Ninja Warrior Jordan Carr Raises the Bar

On most days if you see a ninja warrior charging in your general direction brandishing a long object that looks a lot like a jousting knight's lance, you worry. But this is not most days. It's a Friday and the Flying Circus Summer Festival in Warwick NY is in full swing. Easton CT's Jordan Carr is making an attack on the pole vault bar set at 9-2, and all is fine.

A month before as a freshman at Joel Barlow HS, Carr made some history as only the second frosh to win the silver medal in the pole vault at the CIAC Open state championship, the first instance occurring at the inaugural Open PV competition for the girls back in 2002. In an event usually dominated by leather-palmed veterans, Carr cleared 11-6 at the Open, a remarkable height for a freshman (US #13 for frosh) who began vaulting only two months before. And later on that night, Carr was in Manhattan to celebrate still another stunning achievement.

Generally acknowledged as the most challenging of track and field events, pole vaulting requires a mixture of strength, speed, agility, focus, adaptability, and maybe most importantly, a warrior spirit. That last element comes naturally to Carr, who began competing in the American Ninja Warrior Jr. series in 2020 as a 13-year-old. A reality entertainment series on NBC based on the Japanese show Sasuke, ANW confronts selected entrants with a gauntlet of difficult obstacles sporting ominous sounding names such as the Shrinking Steps, Ultimate Cliffhanger, Iron Summit, Warped Wall, Grim Sweeper, Razor Beams, or even Psycho Chainsaw.

Track and field aficionados will contend that a PV attempt made on a cold showery early April morning in swirling winds on a pit featuring rusted standards and potholed pads is a match for anything the ANW engineers can dream up. But still, viewing the available clips of Carr's performances on ANW can only leave you with a colossally dropped jaw.

A semifinalist in ANW Jr. in 2021, Carr took advantage of a recent change in the show's rules to allow contestants as young as 15 to compete in the senior version of ANW. She then upped her training routines to prepare her for the standard ANW's longer and more difficult obstacles. Last spring down in San Antonio TX, she became the youngest athlete to qualify for the ANW finals, and on June 6 on the night after the CIAC Open, Carr was in an ANW party studio in NYC celebrating the premiere viewing of the show's new season and the clip of her qualifying performance for what she calls "an adult playground."

Clambering up walls at a very early age, Carr's first big foray into high-level athletic competitions began when she was around 8-years-old on the rock-climbing stage. She competed in numerous events all over the region and at 12 became a member of the Team USA Speed Climbing squad and also placed high in Sport Climbing events that featured scaling tall walls while attached to a safety rope.

Packing a lot of savvy in her climbing, Carr also became a training instructor at an early age. Meeting up with ANW star and CT resident Joe Moravsky, she got turned on to the ninja warrior experience and gave up rock climbing around the same time that the pandemic curtailed a lot of activities. She quickly progressed to become one of the top young ANW contestants in the country under another ANW legend, Coach Flip Rodriguez.

Prep work for ANW takes a huge amount of rigorous training time on specialized apparatus that can only be found in a few gyms. Carr regularly travels about an hour and a half from Easton to the New York Ninja Academy appropriately located in the Hell's Kitchen section of Manhattan. She not only trains there but also works as an instructor herself.

Just as pole vaulters never know exactly what issues the weather, field facilities, their poles, and balky muscles and joints will throw at them during a meet, ANW competitors have to be ready for anything. Although they have a general idea of the range of obstacles that the ANW show will design for them when they turn up to compete, there are constant tweaks and new additions and the contestants are not allowed to test them out beforehand, gathering all their info from watching a demonstrator do a run through. A lot of improvisation is needed, and as Carr notes, she has to use muscle memory to attack the ANW challenges and for new ones, "relating them to obstacles you have done before that have similar movements."

Turning to PV at Joel Barlow HS, Carr noted some similarities between the T&F event and ANW. "It's definitely a huge mental aspect," she says. "Everything is constantly changing," during a PV competition from opening height to that final, almost always failed attempt. "You have to adjust."

As a minor in the ANW competitions that are filmed in through-the-night sessions, Carr at least has the advantage of not having to run through the obstacles at say 2:00 AM, a time that is also generally not part of high school PV except for maybe some early-season meets at the NY Armory. Her training schedule is intense, "Track practice from 2:30 to 5:30, then 6:00 to 7:30 we're at strength and conditioning, 7:45 to 9:00 we're at Ninja. That's my schedule." Somewhere in there, a dinner must be fit in.

A relative newcomer to PV, Carr admits to being a bit green to some of the thousand or so technical elements of the event, which can come up to bite you when you get the heat and tricky winds for the New Balance Outdoor Nationals freshman PV event, where she finished 9th, a week after a 6th place at the New England championship. But only constant repetition gives you the experience to push the bar ever higher, and this past week she was at PV camp in PA with CT champ Ellison Weiner of Weston soaking up everything she can learn to improve her game.

This year's ANW action was filmed already, though Carr cannot reveal in advance what happened after her qualification routine. For the next few years, we're pretty sure that she will be making ANW announcers yell, "Now we're just a few moments away from doing what no teenage girl has ever done before. History in the making." And the CT MileSplit film crew will likely be chiming in with the same line in a different place.