Blake Devine didn't want any obstacles to get in his way.
That's why the 22-year-old Gonzales man upped his workout when NBC's "American Ninja Warrior" called in February.
He had about a month to train before heading to San Antonio, Texas, in March to compete on the ninth season of the TV reality competition series. On the show, the "warriors" attempt to run, jump, climb, push and pull their way through a course featuring six balance and body strength challenges. Slip and fall into the water below the course and you're done. And the contestants are being timed, as well. The courses vary from episode to episode, with last week's having the athletes maneuver through floating steps, a cannonball drop, flywheels, a block run and a battering ram, ending with a run-and-jump at the warped wall.
"I built a pull-up bar in my backyard, so when I'd get home from work I could go straight to working out," Devine said. "And I would go to NOLA Muscle Park (in New Orleans) to train obstacles because that's kind of a one-of-a-kind workout. And I rode a road bike a lot along Lake Pontchartrain just to get my stamina up, different things like that."
Devine is an electrician's apprentice with MMR Group and attends River Parishes Community College where he's majoring in instrumentation.
The news he made the Ninja team came after a lengthy application process, with many questions about his life, childhood, athletic background, plus a video interview.
"This year, there were like 77,000 applications, so I know I was really lucky to get selected," Devine said, adding that only 100 or so athletes from each of six regions of the country were selected. City qualifying and city finals rounds like the ones in Texas also took place in Daytona Beach, Florida; Kansas City, Kansas; Cleveland, Ohio; and Denver, Colorado. The Los Angeles rounds aired last week for the show's season premiere. The national finals, happening on the Las Vegas Strip, will air in September. There, the finalists will face an even-more-difficult, four-stage course. In eight seasons, only one competitor has taken the $1 million grand prize.
From those competing in San Antonio, only about 20-30 will actually be aired on the show, Devine explained.
"If you watched it last week, you know it's a lot of people with stories, different kinds of stories they like to show. It's not really dependent on how they did (on the obstacle course)," Devine said. "Some of the people you see may fall on the first or second obstacle, then they show more of their story."
Among last week's featured athletes were a cancer survivor, a man with alopecia who helps children cope with the hair condition, and a former Olympian. In the nighttime crowd were family and friends cheering them on.
Accompanying Devine and wearing "No Doubt Devine" T-shirts were his mom, younger brother, his girlfriend and her mother.
"They help build your spirit, absolutely," Devine said.
The Braithwaite native, who's also previously lived in the New Orleans area, is one of six Louisiana contestants this season. Longtime friend Cass Clausen, 25, of Belle Chasse, is making his fourth appearance on "ANW." He joins newbies Chris Cambre, 30, of Metairie; Willie Williams, of Opelousas; Sarah Marse, 23, of Baton Rouge; and second-timer Micah Patout, 25, of Loreauville.
Here's more on them:
- High school P.E. teacher
- Competitor in seasons 6, 7, 8
- Workouts include obstacle training at NOLA Muscle Park, weight lifting, rock climbing, parkour and basic gymnastics
- "My experience on the show was life-changing. It has helped me realize the greater potential I have to better myself along with loved ones around me, as well as the youth in my community."
- Works at a family fishing store
- Has been training and competing for about a year at NOLA Muscle Park
- Trains about three or four days a week
- "I definitely had a great time (on 'ANW') and it totally exceeded all expectations."
- Information for the Opelousas athlete was unavailable as of presstime
- Senior at Waldorf University Online
- Supervisor at Chick-fil-A
- Started training a year ago and first competition was October 2016
- Training includes ninja obstacles, body weight exercises, running and gymnastics
- "Competing was more amazing than I ever imagined. I'm so thankful to be a part of the ninja community and have gotten the opportunity to compete on the show."
- Crawfish farmer and soil conservation technician for the Natural Resources Conservation Service
- Competed on Season 8 last year in Oklahoma City
- Most training gets done on the job, such as lifting crawfish traps
- Athletic background includes high school baseball, college cheerleading at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, triathlete, martial arts and tumbling coach
- "My experience on 'Ninja Warrior' has been an incredibly eye-opening opportunity. There's nothing more motivating, supportive and humbling than being a part of the ninja community."