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  • Ninja Challenge draws dozens of young competitors

    Dozens of children competed in the Ninja Challenge at Higs Gym in Central Point
  • Aspiring ninja warriors from throughout Southern Oregon tested their mettle in Central Point on Saturday.
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  • Aspiring ninja warriors from throughout Southern Oregon tested their mettle in Central Point on Saturday.
    "Everybody's really into it," said Nick Jones, a 32-year-old Medford father at the first-ever Ninja Challenge at Higs Gym, 2744 Taylor Road.
    Jones' 27-year-old wife, Alicia, said their son has been working vigorously preparing for the Ninja Warrior competition along with other children.
    "They work their butts off three times a week," she said.
    Their 10-year-old son, Tyler Cole, almost completed the 60-obstacle circuit, taking a seat while he caught his breath.
    "It was fun," he told his family.
    The event attracted residents from throughout the region, including a family from France, and many of the spectators and participants are fans of the popular television show "American Ninja Warrior."
    Some 80 competitors and 200 spectators showed up to watch the event and enjoy the food.
    "We would have been happy to get just 50 people at the competition," said Byron Higinbotham, who founded Higs Gym.
    He teaches a variety of Ninja Warrior activities. The martial arts gym offers classes in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and a dynamic activity known as parkour.
    Higinbotham said the challenge course has been popular.
    "The water stuff is a big hit," he said. "It looks cool when you fall."
    As children made their way through the obstacles, Higinbotham urged them on.
    "You can do it," he said. "Keep your focus."
    Many of the contestants managed to get soaked when they failed to maneuver over water features.
    "Get back up and try again," Higinbotham encouraged.
    As parents cheered them on, many of the kids charged through the 60 obstacles. Some tried to make it in less than two minutes, while others were happy just to get through all the challenges.
    The features included a 50-foot inclined monkey bar over water, a vertical, 22-foot cargo net climb, a rope swing and jumps.
    Shandra Bates, a 40-year-old Central Point mother, said she got hooked on the fitness program almost two years ago.
    "My youngest son was doing it, and it looked like fun, and so I joined in," she said.
    Bates has become proficient at the course but acknowledges she's still a bit weak on balance when crossing the tightrope.
    Steven Hulce, 15, of Central Point, has been coming to the gym for seven years and is becoming a master at the obstacle course, which he can complete in about 11/2 minutes.
    Hulce, who helps run the gym, manned the ticket counter, and spectators and participants kept showing up.
    "It was a little more than we were expecting," he said.
    The entry fee for novices was $25, and elite competitors paid $50.
    Gabby Collins, a 15-year-old Medford resident, looked intrigued by the fast-paced competition.
    "I think it's cool," she said. "It's something I might want to do maybe next year.
    Jonelle Jones, a 62-year-old Medford resident, brought her four grandchildren to check out the competition.
    "It's great," she said. " My husband and I were thinking that our grandchildren should go to the summer camp."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.
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