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American Ninja Warrior: Abby Clark's hard work paying off

By ALEX HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader

July 07. 2018 11:17PM




Whenever Abby Clark watched "American Ninja Warrior" on NBC with friends, they always told her she should try out.

The 24-year-old from Holderness took their advice last year, making her debut on the show at the Cleveland city qualifiers.

After spending the past year training for the show's 10th season, Clark will make her second "American Ninja Warrior" appearance as part of the Minneapolis city qualifiers on Monday's episode, which airs at 8 p.m.

"American Ninja Warrior" features competitors attempting to complete a number of challenging obstacle courses. The show features both city qualifying and city finals rounds. The competitors who complete their designated region finals course advance to the national finals round in Las Vegas. The winner receives a $1 million grand prize.

"It's basically a giant jungle gym that requires a little thought process," Clark said.

If Clark advances to the Minneapolis city finals, that episode will air at a later date.

"Last year ... I only had four or five months of training. I was kind of just going for it," Clark said. "This year, I started training more, running courses whenever I go to the gym. I train with my boyfriend, who also trains (for) Ninja."

Clark graduated from Springfield College in 2015, winning the balance beam national title at the National Collegiate Gymnastics Association Championship in her senior season. Her winning score of 9.775 tied her own school record. Clark received the New Hampshire Union Leader Jenny Thompson Female Athlete of the Year Award in 2015.

Once her gymnastics career ended following graduation, Clark needed something else to do and noticed similarities between gymnastics and Ninja.

"Absolutely the biggest thing in gymnastics and Ninja is just learning how to control your body," Clark said. "Whether it's swinging or running or jumping, that's huge. Also, just the competitive side, the mental focus and strength and technique definitely goes into it a lot."

Clark's gymnastics background benefited her once she began training for "Ninja Warrior" last year but she also had to adjust her usual workout routine. The Plymouth Regional High School alumna had to build up her pull-up and leg power, for example, she said.

Abby Clark goes through a training routine in preparation for competition on “American Ninja Warrior.” (COURTESY)

Clark, who now lives in New Jersey, has been training for this season of "Ninja Warrior" since she failed to qualify for the Cleveland city finals last year. Part of her preparation included competing in the National Ninja League, which holds a number of obstacle-course events throughout the year culminating with the NNL World Finals.

"A lot of the top ninjas from the show compete in the league," Clark said. "It's kind of like an offseason thing for us to do. They run qualifiers of their own from June to February and hold a world final in February so I was able to do that and stay in competition mode.

"It's pretty much like gymnastics. You pretty much don't really stop."

The "American Ninja Warrior" Minneapolis city qualifiers were held at U.S. Bank Stadium in late May, Clark said. She was originally scheduled to compete at the Philadelphia city qualifiers but was among 13 contestants that were moved to the Minneapolis qualifier after rain cut the Philadelphia event short.

The show films each city qualifier over the course of one night, beginning around 9:30 or 10 p.m. and ending around sunrise the next day, Clark said. Contestants do not know what the obstacle course will include or when they will run it until they are called to compete, Clark said.

Not knowing what the course will consist of before competing was originally a difficult adjustment for Clark.

"In gymnastics, I would visualize my routine the night before," Clark said. "Now I can't visualize the night before ... That definitely is the biggest (difference) is the uncertainty of what is going to be at the competition."

When Clark's run number was called around 3 a.m. in Minneapolis, she felt a calm confidence. She was more experienced than her first time competing and did not allow the lights, cameras and filming process of the show to overwhelm her.

"I was able to relate it back to gymnastics - stay in the moment - just the mental strength that I did learn in gymnastics," Clark said.

Monday's episode will reveal if Clark advanced to the Minneapolis city finals. Regardless of what the result proves to be, Clark will continue competing in her new sport.

"It's a lot less pounding on the body than gymnastics was," Clark said. "Physically, I feel much better going into the gym and feel more recovered, I guess. I would love to do this as long as I can."

ahall@unionleader.com


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