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Local men train for “American Ninja Warrior” show

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WISH) – Five men are training for their chance to be featured in Season 7 of the action-packed series American Ninja Warrior (ANW) which airs on Esquire.

After nine months of explosive, off-the-wall workouts, the men will continue to train through early May when they expect to find out if they made the cut.

The television series follows competitors as they tackle difficult obstacle courses in qualifying rounds in four cities. The national finals take place in Las Vegas, on a four-stage course.

“I competed in Season 6 last year,” says Bill Westrick, 47, founding member of Fast Five. “As I watched the show I noticed a group of ninjas from Colorado called the ‘Wolf Pack’. American Ninja Warriors gave them a lot of attention, so I figured I could put together a team of ninjas from the Midwest and try to get us all on the show this year.”

Westrick recruited four other men to train and prepare their bodies for endless log grips, salmon ladders and spider climbs. They picked a name and a Bible verse, created special t-shirts and then sent in their applications for the show.

“Our Fast Five t-shirt is a representative of who we are and what we do,” says Westrick. “We have our obstacles on here, our name, the ‘t’ in ‘Fast’ is a cross because we’re all Christians and we believe in putting God first.”

Westrick first started training with Danny Owens, 42, and Joel McCall, 45. Soon after, Gabe Dougherty, 41, and Daniel Niles, 29, joined the team.

“At the time Bill [Westrick] got back from his Season 6 appearance, I was nursing a lower back injury from a car accident,” says Niles. “My doctor told me I could either use this training as rehabilitation or have surgery, and I chose the training.”

The team trains together four to five days a week at Community Life Center at Mount Pleasant Christian Church. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, the team leads a one hour Bootcamp class that starts at 5:15am.

For their specific ANW training, the five men built replicas of obstacles that have been featured on ANW. The obstacles are set up for their full workouts on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

“I built the horizontal peg board that we were climbing on and I built the cliffhanger,” says Danny Owens. “The bocci balls, the balls we hang off, that’s my yard bocci ball set that we had at the house.”

The bocci balls are part of an obstacle called “cannon ball alley.” The men start by springing from a small trampoline into the air. They grab hold of two individual bocci balls suspended by chains from the rafters. They then swing, one arm at a time to the next ball – similar to how you would progress through a jungle gym.

“That took about almost a month of doing it every day — just jumping and grabbing, jumping and grabbing, hanging off those things to finally get to the point where you can hang and swing,” says Owens.

“For me to just jump on a trampoline 6-feet and just grab some dangling chain – not anybody can do that,” says McCall. “It’s more mental than physical although it does take a lot of physical strength.”

The activities are very physical and often described as obstacles for extreme athletes.

“Craziest thing you can think of, that’s what we’re doing,” says Dougherty. “We’re hanging around, swinging from rafters and it’s addicting. I feel like I’m back on the playground!”

The team starts training early in the morning and extends their workouts for two to three hours.

“We train from 4:30 a.m. or 5 a.m. to generally about 7 a.m.,” says Niles. “Then everybody has to go to work and go about their normal daily lives and we’re sending text messages to each other figuring out the next obstacle we can train for.”

Applications for Season 7 of ANW closed January 11th. Westrick says the casting company chooses who they want to compete, then assigns the individuals to cities to face the first round of competition.

The team will find out if any members made it to Round 1 about two to three weeks before their city qualifier, which will take place in either Kansas City or Pittsburgh.

On competition day, a little over 100 people will compete in Round 1. The first goal is to complete the course without getting eliminated in one of the obstacles.

“Right now we’re just in waiting and training mode,” says Westrick.