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Meet ANW's Allyssa Beird, the second woman to finish Stage 1

Allyssa Beird became the second woman to finish Stage 1 in the "American Ninja Warrior" national finals. David Becker/NBC

Allyssa Beird doesn't have a kitschy nickname or hashtag, or wear a costume on the course. Instead, Beird shows up in a generic sports bra and a pair of compression shorts. The most branding she does is the "Got Beird?" shirt worn by her family and friends on the sideline. Her boyfriend, fellow "American Ninja Warrior" competitor James "The Beast" McGrath, doesn't "get" the shirt; Beird said she liked the dairy slogan and replaced "milk" with her name. Just that simple.

Of all the women who could have been next to finish Stage 1 after Jessie Graff's historic run last season, it was Beird who hit the buzzer. You might have been surprised, but she wasn't. Beird expected to be there.

Beird works so hard that she has fallen asleep during leisure activities. She has slipped into slumber during high-energy-flicks like "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," "Wonder Woman" and "Star Wars: The Force Awakens." Beird even rewatches "Game of Thrones" each week because she can't keep her eyes open the first go-around.

She also juggles her job as a fifth-grade teacher in Middleborough, Massachusetts, with her ninja training. She commutes an hour to work, teaches her class, does administrative work after school, drives to a ninja gym, drives home and then hits the bed. She typically runs on six hours of sleep and squeezes in five hours of training.

"It's pretty incredible," McGrath says. "I'm always blown away by how well she does and how strong she is."

Beird started ninja training in the summer of 2015. Her sister was visiting, and after three days of watching Netflix from her couch, they Googled ninja gyms. "I don't know where the idea came from," Beird added. The origin of the idea may be lost, but the ninja bug bit her during that visit.

"I expected to be good at things, and I was terrible at everything," Beird said with a laugh.

The 27-year-old grew up as a gymnast. While her family moved from state to state, gymnastics remained a constant in her life. After spending 15 years with one sport, she found that life was just missing something without it.

"Talk to any gymnast about what it was like to leave the sport, and they'll say there is just this big, black void of something," Beird noted. "And you think about gymnastics all the time, so it took a long time to stop being sad about not doing the sport anymore. Ninja has now kind of filled that void."

Competing in National Ninja League events not only gave Beird a foundation of skills before she decided to apply to "American Ninja Warrior," but the NNL also gave her a family. She met fellow ninja Jesse Labreck at one of her first competitions in the winter of 2015. They even faced off against one another in Philadelphia during "ANW" Season 8 and hit their first buzzers together this season in Cleveland. Labreck was there cheering (and crying) for Beird on the sideline.

"I couldn't hold it together," Labreck said via phone. "I was just super happy for her."

For as much as Beird prepared for the moment of hitting the buzzer, it didn't exactly seem real during the run. She kept waiting for time to start running out, but by the time the countdown started, Beird was comfortably close to the end of the stage. "Oh man, this is going to happen," she thought to herself just before she jumped to the cargo net.

"It wasn't as overwhelming as I expected it to be," Beird said. "I remember looking at the camera like, 'Well, that's what I came here to do.'"

Beird recalled Graff hitting the buzzer last season, as the first woman to finish Stage 1, when she was climbing to the platform, trying to figure out what to do with herself. Beird thought, "What did Jessie do?"

Staying true to who she is, Beird just smacked the buzzer and grinned.