‘American Ninja Warrior’ Experience Organized Chaos On a Tight Schedule

Taylor Erdman
In Motion Staff Writer

Being a fan of the show since it was “Sasuke” — since re-named “Ninja Warrior” in the 18 other countries the show is screened in — I was elated on April 7 to be invited to a real, live filming of the action series at Daytona International Speedway.

Being on set, compared to watching it on TV, was an entirely different beast. Though the obstacle track seems small in width, it makes up for that with the incredible height and length of the run. The set, however, is just as beautiful as it is from your living room screen… only 10 time more intimidating. A viewer watching these incredible athletes from the comfort of their couch might say, “Oh I can do that easily.” I admit I’ve thought that myself. But being there in person, facing the gate with the bold letters “American Ninja Warrior” plastered on the front in bright red letters, will shut anyone’s mouth.

As part of the media corps invited to cover the filming, Editor in Chief Nina Ruiz and I were given the opportunity to run the course as “testers.” We wouldn’t be aired on the show necessarily but it was an honor nevertheless to be invited.

Spenser Dugal, deep in concentration as he strives for the next handhold.
Spenser Dugal, deep in concentration as he strives for the next handhold.

Although I didn’t take the producers up on their generous offer, my fellow DSC student Spenser Dugal did in a heartbeat. After his run Dugal excitedly announced he wanted to try it again. Having fallen and not gotten hurt, he said, made him want to run again.

Ruiz and I also were able to greet hosts Matt Iseman and Akbar Gbaja-Biamila, as well as their beautiful co-host Kristine Leahy. Spirited and hilarious, on air and off, they were more than willing to answer questions about the show, as well as posing for a group at the end.

In fact, all the competitors were friendly towards one another, going so far as to cheer everyone on. Then there were the unsung heroes — the walk-ons. A group of around 30 people, they spent three weeks camped out in a park just to be able to be an eligible contestant on the show. By the end of it, whether they were able to move forward in the competition or not, all held tight to the familial bond that brought them together.

In all, the experience can be described as beautifully composed, organized chaos. “American Ninja Warrior” is a living organism in which everyone has their place. But when something is missing, it can set the shooting schedule back a few hours.

Waiting despertly for their chance to attempt the course, this group waited three weeks in a park as a group, rightfully calling themself a family as they cheer one another on from the sidelines.
Waiting despertly for their chance to attempt the course, this group waited three weeks in a park as a group, rightfully calling themself a family as they cheer one another on from the sidelines.