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Woodbury ninja goes to nationals

Lucas Paulson made the trip to Dallas in July for a national contest in the growing sport of ninja warrior competition. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia1 / 2
Lucas Paulson shows off his skills at Conquer Ninja Warrior gym in Woodbury. Blaze Fugina / RiverTown Multimedia2 / 2

The television show "American Ninja Warrior" has sparked the popularity of a new sport in Woodbury and across the country.

Just ask Lucas Paulson, a Woodbury 12-year-old who made a trip to Texas this July to compete in a national Ninja Warrior competition.

Paulson is a member to Woodbury's Conquer Ninja Warrior, a gym created to match the obstacles on the "American Ninja Warrior" television show. Paulson earned a spot in the Ultimate Ninja Athletic Association Finals, July 21-22 in Dallas, by finishing in first place in the youth 10-13 age group during a regional competition held in Woodbury over Memorial Day weekend.

At the UNAA finals, Paulson completed nine of the course's 12 obstacles. Although he fell short of qualifying for the finals, it was a good first experience at nationals.

"It was a hard course, and there were a lot of good competitors," Lucas said. "But I did pretty well."

Ninja competitors might have a slight advantage when they are competing in familiar gyms like Paulson was at regionals this year. But every course uses a unique layout, and competitors do not know what obstacles they will face until the start of an event.

"Even though it was at his home gym, they can't publicize the course until the day of the competition," said Lucas' mother, Sue Paulson. "So the day of, they tell you what it is, but you are not allowed to try it until you run it."

The growing popularity of the sport is fueled by the TV series "American Ninja Warrior," which has been broadcast on NBC and other networks since 2009.

As soon as Paulson tried the newly opened Conquer Ninja Warrior gym last year, he was hooked. He became the gym's first official member.

"I was watching the show, and then I saw advertising about here," Lucas said about Conquer Ninja Warrior in Woodbury. "I came the first day and tried it, and a couple of days later I got a membership."

Paulson, who is a student at Woodbury Middle School, also plays baseball, hockey and golf.

In the future, Paulson is aiming for another spot at the UNAA finals next summer, and he also hopes to register for a few competitions in the National Ninja League as well.

Someday Paulson hopes to appear on "American Ninja Warrior," though that is years down the road as competitors must be 21 years old. Another television show called "Team Ninja Warrior, College Madness" allows competitors who are 18 years old.

Like many other people across the country, Paulson is hooked on reaching new heights in the sport of ninja.

"The reality is it's him against the course," Sue Paulson said. "He's trying to beat the course. He's trying to do it in a set amount of time, and others are trying to do the same thing."