CEDAR FALLS — The Ninja U gym in Cedar Falls is busy setting up obstacle courses for the first Ninja Warrior competition for the Summer Iowa Games on Sunday.
The Ultimate Ninja Athlete Association referred Ninja U to the Iowa Games, an annual summer and winter multi-sport competition, as a venue for a ninja warrior competition.
“We got on a conference call with the Iowa Games … and found a way to make it happen,” said Scott Behrends, one of Ninja U’s owners.
Starting at 8 a.m., each contestant will run a course of 10 to 15 obstacles, with each obstacle worth a point. Athletes are allowed a retry after a fall.
“The fun part is the (UNAA) league rules allow you to just keep moving on,” Behrends said, unlike the rules for NBC’s “American Ninja Warrior.” “People still get to experience every obstacle, even if they fall on the first one.”
Anyone 6 years and older can compete and contestants are divided into male and female age categories. The athlete who earns the most points in the fastest time wins the competition.
Behrends is already constructing obstacle courses, which will be kept confidential until Sunday. As part of the planning process, he envisions courses that work for multiple age groups and considers modifications according to different skill levels.
Courses will be created mainly by Behrends, since anyone involved in constructing a course is disqualified from competing.
“Whoever else helps cannot actually compete,” Behrends said. “So if I want my staff or friends to be able to compete, they can’t know the course at all.”
Chairs will line the side of the gym and balcony for spectators and Behrends also hopes to live stream the event. One competitor will run at a time and, depending on the age group, courses may undergo minor adjustments between runs.
All Ninja Warrior competitors Sunday will qualify for State Games of America in 2021.
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“It’s the first year, and they want to really drive that momentum for the sport,” Behrends said.
The State Games of America, a biennial competition that changes locations, will be in Ames and Des Moines on July 27 through Aug. 1, 2021. The competition, which has never been held in Iowa, hosts any athlete in the country who received a medal in a state game. This year’s competition is in Lynchburg, Va.
Behrends said few states hold annual games, and of those that do, not many have ninja warrior competitions.
“It’s an up-and-coming sport,” Behrends said, “I think this is only going to help people realize that it is a sport, not just a couple kids on a jungle gym.”
Applicants can register for $45 prior to the event on Ninja U’s website or on game day at the venue. There is a $5 spectator fee.
Non-Iowa residents can compete if their state games do not offer a ninja warrior competition.
Behrends hopes the gym will continue to be used for the competition in the future.
“I’m assuming if it goes well the Iowa Games would allow us to keep hosting,” Behrends said.
The Summer Iowa Games is an annual competition throughout the state from May through August. Jack Trice stadium in Ames will hold the opening ceremony July 19. From archery and billiards to basketball and bowling, the event offers competitions in 47 sports.
“I remember playing Iowa Games as a kid,” Behrends said. “That excitement as a kid to be part of something bigger. ... That’s kind of a fun thing.”