When Clarence resident Shane Carter was watching Jessie Graff become the first woman ever to complete Stage 1 of the Las Vegas Finals course in the 2016 season of “American Ninja Warrior,” he was less intimidated than he was inspired.
Carter began practicing in his basement by hanging on rafters and jumping over old couches.
“I’ve been building a tire course in my basement for the last two and a half years,” he says, laughing. “I’ve got all kinds of obstacles down there now.”
Nearly three years later, the kid making a ruckus in his parents’ basement recently claimed the No. 2 spot in the standings of the National Ninja League in the “Young Adults 16-17, Boys” division.
For many who want to test their physical fitness and resolve on a “ninja” obstacle course, gymnastics training is often relied upon to complete the variety of hurdles. For Carter, whose athletic history is composed of mostly soccer and baseball, his ninja education is almost entirely self-taught.
Carter began competing in obstacle courses at Hybrid Fitness in Buffalo about two years ago before beginning training at the Warrior Factory in Rochester. He competed at his first National Ninja League Event last year at an event in Ohio and took second place.
Since then, he was hooked.
The NNL organizes ninja contests across the country. Participants earn points for placing in competitions as they try to earn enough to qualify for the national finals.
Eager to prove his place among the best in the country, Carter committed to more intensive training sessions and more competitive events. In October, he earned a first-place position at a Warrior Factory event, followed by several more top three positions at subsequent events.
Carter eventually qualified for the national finals held from Feb. 16 through 18 in Novi, Michigan, at the Edge Training Center. There were 51 competitors in Carter’s division alone.
“The first stage that I competed on was definitely an easier course,” Carter said. “You had a minute and 35 seconds to complete it. So, their goal was not getting people out on the obstacles, it was getting them out on the time.”
Carter and 14 other ninjas advanced to the second day of competition, where his research and preparation proved invaluable en route to a second place finish overall.
“Before I go to a competition, I’ll know what the gym looks like online,” he said. “I’ll look up what obstacles they have, and I’ll look at old videos of how other ninjas like to run it.”
Ultimately, Carter’s goal is to compete on “American Ninja Warrior” — the very show that spurred his interest in ninja competitions. He has also been contacting the Guinness World Records about a potential record for most one finger pull-ups in three minutes.
His successes, he says, pale in comparison to the friendships and camaraderie that he has experienced since beginning his journey as a ninja competitor.
“I like the grit that you need to constantly better yourself, but more than anything, I really like the community,” he said. “Whether you end up getting first place, or even if you’re dead last, everyone who does this is always very supportive of each other.”