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Young Athletes Show Their Athleticism And Strength In Ninja Warrior World Championships



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Four ninja warriors from Newtown put their technique, efficiency, strength, endurance, and other skill sets to the test on a variety of challenging obstacles against tough competitors from around and outside the United States. This quartet is among 47 athletes representing Ninja Mania in Danbury who competed in the World Ninja League Championships at the Greensboro Coliseum Complex in Greensboro. N.C., June 21-24.

Skylar Awalt (14), Clare Danner (12), D.J. Macaluso (9), and P.J. Tisi (8) are all Newtown athletes who first qualified for regionals then reached the world event.

Awalt, who has done ninja for almost a decade, is in her first year competing in the teen division and advanced to all three stages at the World Championships. She placed 30th out of 113 teen females for strongest ninja and came in 25th out of 113 teen females for the skills (discipline circuit) portion of the championships and she was 54th overall in the championships. Stages 2 and 3 were her favorite stages because they had more endurance type obstacles.

Tisi is a first-year ninja who recorded a full course clear in stage one and recorded a fast enough time on the last obstacle in stage two to qualify for stage three. In stage three he placed 15th among 90 competitors, completing six of the eight obstacles. Tisi placed 38th overall among 200-plus competitors for his combined placement in the three stages; he was 22nd in both the discipline circuit and strongest ninja competition. Tisi finished an impressive 45th overall among the World Champion athletes.

“Stage three was by far his favorite run because there were no balance obstacles and the obstacles that were there were more about strength and endurance. But he says nothing quite compares to hitting that buzzer at the end of a full clear,” his mom, Christine Tisi said.

Danner came in 13th out of 158 preteen females; she advanced to all three stages. Macaluso came in 30th among 215 males in the World Champion results.

Competition is a big part of this, sure, but regardless of performance these young athletes have a blast with ninja warrior workouts and competitions, including the social aspect as well.

“I enjoy doing ninja a lot — It is my favorite sport by far. I love competing and have been doing it since I was 6,” said Awalt, who plays travel soccer and enjoys making friendship bracelets and hanging with friends in her spare time. “I love the friendships I have made with my teammates and ninjas across the world. I especially loved having my dream come true of being on American Ninja Warrior Junior,” she said of the reality television series. “It was one of the best experiences I have had.”

The obstacles are somewhat like advanced playground equipment with a twist. There are monkey bar-style obstacles as well as on-the-ground pedestals competitors must jump across, for example.

“Ninja is very challenging because you use a lot of upper body strength but also have to be good at balance. When you start to compete you also need to be aware of your speed and efficiency through the obstacles, especially in my age division, teens,” Awalt said.

Without question, competing in ninja warrior events helps participants build strength — that is a big part of the fun for Tisi — as well as benefitting these athletes in their other sports.

“I enjoy ninja a lot because it is really fun to get stronger,” he said. Tisi also plays Newtown Babe Ruth Baseball.

Tisi said he enjoyed getting to meet some of his idol ninja athletes he has seen on television.

“I absolutely love watching Skylar compete in ninja. She amazes me each and every time she takes on a course. All courses are different and she is able to trust in her training and go for it. Ninja has been a great base sport for other sports. Ninjas use their entire body for ninja making them versatile for any sports they do in the future,” said Skylar’s mom Candice Awalt.

“I always get nervous when she steps on the starting block, you never know what can happen and ninja is not a forgiving sport. Some courses if you fall that is it and unfortunately it has happened to some of the best ninjas. World Championships is especially nerve-racking because they work so hard all season and it comes down to this. So many great ninjas from across the world coming together, some in which you have never competed against before. Overall it is very exciting though, and the ninja community is such a positive one,” Candice Awalt added.

The parents credited Ninja Mania Owner/Coach Ryan Tanner for being a very supportive leader for the young ninjas. Their hard work and enthusiasm, along with his guidance led to success on the big stage.

“Our Ninja Mania team did amazing throughout the course of the weekend and (Skylar) loved spending time with them and other ninja friends she has made across the world,” Candice Awalt noted.

Sports Editor Andy Hutchison can be reached at andyh@thebee.com.

Ryan Tanner, ninja warrior coach and owner of Ninja Mania in Danbury, is flanked by Newtown’s P.J. Tisi, D.J. Macaluso, Skylar Awalt, and Clare Danner. These competitors are among those who competed in the World Ninja League Championships in Greensboro. N.C., in late June. —photos courtesy Christine Tisi
Ninja Mania in Danbury had 47 representatives in the World Ninja League Championships.
P.J. Tisi makes his way through the course at the World Championships.
P.J. Tisi, left, with Quinn McLaughlin, a ninja coach and competitor, who pushes young athletes to perform at a high level and competed in the elite men’s category.
Skylar Awalt hoisted by Danbury-based Ninja Mania Owners Ryan and Kristi Tanner.
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