Longmont teen Secorra Heinrichs proves strength, agility on American Ninja Warrior Junior The Denver Post

Secorra Heinrichs grew up watching “American Ninja Warrior.” When show contestants made it to the other side of the obstacle course and smacked a buzzer to signify their win, she dreamed that this would one day be her.

Secorra, a 14-year-old freshman at Silver Creek High School, got to live that dream this year.

Secorra has now been on “American Ninja Warrior” twice — first as part of “American Ninja Warrior Junior” and for a second time for a special edition, in which she competed alongside her sister Anabella Heinrichs, 17, and dad, Shawn Heinrichs, for “American Ninja Warrior Fit Family,” which hasn’t yet aired.

Secorra can be seen competing in the junior edition, starting in episode four of the third season. The episode aired Sept. 23.

Secorra first applied to be on the show in 2018, but didn’t make the cut. Her sister, Anabella, was chosen to compete on the show in 2019, which aired in early 2020.

Secorra applied again in January. This time, she learned she would get to compete in June in Los Angeles.

“I’ve been wanting to be on the show for a very long time, so it felt like a dream come true,” Secorra said. “I was extremely excited, but also a bit nervous.”

Secorra’s family has watched “American Ninja Warrior” alongside her. It inspired her and Anabella to transform their backyard into a homemade obstacle course, using any landscaping materials they could find lying around: ropes, boards and leftover two-by-fours.

“They have a good home gym now, but the first ones were definitely makeshift,” said Secorra’s mom, Danielle Heinrichs.

Danielle said she’s proud of her ninja warrior family and that they’re recognized for doing something they love.

“They hadn’t been in any organized sports before they did ninja,” Heinrichs said. “To walk in the ninja gym and have both your daughters light up — and it’s just like, where has this sport been my whole life? To have both your girls love the same sport and support each other and cheer each other on is kind of cool.”

For the past 4 1/2 years, Secorra has been practicing her ninja warrior skills at the Warrior Playground, 33 S. Pratt Parkway in Longmont, and Ninja Nation, 1700 Coal Creek Drive in Lafayette. She trains for about seven hours a week and competes in state, national and world-level leagues.

One of the major challenges in “American Ninja Warrior” is that contestants don’t know in advance what obstacles they will be facing. Secorra, who is only about 4 feet, 11 inches tall, also faced off against kids who were taller and larger.

The junior edition of the show is a spinoff of “American Ninja Warrior.” Competitors face off in side-by-side racing that involves multiple rounds and triple elimination in each episode. The competition uses a bracket system, and ninja warriors run the same course over and over again.

The obstacle course for “American Ninja Warrior Junior” was filmed outdoors, with temperatures reaching into the 90s.

Nerves buzzing, Secorra said she felt like she was going to pass out at the start line.

“I really felt the pressure of the moment, because I would probably remember that moment for the rest of my life, and whatever I did would go on national television,” Secorra said. “It’s very nerve-wracking, because I wasn’t completely confident that I could do everything, because I second-guessed myself.”

But, Secorra persevered.

Secorra remembers clearly the third obstacle she encountered in that run: It was a series of tilting boards hanging roughly 10 feet in the air over a pool of water that was about 3 feet deep. Players don’t have the security of safety harnesses to catch them if they fall.

“It was very difficult to get through, (but) I completed it in all of my races,” she said.

During the Knockout Round against opponent Jordan Fernandez, Secorra made it through the course and was the first to hit the buzzer on the other side.

“I had always dreamed of hitting the buzzer, seeing everyone do it on the show,” she said. “You hit it, and smoke flies out of it.”

After winning three races, she secured a place in the quarterfinals. The rest viewers will have to find out themselves. People can watch the show on fuboTV or Peacock, as well as streaming services.

Secorra saw the chance to be on the show as a good opportunity to showcase her skills and learn from fellow ninjas.

“Being on set was a very cool experience,” she said. “I got to watch other ninjas go on the course.”

Secorra was chosen to return to the show to compete with her dad and sister at an indoor course in Seattle, Washington, in April.

Being a ninja warrior isn’t easy. It takes endurance, good sportsmanship and an aptitude to keep calm in stressful situations — anxious trembling doesn’t bode well with balancing. There are many things about the sport that resonate with Secorra: One is always encountering a new challenge.

“Soccer, it’s the same thing: running and kicking a ball, but in ninja there’s a wide variety of things you can do,” she said. “You sort of never get bored. There’s always room for improvement and variations.”

Secorra’s other interests fall in the same vein. At 10, she became a certified scuba diver and has been underwater in close proximity to sharks, snakes and sea turtles, in a spot her family visits on an Indonesian island.

In addition to competing in leagues, Secorra said she plans to keep her skills sharp and apply to be on the show again, likely within the next year.

For all those aspiring to be ninja warriors, Secorra said perseverance is key.

“You can do anything you put your mind to as long as you train hard,” Secorra said.

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