“My favorite parts were having fun and hitting the buzzer,” said Pate, a fourth-grader at Rock Quarry Elementary School.
Over the three days while he was in Los Angeles competing, Pate got to hit the buzzer – the final requirement to complete the physically demanding obstacle course – multiple times. Despite having only one practice round, he made it all the way to the quarter-finals.
Prior to American Ninja Warrior Junior, the nine-year-old Pate competed in four competitions in the southeast, qualifying for a World's final competition this past summer. Because of scheduling conflicts, Pate chose to compete on ANW Junior, rather than in the World’s finals. He started training a little over a year ago and began competing in ninja obstacle course competitions just last February through a national ninja league.
“Luke’s confidence in himself has really built up and improved,” said Heather Pate, Luke’s mom. “He really enjoys it – it isn’t work to him.”
Pate trains at Tumbling Tides with Coach Casey Suchocki. Pate got started in the national ninja league on Suchocki’s recommendation. Suchocki, an ANW competitor himself, has made it to the Las Vegas Finals twice. Ninja training and competitions seem to fall right into Pate’s wheelhouse.
“He has no fear,” said Shane Pate, Luke’s dad. “He is not afraid to push himself and go for it.” “He has dabbled in everything, but this is his thing,” added Heather.
“I really enjoyed meeting all the people and the other legendary ninjas,” Pate said.
The competition brought in well-known ANW ninjas as mentors for the junior ninjas. Pate’s favorite was Najee Richardson, a top ninja from Philadelphia who is using his success on the show as an opportunity to do motivational speaking and to mentor kids – both in gyms and in schools.
Pate, who adopted the moniker the Crimson Ninja as a tribute to his favorite college football team, also received some special one-on-one training from Tuscaloosa celebrity Big Al. Pate dreams of one day being the life behind the University of Alabama mascot. He got some pointers from the dynamic character at training camp – tips to help him connect with the crowd at his competitions.
American Ninja Warrior Junior requires competitors to race against each other simultaneously, which is a little different than the original competition, where participants compete solo. For the ANW Jr. competition, two ninjas attack identical side-by-side courses, racing to complete the course first to advance to the next round. Pate competed in the 9-10-year-old division. He had only ever practiced the warped wall obstacle before his practice round in LA. Pate’s foot slipped on the Tic Toc obstacle in the Final Showdown, sending his competitor on to the semifinals. That isn’t going to slow Pate down.
“I’ll do my best to compete again. I’m stronger than ever. Next time I’ll train harder and do better.”
And to any aspiring ninjas out there, Pate has a message.
“Believe in yourself, and don’t be afraid to go for it. Just do it!”