NORTH PORT — Two North Port natives were among 100 elite athletes taking part in the Atlanta competition of “America Ninja Warrior.”
The NBC-based show will air in early to mid-June, depending on a few different factors.
Josh Parisi, 21, and Ashley McConville, 19, can’t say how well they did or specifically what happened on their runs that took place while the show filmed in Atlanta between March 24-26, but both spoke about the excitement of the experience.
“It’s been awesome getting to compete at so many different competitions and meet so many new ninjas,” McConville said.
“I had a great time,” Parisi said.
That great time happened despite his run starting at 3:54 a.m. The filming starts as soon as the sun sets and ends at sunrise. With 100 athletes taking the stage, it goes all night long.
“My experience was way different from other people. I was actually very relaxed,” he said. “From the point I got my call to the point I started my run, I felt very relaxed through the process. I don’t know how to explain it, but I felt really calm and confident that I would do well.”
Parisi is currently a music education major at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers.
McConville was very involved with gymnastics. She’d trained or competed in it since she was 6. Her ANW run was at 3:10 a.m.
While gymnastics was her life, “American Ninja Warrior” caught her attention when she was 14 and “knew it was something I wanted to do someday,” McConville said.
The show lowered the age from 21 to 19 for people to compete, giving McConville the opportunity earlier than she thought.
“This made me start to think: Did I want to do college gymnastics for four more years and be completely dedicated to it, or did I want to begin seriously training Ninja and start pursuing a field in that?”
“I began to fall in love with the community,” she said. “In Ninja, everyone wants you to succeed.”
Parisi celebrates the community as well, saying he loved reconnecting with people — and connecting with the audience — as his run began.
“I had a blast. It was a lot of fun...even on the starting line, I had a lot of fun getting the crowd into it,” he said.
He couldn’t get into the specifics of his run because of disclosure rules — but he indicates it felt a bit surreal to him.
“I was calm...but there was also the feeling that maybe this was a dream and I’m going to wake up soon. I felt like the training was really going to pay off at that moment and I was just like: ‘Let’s do it.’”
For him, the patience learned in his music expertise helped him with Ninja he said.
“When you’re trying to prepare for a concert or recital, it’s best to work on every part of it ... but the repetition is important so you know how to put it together,” Parisi said. “Music, if you prepare ... a slip-up might happen, but it’s rare.”
Ninja is a less forgiving on the course.
“Balance objects ... are never a guarantee for anybody,” he said. “You can have the most-calculated plan, but for balance, it doesn’t always happen. It happens to even the big-name Ninjas every year.”
McConnville’s background in gymnastics gave her a head start.
“I came into Ninja being able to do obstacles and moves that took some Ninjas years to perfect. I started placing first against athletes who had been seasoned veterans on the show,” she said.
This season of American Ninja Warrior begins airing Wednesday, May 29. The two-hour shows run from 8-10 p.m. on NBC.
If the show keeps to its tradition trajectory of regions, the Southeast is the first one that airs — which would be Monday, June 10. But that has not been confirmed.
There is no telling if their runs will air in part, in full or at all. With 100 people selected to run and two hours of edited footage, they may not know until the show airs.
For Parisi, he said he has been calm about it from the time he received the call that he’d been selected. He said he’s loved it all.
“It’s all just feels like a playground for me,” he said.
McConville is hoping to be able to be a spark for other girls and women interested in the sport.
“What drives me with ‘Ninja Warrior’ is knowing that I have the chance to inspire people,” she said. “I wanted to be able to be someone that young girls could look up to and know that it’s OK to be strong and that girls can be just as strong as boys.”
Her advice to anyone looking into Ninja is to just do it.
“The thing that’s cool about Ninja is that everyone comes from such different backgrounds. And everyone has their strengths and weaknesses,” she said.