Naperville Kids Compete on American Ninja Warrior Junior

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Four kids from Naperville competed on the biggest Ultimate Ninja course of their lives! After joining the Ultimate Ninja Gym in Naperville, they tried out for American Ninja Warrior Junior, season 2 and all four of the kids got the chance of a lifetime!

Traditional Sports? No thanks!

It’s not out of the ordinary for kids to seek adventure.

Neil Sekhri: “I’m an adrenaline junky.”

But it is a little out of the ordinary to find that adventure in a ninja gym … but that’s what happened to four kids from Naperville… Neil Sekhri, Emerson Hebel, Jeremy Lauff, and Emme Smith all joined the Ultimate Ninja Gym in Naperville after tradition sports… just didn’t seem to fit.

Emerson Hebel: “I’ve done soccer… I didn’t love soccer. So it was oh my gosh this is what I want to do.”

Jeremy Lauff: “I said no to every other sport they suggested and then they said I should try Ninja and I just loved it after my first class.”

Ultimate Nina Gym In Naperville

The Ultimate Ninja Gym in Naperville was a great fit. but Little did they know it would change their lives. After coaches like Jesse “Flex” Labreck and Chis DiGangi competed on the American Ninja Warrior show on NBC, the kids saw that they too, could compete on the biggest televised stage… on American Ninja Warrior Junior.

Emme Smith: “the process is crazy. We had to stay up super late a lot and finish all these videos in time. It’s super crazy but it all paid off in the end.”

And it paid off big. The kids got the call: American Ninja Warrior Junior, season 2.

Competing On the Biggest Course Yet

Smith: “I was so incredibly shocked that I got chosen because I tried out for season 1 so when I got on season 2 I was crying and screaming. I was so happy.”

Sekhri: “When I got home I was so excited. I was screaming and all that.”

Feeling the pressure, the four kids got down to business, not knowing exactly what the course would be… they worked on the Salmon Ladder, the warped wall, and other obstacles.

Hebel: “We worked on some grippy stuff, some balance because I am not super awesome at balance. We knew a little bit but we didn’t know. We went off the adult show, the kid show last year so we just practiced what we thought. Focusing on yourself and not the kid next to you. Things like that.”

Then last July, the kids and their families traveled to California in hope of bringing home the title.

Lauff: “They walked us through the different obstacles, and then it was test day and then the next day was the competition.”

Hebel: “It was almost like I was in a dream. It didn’t feel real. I didn’t hear anything I was in my own world. I was just going and whatever happened happened. It didn’t feel real.”

And did they win?… well that’s still a secret… not to be shared until their episode of the show airs… which begins on Saturday, February 22nd on Universal Kids.

Sekhri: “It’s been so hard to keep a secret; I want to tell my friends because they ask.”

Smith: “I thought not giving away the secret would be difficult but I just say you’ll have to watch!”

The Future of the Junior Nina Warriors

Win or lose, these kids are in the gym, day in and day out in hopes of continuing to be American Ninja Warriors.

Sekhri: “I want to continue it forever, it’s my passion.”

No matter where these kids go in life. They have the American Ninja Warrior attitude. It looks like reaching the top of that mountain is only a running start and jump away.

Check out other stories like this one in our Sports Story Sunday!