Spoiler alert: You won’t find out how the national finals of “American Ninja Warrior” played out in June, at least not by talking to Jon Alexis Jr. and Jesse Labreck, two central Maine athletes who qualified for the Las Vegas event for a second straight year.

“Personally, I dislike spoilers anyway, so it makes it easy for me,” said Alexis Jr., of Waterville. “You develop a set of things you can say. It’s almost like a little game.”

“American Ninja Warrior,” in its ninth season, holds six regional qualifying events, running entrants through obstacles that require strength, agility, endurance and guile — to be completed in a certain amount of time.

In the Cleveland city finals, which was filmed in May but aired Monday night, Alexis and Oakland native Jesse Labreck were among 15 athletes who qualified for the finals in Las Vegas, which was taped in late June.

Labreck, 26, a former track and field star at the University of Maine in Orono, was the top female finisher in Cleveland.

“I was surprised at how hard the eighth obstacle was,” said Labreck, who, along with 19 other competitors, was eliminated by the Nail Clipper, a new obstacle added for the Cleveland regional finals. In the Clipper, competitors must work their way through a set of four rolling gears that are suspended over a pool of water.

“That one zapped my energy really fast,” she added. “That was the one surprise this time.”

Alexis, who finished third overall and posted the fastest time through the first seven obstacles, was also eliminated by the Clipper. Only two competitors finished the entire Cleveland course.

“I was expecting to go fast. I didn’t see too many obstacles where I would have to go slow,” said Alexis, 28, who is completing his electrical engineering degree at the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) in Rochester, New York. “It surprised me how many people fell out on the Nail Clipper. It’s a large span of obstacles, and people with all different types of skill sets went down on it. That was pretty tough.”

Nicknamed “The Giant” on the show, Alexis stands 6-foot-6. He said his size presents a few challenges.

“Carrying around more weight, it’s easier to tire your muscles out,” Alexis said. “You have to have decent endurance — with my hands and fingers being large, it’s harder to develop those tendons without being into rock climbing a lot. On (some obstacles) those kind of grips are tough.”

Alexis often mugs for the camera, including one obstacle where he looked at an overhead camera and winked while crossing the I-Beam Gap. In that obstacle, competitors work their way down a large metal beam from underneath, using hands and feet. The ledges of the beam vary in size throughout the run, which add to the difficulty.

Alexis says the show captures his personality.

“I’d say a lot of it is me,” said Alexis, who was eliminated by the I-Beam Gap during his qualifying run earlier in the season. “I’m more comfortable now with the cameras and the crowd. I’m a pretty goofy dude, and I like to think I’m funny. Hopefully, I am.”

Alexis and Labreck — who by contrast appears ultra-focused and serious during a run — agree that experience in prior competitions is advantageous.

“I really upped my training this year,” said Labreck, who became just the second woman in history to complete an entire course during the Cleveland qualifier. “Dating someone who does “American Ninja Warrior,” that helps. Improving my grip strength helps. But any experience on the obstacles really helps — I would say the experience on obstacles is the biggest thing.”

While “Ninja Warrior” courses require plenty of strength, athletes must also be strong mentally.

Labreck, who manages a gym in Naperville, Illinois, has relied on her record-setting career at UMaine for that mental edge.

“If you ask certain Ninjas, they’ll say it’s more mental than physical,” Labreck said. “Something always ends up happening (on the course), and a lot of people let it get to them. My track experience with Dave Cusano at UMaine — he mentally prepared us before every season for track, so we were mentally preparing while we were physically preparing and getting stronger. I have that experience, five years of doing that with that coach. That’s really what’s helped me.”

The finals will be televised Aug. 23-24 on NBC, but don’t expect Alexis or Labreck to drop any hints.

“I’d only tell you if I wanted to get into big trouble with NBC,” Labreck said with a laugh.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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