An MIT Alumni Association Publication

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 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.


Alan Friot

Thu, 12/22/2016 10:23am

The real MIT


Mon, 01/02/2017 12:32am

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.

Jay London

Thu, 12/22/2016 9:57am

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

In reply to by Anu Sood

Anu Sood

Wed, 01/04/2017 3:38pm

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.

In reply to by Juana

Anu Sood

Wed, 01/04/2017 3:32pm

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!

In reply to by Juana

David Joohnson

Sat, 03/18/2017 9:59am

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

In reply to by Alan Friot

Anu Sood

Thu, 12/22/2016 9:59am

Perfect, thanks!

In reply to by Jay London

JoAnne Bratton

Fri, 12/23/2016 4:10pm

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

Roger Mann

Thu, 12/22/2016 12:13pm

An inspiring group, for sure! Go MIT!

Anu Sood

Thu, 12/22/2016 9:26am

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

Next Up