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Ashland Y challenges ninjas

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Do the kids suddenly have a no-school day and they’re full of energy with nothing to do? No problem.

The Ashland Family YMCA has dreamed up the Ninja Challenge, with the tagline: “Obstacle courses, Ninja Warrior style! Balance, strength, agility, fun” — and in their big gym, on no-school Fridays, you’ll find dozens of boys and girls age 7 to 12 leaping, tumbling and swinging over all manner of obstacles.

They gamely crawl along parallel bars, roll a giant foam octagon (which takes teamwork), swing on a rope while attempting to jump into a foam donut, and jump on a springboard trying to grasp a wood bar.

On that last feat, many of the grade-schoolers couldn’t jump high enough, but coach Audrey McGuire found one lad whose fingers barely dusted the bar, so she kept encouraging him with, “C’mon, you got this! You can do it!” and after five tries he hung from it with big smile.

“It’s important for kids to try and not be fearful,” said McGuire. “Kids gotta be active and learn coordination, also to take turns, be responsible for themselves and to socialize with others.”

The Ninja event is inspired by NBC’s popular “American Ninja Warrior,” in which, says McGuire, men and women are welcomed to try different and changing feats.

“It challenges both the body and the mind,” YMCA gymnastics director Tammy Johnson said Friday, “which is great for these kids who have so much energy. And today, it’s especially useful as they have Halloween aftermath.”

“American Ninja Warrior” in its promo, said, “Men and women from all walks of life and every corner of the country come together to pursue their common dream of reaching Mount Midoriyama on the world’s most notorious obstacle course.

“Each possessing an inspiring story and a memorable personality, these unrivaled athletes push through seemingly impossible tests of strength and endurance. Though few have ever finished the course, the challengers stop at nothing as they take on a growing number of competitors and an ever-changing set of obstacles.”

Y executive assistant Michele Mitzel notes that Ninja workouts “keep kids active, doing things that excite them — and it’s part of our youth development focus.”

The Y also has youth play days in which they take children all day for a range of activities, including swimming, arts and crafts, outdoor games and sports.

Other Friday-off school days are planned for YMCA Ninja Jan. 3 and March 6. It runs from 9 a.m. to noon and costs $24 for Y members, $30 for others. To add from noon to 3 p.m., it costs $15 for members or $21 for others. The same applies to extend it to 6 p.m.

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.

Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Seven and a half year old Elias Funk conquers ninja challenges at the Ashland YMCA Friday morning.
Andy Atkinson / Ashland Tidings Kids conquer ninja challenges at the Ashland YMCA Friday morning.