MIT Students Nearly Crowned Ninja Warrior Champions

by Alice Waugh on December 22, 2016 · 10 comments

in Alumni Life, Athletics, Modern Geekhood

Three MIT students showed the world that the Institute can be just as successful on the obstacle course as they are in the lab when they were nearly crowned champions on the sports competition show Team Ninja Warriors: College Madness.

In the show—a spin-off of the popular American Ninja Warrior—competitors from 16 universities raced each other and the clock in a series of obstacles spread over five episodes. MIT was represented by Charlie Andrews-Jubelt ’17, Amelia Becker ’17, and Tomas Cabrera ’19. The Engineers defeated Oklahoma, Texas A&M, and Connecticut in an episode that originally aired on Nov. 29. In the championship, which aired Dec. 20, MIT defeated Georgia and UCLA before a split-second loss to Wisconsin in the final round.

“Being on the course felt like you were playing a live-action video game,” says Andrews-Jubelt. “When the cameras are on and you’re about to race, it’s almost too much excitement and fear to handle, and your conscious mind sort of checks out for a while. Our team went through lots of visualization and planning to make sure this wouldn’t be a problem.”

The students relied on unique training regimens to prepare for the competition. Andrews-Jubelt and Amelia Becker, who first met as high school students at Campus Preview Weekend, founded the MIT Climbing Club. And Cabrera, also an avid climber, trained in part through his summer job: cart-pushing at Wal-Mart.

“Pushing around 70-pound shopping carts for eight hours a day in sometimes 100-degree temperatures did quite a bit for me in terms of cardio,” Cabrera says.

In the Nov. 29 episode, MIT first dispatched UConn and OU in the Ring of Fire, Sonic Swing, and Swing Jump obstacles, before dispatching Texas A&M in the relay run. Andrews-Jubelt put the Engineers over the top by hitting MIT’s seventh straight buzzer of the day.

In the Dec. 20 championship final, MIT edged Georgia by just 0.01 seconds. In the final leg of the championship relay, Wisconsin came from behind to win by 0.6 seconds to take the title.

The MIT Club of Southern California organized a cheering section during the show’s two days of taping.

The trio’s path to the finals was aided by a cardinal-and-grey clad MIT cheering section organized by the MIT Club of Southern California. More than 30 alumni and friends attended the two days of filming in Los Angeles and later organized an alumni happy hour event to watch the Nov. 29 episode. (An MIT watch party was also featured on’s American Ninja Warrior blog.)

“Who knew we’d evolve from tiddlywinks to this?” says cheering section member Jonathan Lukoff ’71. “It was very exciting. The course was tough and many athletes failed, but watching all of them try—fail or succeed—was thrilling.”

The alums also tried to do MIT’s famous “E to the U” cheer, “but mainly we just yelled ‘M-I-T, M-I-T!’ as loud as possible,” says club vice president Anu Sood ’86, SM ’87.

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Anu Sood December 22, 2016 at 10:26 am

If there’s any way to edit this, the correct name is “TEAM [not American] Ninja Warrior: College Madness.” Otherwise great article!


Jay London December 22, 2016 at 10:57 am

Hello Anu, you’re right and I’ve made the correction. Thank you for reading and thank you for you help putting this story together. Happy holidays!
— Jay London, MITAA


Anu Sood December 22, 2016 at 10:59 am

Perfect, thanks!


Alan Friot December 22, 2016 at 11:23 am

The real MIT


David Joohnson March 18, 2017 at 9:59 am

What do shellfish have to do wit h it? Wouldn’t body strength be more meaningful?


Roger Mann December 22, 2016 at 1:13 pm

An inspiring group, for sure! Go MIT!


JoAnne Bratton December 23, 2016 at 5:10 pm

Loved the competition. We were cheering for MIT. Congratulations to all.


Juana January 2, 2017 at 1:32 am

This is great, but why is the photo so poorly cropped in the beginning? It cuts off the face of Amelia, the female on the team. The article lists Amelia, Charlie, and Tomas as being on the team. Show all of them in the photo, otherwise it looks like only 2 men are on the team.


Anu Sood January 4, 2017 at 4:32 pm

Yes, that’s very strange – my original pic has all three of them and the full MIT banner. Maybe it got cropped by the page formatting – I hope the editor is listening!


Anu Sood January 4, 2017 at 4:38 pm

When I view the page on my phone using an Android browser, the picture looks cropped. When I change it to “make mobile-friendly,” then I can see the full picture. Clearly there’s something in the page format that’s messed up.


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