Competitive climbing show to feature USC contestants

It began with a post on the USC Climbing Team Facebook group. Two months later they were filming for the reality show Team Ninja Warrior: College Madness.

Antonio Ayala, Noelle Crowley and Julian Olea, all members of the Climbing Team at USC, spent a weekend in August competing for the show, which is set to air Nov. 22 on the Esquire Network.

Though the contestants could not disclose specifics of the obstacle course, Crowley, a junior majoring in environmental studies, described the competition as a relay with two identical obstacle courses for each team consisting of ropes, nets and bar obstacles. According to Olea, a junior majoring in biological sciences, each run took three to four minutes.

Contestants filled out an application online in order to be on the show and sent videos of themselves working out and climbing. Crowley said she “didn’t feel as confident” when she sent in the first half of her application, but was gratified when the show’s producers called her and urged her to submit her application as soon as possible.

“The producers called and personally asked me to be on the show,” Crowley said. “What an incredible opportunity, and I was being personally invited to do it.”

Since the contestants had only a month to train before filming for the competition began, Crowley said she continued climbing as normal, while Olea said he worked out for 15 to 20 hours a week and “tailored his workouts to endurance ones.”

Along with working out on their own, the USC contestants practiced once on an American Ninja Warrior imitation obstacle course owned by Arnold Hernandez, a former contestant on the show.

“It was super cool to be able to test out similar type of obstacles before the show,” Crowley said. “They were challenging, but I’m glad I got to practice there and get some tips from [Hernandez] before we filmed.”

After practicing, the team faced UCLA in late August. Ayala, a sophomore majoring in psychology and journalism, said the schools’ rivalry added to the pressure.

“It was a lot of fun to face UCLA,” Ayala said. “We got to know the UCLA team, and they were some really cool people. We were competitive but friendly, and we bantered back and forth.”

Having the show recorded in Los Angeles added to the USC vs. UCLA pressure; however, Olea said that USC had more people supporting them during filming.

“It was super awesome because we had a lot of USC people coming out to support us in the crowd,” Olea said.

Ayala described the competition as grueling, due to the people rooting them on and the added pressure of being on television, but ultimately enjoyed being on the show.

“It was tiring and stressful to have to do the best we could, but it was truly a great experience,” Ayala said. “The people were my favorite part. Everyone was so open and happy to be there, so we all clicked and had a great time just being there.”

Crowley was proud to serve as a role model for women and was excited for the opportunity to show young women what they are capable of achieving.

“It’s really cool to be a strong inspiration for young women,” Crowley said. “I always hear that girls can’t do pullups, but no, girls can do pullups and have a lot of upper body strength.”

Jona Siegel, a freshman majoring in mechanical engineering who has been watching American Ninja Warrior for four years, said that this new edition is “very exciting.”

“I enjoy watching what people can do in American Ninja Warrior, and it’s really cool they’re doing a collegiate version of it,” Siegel said. “It will be nice to root on the Trojans.”

Though the actual competition was filmed two months ago, Crowley said she plans to have a watch party with her group of friends and Olea said he still gets excited thinking about seeing himself on TV.

“The more I think about it, I get super psyched knowing that it’s coming up,” Olea said.