ST. GEORGE — Perhaps it was destiny that Rysann Clark would become a World Champion ninja athlete.
Clark loved to climb on things and run and jump around so much that as a youngster growing up her nickname was “Monkey.”
“I would literally climb on anything and everything,” she said. “So I was always being told to get down from stuff. Growing up when we went on field trips with teachers, they would tell me, ‘Rysann, I better see two feet on the floor at all times!’”
The 16-year-old junior at Pine View High School honed those natural skills and abilities with discipline and practice, earning World Champion honors at the National Ninja League Finals on June 28 in New Jersey.
The National Ninja League is described as the world’s leading ninja obstacle course organization. It’s mission is to grow into a properly regulated sport that athletes can participate in, from the recreational to the professional level.
After a workout at The Grip in Washington on Tuesday evening, the energetic Clark talked with St. George News about why she got into being a ninja.
“Ninja for me at first was an outlet. I struggle with anxiety, and I guess you could say anger, I am a redhead,” she said and laughed. “It was kind of that outlet for me. Moving into ninja was very good for me to release some of that anxiety and stuff that I had just from life.”
A background in gymnastics laid the foundation for Clark’s move into ninja competition.
“I started off as a young child doing gymnastics, and so moving into ninja was pretty easy for me,” she said. “A lot of gymnastics teaches you to be competitive, so bringing that competitive spirit into this ninja sport has been a fun transition to come into.”
Ninja sports involve running through obstacle courses, jumping and climbing on bars and ropes, flying through the air and doing all kinds of strength exercises.
“Another thing I got from gymnastics is that body control,” Clark said. “You’ll see gymnasts have amazing body control on the bar and the balance beam. They have such balance and control. It’s definitely helped me flow into the ninja aspect of things.”
This was Clark’s first year competing in the National Ninja League, and she said getting to the World Championship in New Jersey involved qualifying through multiple competitions.
“You start with area competitions,” she said. “You have to place in the top three to qualify. Once you qualify you move on, and you go to regionals. And then you have to do another competition, place in the top three, and then you can move on to the Worlds.”
In New Jersey, Clark competed with ninjas from around the United States.
“I was able to take first and take that championship home.”
Clark also took home medals for finishing second in the express lane event, second over the ledge and third for the overall strongest ninja. Additionally, her World Champion status was earned after she ran through the obstacle course the farthest and fastest in her age group.
Clark said she has a real strong support system, starting with her parents. Her father drives her to all of the tournaments and supports her on the road, while her mother takes care of all the administrative details to register her for all the necessary events.
She also has a group of coaches at The Grip who have trained her, and her neighbors all follow her on Facebook and Instagram.
Up next for the ninja athlete is another competition this weekend in Las Vegas. After that, she’ll go as far as her skills and her boundless energy will take her.
“I’m definitely going to continue doing this for as long as I can,” Clark said. “I do definitely want to make it on the show (NBC’s American Ninja Warrior), and I see myself doing this throughout college.”
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