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but I had dinner in front of me

  • 28 May
    Im a 15-year-old girl who likes reality TV.Let the stereotypes fly. I take selfies. I have a short attention span. And my phone is never far away.That was all true this past August as my family settled around the table. American Ninja Warrior was on the TV in the background, but I had dinner in front of me, conversation left and right, and social media at my fingertips.And then Jessie Graff appeared on the television screen.Phone down. Food down.Other than the Seattle Seahawks, sports dont usually stop me in my tracks. I will always root for the red, white and blue, but I didnt pay much attention when the U.S. womens soccer team won the World Cup last year. I adored the Final Five in Rio, but the Olympic Games came and went.But every time I see her taking on another ninja course, Graff gives me goose bumps.She has inspired me since her very first run on American Ninja Warrior. Like fellow female competitors Kacy Catanzaro and Meagan Martin, Graff has competed side by side with men on prime-time TV, opening doors and minds about what female athletes can accomplish. And Graff has shown she can do things that no woman has done before.Thats what happened Aug. 30. All in less than 2 minutes, 20 seconds.It was the opening night of the American Ninja Warrior national finals in Las Vegas, and as Graff stepped up for her turn at the course, the crowd chanted like she was a rock star -- and my entire family was on the edge of our seats.The Propeller Bar and Giant Log Grip barely slowed her down, Graff plowing through the obstacles like Marshawn Lynch going Beast Mode on the rest of the NFL.The Jumping Spider was up next, an obstacle very few women have gotten through. Even before Graff launched herself into the narrow gap, my family was captivated. We yelled at the TV to cheer her on, my 17-year-old brother and stepdad as loud and as excited as me and my mom.Part of the reason I like Graff so much is because shes smooth with her runs. Even the smallest mistake on any given obstacle can derail a competitor. Graff almost made it look easy.At that point, I knew that she could complete the stage. But the Warped Wall -- my favorite obstacle -- awaited, and no woman had ever gotten past it on Stage 1.As Graff closed the fingers of her right hand over the rim at the top of the wall, I knew we were witnessing history in the making. As she flew through the air on the Flying Squirrel, she looked every bit the superheroes she often dresses up as.And by the time she climbed up the cargo net, I was on my feet, too, screaming as Graff cracked a smile. She stepped onto the platform and proudly and emphatically pushed the buzzer -- with over 12 seconds to spare -- to become the first woman to complete Stage 1. She placed fourth overall, ahead of many other top ninjas.We were in awe for the rest of the night. The only thing that would have made it better was if NBC had put Graffs run on a permanent loop.Ive since read that Graff hopes her achievements help others realize theyre stronger than they think and capable of achieving more than they ever imagined.Not only is she helping pave the way for more and more women to be ninja warriors, Graff empowers everyone -- young girls, men, women -- to work out more, to find fitness fun or maybe even channel your inner superhero. And someday I want to try out for American Ninja Warrior.Thats the power of Jessie Graff.Some people buy into the stereotype that women cant be strong athletes, but she has proven thats not true.Women can be athletes. Women can be whatever they want. Even superheroes.More on Jessie Graff? Graff becomes first woman to complete Stage 1 Story ?? Graff and her unfinished business Story ?? 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