Since making her American Ninja Warrior debut in 2013, Urbana High School graduate Jessie Graff (Class of 2002) has continued to break barriers on the popular athletics-based reality show. After having to skip out on last season’s Las Vegas National Finals despite being one of the season’s top contenders—she was busy working as a stuntwoman on “Wonder Woman 1984,” which is scheduled to be released in June 2020—Graff made her fifth national finals appearance this summer. Season 11 National Finals: Stage One, night one aired on Aug. 26, with Stage Two, night two scheduled to air on Sept. 2—results were unavailable at press time.
In 2016, the show’s eighth season, Graff became the first woman to compete the first stage at the national finals. She was also the first woman to compete Stage 2 on the Las Vegas course as part of the USA vs. World championship—and was the first woman to represent the United States in that competition. The 35-year-old also cemented her place in Sasuke history in 2017, competing on the iconic Japanese show by invitation for its 20th anniversary celebration, by becoming the first woman to master Stage 2 in 34 seasons.
While at Urbana, Graff won six state pole vaulting titles—three indoor, three outdoor—and still ranks among the season-ending championships’ top 10 all-time performers. She also was less than two inches shy of qualifying for the 2004 Olympic trials in the sport, according to her website. Graff has a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and Kung Fu and has trained extensively in a variety of other styles of martial arts, high falls, wipeouts, sky diving, motorcycles, stunt driving, fire, wirework and flying trapeze, helping to set the foundation for her blossoming career as a Hollywood stuntwoman. Her credits across movies and television include “Transformers,” “The Dark Knight,” “Supergirl,” “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D” and much more—and she was honored for her many accomplishments with the Action Icon Award for “Stuntwoman of the Year.”
Graff is famous for tackling the American Ninja Warrior course in superhero outfits and for being a positive role model for young aspiring female athletes and stuntwomen, striving to prove to people across the globe that “strong is beautiful,” according to her website.