Wichita man faces obstacle course on game show

Nathan Palmer, center, will be on Season 2 of NBC’s “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge” with his team Saddle Up.
Nathan Palmer, center, will be on Season 2 of NBC’s “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge” with his team Saddle Up. NBC

Wichitans catching some Monday night television might see a familiar mud-covered man crawling and climbing across their screens.

That’s because Wichita native Nathan Palmer landed a spot on Season 2 of “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge,” which premieres at 9 p.m. Monday on NBC.

The show, from the producers of “American Ninja Warrior,” has 24 teams competing in Spartan-style obstacle course races, vying for a $250,000 prize.

Spartan Race is one of the elite obstacle course racing companies in the nation, putting on races of different lengths and skill levels across the country.

Athletes are faced with muddy crawls through barbed wire, rotating monkey bar ladders, weighted sled pulls and more.

Palmer, 27, said he got his start in obstacle course racing three years ago when a friend encouraged him to try it.

“I just got hooked,” he said.

After two years of competing, Palmer took a job with Conquer the Gauntlet, another popular obstacle course racing company. He now travels across the nation designing, building and managing courses for the company.

Obstacle course races can be individual or team events. Palmer has competed in both categories but said he enjoys the difficulty of team competition.

“It adds an extra element,” he said. “It has its challenges, but in the end, it’s rewarding to come together and accomplish something.”

That’s why, when the show contacted Palmer, he said he eagerly accepted the chance to participate.

Palmer is the captain for team Saddle Up, which consists of brothers Rider and Roper Kiesner, Bethany Iles, Bailey Skidmore and Palmer. All of Palmer’s teammates work in the rodeo circuit but had had no obstacle course experience prior to the show.

Palmer said he met his team members for the first time when he arrived in Atlanta in the middle of April for filming.

“We clicked right off the bat,” he said. “We pretty much spent every waking moment together, getting to know each other.”

Skidmore, a 25-year-old trick rider, said Palmer was a motivating team captain.

“He was a true leader,” she said. “I mean, he’s one of the best people I’ve ever met in my whole life.”

Skidmore said the show was exciting and intimidating all at once.

“It was so much fun and so great meeting all these new people. But that course was hard. And I mean hard,” she said.

“I have the utmost respect for anybody that competes in these on a daily basis. And Nathan does. We were just grateful to have him as a captain.”

Though Palmer led the way on the course, he said his teammates took over when it came to the cameras.

“They were all naturals because they’re all rodeo people. That’s what they do,” he said.

Palmer, on the other hand, said the interviews and photos were harder to deal with than the actual obstacle course.

“I’m not really big on being out there in the eye of the people,” he said. “But I love competing.”

To share his passion, Palmer said he collaborated with friends to start a gym in Wichita where obstacle course athletes could train. Xtreme Obstacle Training, 2111 N. Maize Road, offers 10-class passes or drop-in passes for anyone wanting to try obstacle racing.

Palmer said he helps train athletes at the gym in his off-season but focuses on competing March through October.

Season 2 of “Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge” will have seven episodes, where three teams compete and the winner moves on to the next round.

Palmer couldn’t comment much on this season but said he is hopeful for another spot on the show.

“I’d love to do it again,” he said. “I have a feeling that they’ll want us back.”

Palmer also recently qualified for the Spartan World Championship, held Sept. 30 in North Lake Tahoe, Calif. He qualified the two previous years but said things didn’t go his way.

“Let’s just say this Kansas boy, in mountains, didn’t do too well,” he said.

Palmer said he’s expecting better results this race, which will air Dec. 24 on NBC.

Delaney Hiegert: 316-268-6212, @Delaney_C