University of New Mexico student Cassie Dierks will be competing for the third time through the American Ninja Warrior challenge course. Dierks previously competed in 2021 on season 13 and in 2020 on season 12. The course features intricate obstacles, including the infamous warp wall, which contestants must make their way through in an attempt to be first through the first of four courses to win the cash grand prize.
In both of her past runs, Dierks has wiped out on the second obstacles, called “Lunatic Ledges” and the “Overpass.” Going into her third competition, she has adopted a specific training policy to prevent repeating the same mistakes.
“I try to focus on techniques that you can transfer from one obstacle to another. Building general strength and reflexes and stuff like that kind of helps transfer over between different things,” Dierks said. “I've been doing a lot of rock climbing and speed climbing. I think that's particularly helpful because every time you go rock climbing, there's a different route that you have to try, so you have to learn to adapt to different situations.”
The mental strength to navigate the course in real life, where things are at a different level compared to viewing the course through the television, is something that she’s had to work on.
“When I saw the obstacles in person, it was crazy and overwhelming because it looks so much different in person than it does on TV. It's not what you expect, and the lights are so much brighter, and the obstacles are so much bigger,” Dierks said.
Dierks attributed her ability to overcome the mental and physical challenges of preparing for the show to the people around her supporting her.
“One of the best things I have going for me for competing is I have a lot of support. My mom is a huge cheerleader for me. She's always watched me do all (the) local ninja competitions at the local gyms ... I've (also) got my dad, my brother, my grandparents and my boyfriend. They're all just super supportive,” Dierks said.
In the past competitions, Dierks’ family had to show their support via screens due to the COVID-19 pandemic limiting in-person audiences, something that will change going into this year’s competition.
“This year is going to be the first year that they've decided it's safe enough to have a limited audience,” Dierks said. “I think it'll definitely feel a lot different. I'm not sure if it'll make me more nervous or if it'll make me more comforted, but I guess we'll see.”
Dierks is keeping all of the lessons she’s learned from her past runs in mind going into this next run. Dierks said she wants to approach her next run with a positive mindset.
“I've learned that you can't expect what obstacles there's going to be. There's no way to control the obstacles there's going to be, and it's very likely that there're going to be obstacles you haven't had an opportunity to try before,” Dierks said. “This time, I'm not worrying about it as much. It's just kind of going to be what it's going to be. I'm just going to train my hardest and just have fun.”
Elizabeth Secor is a freelance reporter at the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @esecor2003