Freshman triumphs over obstacles in ninja competitions


Katy O'Connell

Jacobs works her way through the obstacle course and finishes in 5th place.

Kate Michel, Staff Writer

Freshman Kasey Jacobs takes her strength and skill to new heights as she competes on challenging obstacle courses at regional and national levels, inspired by the competition-based reality show “American Ninja Warrior.”

When Jacobs was nine years old, she moved from Vermont to Massachusetts. After spending time training in dance and gymnastics, she was ready for something new. Because of her interest in sports that require strength, especially upper body strength, ninja caught her eye.

“I just liked watching [American Ninja Warrior],” Jacobs said. “And so we looked up ninja gyms near us, and we found a place.”

Jacobs trains at Ultimate Obstacles in West Boylston on Mondays and Wednesdays before competing on the weekends. Along with her team, Jacobs competes with two different leagues: the National Ninja League and the New England Ninja Association.

“For the New England Ninja Association, it’s more of a team thing,” Jacobs said. “You’re trying to get as many of your teammates on the podium [as possible]. For the National Ninja League, it’s a little more individual, but everyone, even across gyms, supports each other.”

I definitely think I’ve gained a lot more confidence and chose something that really shows my talents.

— Kasey Jacobs, freshman

Each competitor is ranked by how many obstacles they can complete the quickest. The different obstacles challenge different facets of a competitor’s athletic ability, such as swinging ropes that require upper body strength and balance beams that rotate when the competitor takes a step. Jacobs’ mother, Amy Jacobs, always enjoys watching Jacobs compete, despite the stress of the nerve-wracking situation.

“She’s really strong, so it’s fun watching her tackle upper body obstacles,” Amy Jacobs said. “She really can surprise people with what she can do.”

Though Jacobs enjoys strength-related upper body obstacles, she finds that unpredictable obstacles, such as balance elements, are the most difficult because of the mental challenge they involve. 

“You know that you did this in training, but now you have one chance to do it,” Jacobs said. “One little misstep, and you’re done.”

The New England Ninja Association, a league built around 13 gyms in New England, only started offering competitions the year Jacobs began training. The National Ninja League, which offers worldwide competitions, was established in 2015. Both offer an opportunity for competitors to meet other members of the ninja community from all around the United States and the world.

“I’ve never met people who are so encouraging, strong and accepting,” Jacobs said.

Amy Jacobs also enjoys the community aspect of the competitions.

“For the most part they’re super supportive,” Amy Jacobs said. “You find yourself cheering on your competition because you just want to see them do the best that they could do.”

Jacobs finds that ninja has had a positive impact on her life as a whole.

“I definitely think I’ve gained a lot more confidence and chose something that really shows my talents,” Jacobs said. 

Jacobs was recently given the opportunity to compete at Worlds with the National Ninja League. It will take place at the beginning of April in North Carolina.

“I think what always amazes me about her is she sets her mind to something, whether it be an obstacle, or even just in life, and she does not stop until she beats that obstacle,” Amy Jacobs said. “And I admire that in her.”