When Hunter Rowland of Raleigh first watched the NBC reality competition show “American Ninja Warrior,” she was only 6 or 7 years old — but old enough to know how she wanted to take her gymnastics, tumbling and martial arts skills to the next level.
Hunter would become a ninja warrior. Her parents, Pete and Hannah Rowland, built her an obstacle course in her backyard and she practiced on it all the time.
On Saturday, Hunter, who is now 10, will compete in the premiere of the very first season of “American Ninja Warrior Junior,” a spinoff of the NBC show airing on NBCUniversal’s Universal Kids channel.
The Brooks Elementary fifth grader — known as the “Positive Ninja” — says ninja courses are fun because a lot of it is about “tumbling and balance.” And her backyard course has been an excellent training ground for the show.
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“It has a bunch of obstacles and there’s a lot of climbing,” Hunter told The News & Observer in a phone interview on Friday. “It’s not about form or anything, it’s mostly being fast and getting the points.”
Hunter says most of her friends are into different types of sports, but sometimes they’ll come over and run the obstacle course with her. “They do pretty good,” she said.
She also likes to change up her routine sometimes, to keep herself in top ninja form.
“We sometimes change the obstacles, to keep adding more,” Hunter said. “Dad always adds more stuff to make it more challenging.”
Her favorite part of the course? “Probably the tire to the bar,” she said, describing how she swings on a tire to reach and grab a bar.
Hunter found out about the show from one of her coaches at the Warrior Tech gym in Morrisville. She and her dad went home and checked out the website.
“Me and my dad didn’t know about it, but it told us to do videos and a few months later we got asked to come to the show,” she said.
That was it. No tryouts needed — her video was enough.
Hunter filmed all of her episodes in July and can’t reveal what happened. But she said it was a fun experience meeting new people and being on new obstacles (a couple were harder than the ones at home, she said).
“I made a new friend who lives in Ohio, and we still keep in touch., but I met a lot of people from all over the country,” she said. “It was exciting to be on TV, but also a little stressful.”
Saturday night, the Rowlands will have a watch party at their home for family and friends to watch the show’s premiere. Hunter warns that guests attending the party may be asked to run a few obstacles.
It’s a small price to pay to hang out with a famous ninja.
Watch ‘American Ninja Warrior Junior’
“American Ninja Warrior Junior” premieres at 7 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 13) on Universal Kids. The show is hosted by former NFL linebacker Akbar Gbajabiamila; Olympic gold medalist Laurie Hernandez; and actor/comedian Matt Iseman.
You can find Universal Kids on channel 255 on Spectrum/Time Warner Cable; on channel 337 or 1337 on AT&T UVerse; on channel 295 on DirecTV; and on channel 430 on Google Fiber TV. Universal Kids is also available on streaming services Youtube TV, DirecTV Now, Hulu Live, Playstation Vue and Fubo TV by searching for the channel UKIDS.