one at a time and I was just happy I made it through.”
Howard fell on the floating monkey bars, but that was more than enough to clinch a spot in Vegas. The top 12 finishers advanced to Vegas.
WHAT. A. LANDING! pic.twitter.com/70ZOZYkG5e— Ninja Warrior (@ninjawarrior) August 6, 2019
Howard was a gymnast at SUU for four seasons, helping the Flippin’ Birds to two of their best seasons ever in 2015 and 2017.
Her career-high of 9.925 on the floor exercise, which she hit as a senior in 2017, is the second-highest score in school history. That performance showed just how good she can be when the lights are brightest.
In the summer before her senior season, she was ready to retire from the sport. She was in a demanding nursing program and was in the process of getting married. Life had caught up to her and she didn’t really see where gymnastics fit.
Her coach did though.
So SUU gymnastics coach Scotty Bauman kept in contact with her and kept inviting her to come into the gym just to see the team. Those short meetings eventually led to short vault workouts. And soon they were figuring out a way for her to still compete.
The plan was for her to only do the vault, but when a teammate went down with a season-ending knee injury midway through the season, she stepped back onto the floor. In just two weeks time, a routine was choreographed and prepped for competition. And in her first floor routine after unofficially retiring, she hit a career-high to push SUU to a comeback win over BYU.
So, yeah, she’s felt pressure before. But a few thousand fans at the Centrum Arena is a little different than millions watching around the country. Turns out she can handle that pretty well too.
“I think gymnastics had a huge part in helping me do well on the course,” Howard said. “Just having the experience, dealing with high-pressure situations, helped me stay calm on the course and help me have fun. Gymnastics as a whole helped me with the air awareness and the swinging that was on the course.”
She took up Ninja Warrior training soon after her gymnastics career officially came to an end as a way to stay active. She had the strength and athleticism to excel in it and she quickly fell in love. Now, the 23-year-old is on a national stage — not something she expected when she walked into St. George's The Grip Ninja gym.
“I honestly was just as shocked as everybody else,” Howard said. “It’s my rookie year on Ninja Warrior and I was competing with some of the best women on the whole show. When I found out I made it to Vegas I was just shocked.”
But she has already been to Vegas; the national finals have already happened.
How did she do?
Looks like Howard's got another secret.