8 youths to com­pete on ‘Amer­i­can Ninja War­rior Jr.’

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - NEWS - By Ben Lam­bert wil­liam.lam­bert@hearst­medi­act.com

HAM­DEN — “Amer­i­can Ninja War­rior” may not have been even a glim­mer in the pub­lic con­scious­ness when they were born, but now the bud­ding sport will bring eight young peo­ple from the area to the na­tional air­waves.

Kody Hazan, 13, of Ham­den; Blake Feero, 14, of Cheshire; Jay Lewis, 14, of Cheshire; Jack­son Hor­wedel, 13, of Shel­ton; MaryAmma Blank­son, 11, of Madi­son; Peace Lopez, 14, of Wallingford; Sean Arms, 10, of Clin­ton; and Collin Cella, 10, of Mil­ford, all of whom train un­der Drew Dreschel at New Era Nin­jas in Ham­den, were se­lected to take part in “Amer­i­can Ninja War­rior Jr.,” which is set to de­but Satur­day on NBC’s Univer­sal Kids net­work.

The youths and their fam­i­lies flew out to Los An­ge­les in July to film the tele­vi­sion pro­gram, as they tested their met­tle against kid-sized ver­sions of ob­sta­cles from “Amer­i­can Ninja War­rior,” where Dreschel was a com­peti­tor and was dubbed the “Last Ninja Stand­ing” ear­lier this year.

The young peo­ple have taken a par­tic­u­lar in­ter­est in “Ninja.” In ad­di­tion to vis­it­ing Dreschel’s gym, they’ve cre­ated home cour­ses and par­tic­i­pate in com­pe­ti­tions around the re­gion.

The chance to be on tele­vi­sion, though, was re­mark­able, they said.

“It was re­ally sur­real, be­cause all of us had been watch­ing the show for a while and we’ve been train­ing. We didn’t ex­pect to have this chance that we had for, like, an­other five years,” Jay said. “But now that it came, it’s su­per­awe­some.”

“Be­ing able to see your­self on na­tional tele­vi­sion, do­ing what you love — it’s amaz­ing,” Blake said.

They said they were drawn to “Ninja” for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, in­clud­ing the nov­elty and the chance to test one’s lim­its in a sup­port­ive, rather than com­pet­i­tive, en­deavor.

“It’s dif­fer­ent. It’s un­tra­di­tional. Not a lot of peo­ple know what it is, and when they do, they’re like, ‘Wait, that’s a thing?’ ” Peace said.

Jay said he likes how the com­pe­ti­tion pairs phys­i­cal and men­tal abil­i­ties.

“The com­mu­nity is the best I’ve ever been in (as well),” he said. “I’ve made so many friends from this, and it’s some­thing that I’ve re­ally not found with any other sport that I’ve done.”

Kody said you’re never just do­ing one thing.

“There’s a lot of va­ri­ety in it and it’s al­ways chang­ing,” he said. “You’re al­ways over­com­ing dif­fer­ent chal­lenges.”

For their par­ents, sud­denly be­ing a part of a tele­vi­sion show was strik­ing — “sur­real,” they said.

“Know­ing that our kids made his­tory on the first show ... is su­per-ex­cit­ing,” said Steve Feero, Blake’s fa­ther.

“(It was) com­pletely sur­real,” said Lisa Lewis. “It was an in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence — once in a life­time.”

Melissa Arms and Mary Blank­son said the sport has ben­e­fit­ted their chil­dren. Arms said it helped her son build con­fi­dence. It’s also al­lowed her to be a part of a com­mu­nity, mak­ing friends with other par­ents at com­pe­ti­tions, she said.

“I don’t think I ever imag­ined, not only (Sean) be­ing as pas­sion­ate as he is, but what it’s done for him in the out­side world,” Arms said.

Blank­son said it helped her daugh­ter be­come more com­fort­able with fail­ure; it’s given her a frame­work for how to re­spond.

“She knows she’s not go­ing to be per­fect for ev­ery­thing,” Blank­son said.

Steve Feero said the sport had given him a chance to bond with his son as they build ob­sta­cles to­gether. Both are in­ter­ested in sci­ence and en­gi­neer­ing and en­joy look­ing at the el­e­ments of the course through that lens, he said.

Dreschel served as a coach and men­tor on the show — both on-cam­era, as he worked with Collin and Sean — and be­hind the scenes for the rest of his young pro­teges. He said he’s been work­ing with most of the group for nearly four years.

It was a plea­sure to see the young peo­ple he has come to know take up the chal­lenge and thrive, he said.

“These are my kids. I see them a cou­ple times ev­ery week, and I’ve been work­ing with them for years,” Dreschel said. “To see them out there, do­ing what they love to do and what they’ve been train­ing to do — and do­ing well at it — it was in­cred­i­ble.”

From left, Peace Lopez, 14, of Wallingford; Kody Hazan, 13, of Ham­den; and Collin Cella, 10, of Mil­ford; go through their work­out Wed­nes­day at New Era Nin­jas gym in Ham­den.

Peter Hviz­dak / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Sean Arms, 10, of Clin­ton, goes through his work­out Wed­nes­day at New Era Nin­jas gym in Ham­den.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.