Portland's Reeder Smith stars in "American Ninja Warrior Junior"
Reeder Smith started climbing the walls at age 5.
Now 11, he has competed in rock climbing competitions throughout the country and is part of the Multnomah Athletic Club team. He's a veteran of the (indoors) scaling community. Been there, done that — it was time to try something new. Reeder wanted to be a ninja.
In the past couple years, the Sauvie Island resident has been part of the NBC Universal Kids show "American Ninja Warrior Junior," in which competitors tackle intricate, difficult obstacles en route to the finish line. It's a spinoff of the hugely popular NBC show "American Ninja Warrior."
Reeder has advanced to the finals in the current show, which airs at 6 p.m. Friday, June 12. It was taped last summer in Los Angeles, when Reeder was 10 and competed in the 9- to 10-year-old category.
Yep, Portland has a ninja warrior, and he's finishing up sixth grade at Valley Catholic School in Beaverton.
"I made it to the semifinals last year, top 16," Reeder said. "It's really cool that I managed to get this opportunity to compete on 'American Ninja Warrior Junior.' A lot of people want to do it. I challenge myself and push myself to my limits."
Reeder lives with his parents and 10-year-old twin brothers, Colton and Slater, who also compete at ninja gym competitions, as well as compete in gymnastics at Multnomah Athletic Club. Portland's top gyms for ninja types are Skyhook Ninja Fitness in Tigard and Urban Warrior in Milwaukie.
It also helps that the Smiths have an ever-expanding course — monkey bars, salmon ladders, rock walls, etc., in the backyard of the family's property on Sauvie Island.
"We love watching him do something he loves and he's passionate about, and he works really hard," said Thao Smith, Reeder's mother. "We're not ninjas, but our kids love it."
The young Reeder "climbed on everything at home, everywhere. I call him, 'my monkey,'" his mother added. Reeder attended a recreational climbing class, and the coach said he climbed well and wanted him to join the MAC team. Reeder started rock climbing competitively at age 7.
He trains 10 months out of the year, competing locally, regionally and nationally in such places as Seattle, Utah and Georgia.
"I saw a lot of people on the ('Ninja Warrior') show were talented rock climbers," he said. "I thought I could try it out, and be good at it."
The "American Ninja Warrior Junior" obstacle course includes the Shrinking and Floating Steps, the Little Dipper, Spider Wall, Double Tilt Ladders, Crazy Cliffhanger, the Block Run, Flying Squirrel, Wingnuts and Skyhooks.
"It's pretty difficult. Some obstacles are hard on the upper body, some target your lower body," Reeder said.
His favorites are the Little Dipper, "where you have to hold this bar and ride down this moving net and jump to a cargo net," and Flying Squirrel, "where you hang from a set of handles and jump from one to one."
The Block Run "is challenging for me. It's this long beam, and you have to run across these swinging blocks. My balance isn't one of my strengths; I've been working on it, I want to become more balanced," he added.
Reeder wants to continue competing in ninja competitions "as a hobby," and perhaps eventually compete on "American Ninja Warrior" as an adult. He watches "American Ninja Warrior" and dreams big.
"Some of my friends do it recreationally," he said, "but I'm one of the only ones who does it competitively."
Said Thao Smith: "He always talks about that it's his focus in life and he wanted to be on the show — 'Now I'm a kid, and I get to do what I love.'"
For more: universalkids.com/shows/american-ninja-warrior-junior.
Another informative website: ninjaguide.com.
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.