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NEWBIE NINJA

  • Allyssa Beird, whose parents’ live in Hancock, was the only woman to finish the first phase of the American Ninja Warrior 2017 obstacle course. The episode aired on Monday, Sept. 4 on NBC. Courtesy photo—

  • Allyssa Beird, whose parents live in Hancock, was the only woman to finish the first phase of the American Ninja Warrior 2017 obstacle course. The episode aired Monday on NBC. David Becker/NBC



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, September 07, 2017

Allyssa Beird is a fifth-grade teacher by day and a ninja by night.

      Beird, who lives in Massachusetts, is a contestant on NBC’s American Ninja Warrior’s ninth season. On Monday, the show aired its 13th episode, featuring about 10 ninjas competing in a finals night filmed in Las Vegas. Beird became the second woman in the show’s history to complete all of the obstacles in stage one.

Her parents, Michael and Daria, who recently moved to Hancock, were at the ninja competition in Vegas when Beird added her name to a short list of women who have completed the course.

Michael Beird said he was in “disbelief” when Beird came to the end of the course that night.

“Watching Allyssa hit the buzzer with 8 seconds to spare was incredible, surreal,” Michael Beird said.

Beird said she stumbled into a ninja gym in the summer of 2015 while her sister was visiting. She said they had spent the better part of three days on the couch watching Netflix, and decided “We needed to do something else.”

Beird said she was a gymnast growing up, and from the time she was 3 years old, she “pretty much lived in a gym.” While she was in school she started running cross country, and pole vaulting at the end of high school. In college, Beird said she wasn’t that active. She would run occasionally, but that was all. Some time in 2011, her dad signed her up for the Chicago Marathon, and after that, she competed in a few half marathons.

She said she had always been interested in things like Spartan Races, and said she had watched episodes of American Ninja Warrior on TV, but only casually.

“I was intrigued by it,” Beird said about the show. “I definitely remember watching people fail on some of the obstacles and thinking, ‘That looks so easy, why can’t they just do it?’ ”

Beird said she’s not entirely sure why she ended up in a ninja gym that summer day. But she did, and soon after she was hooked.

She said the first time she went to a ninja gym she failed at every single obstacle.

“That was very humbling and gave me goals going forward,” she said.

She said she has always liked a good challenge and this posed one.

After only a few months of training, her newly found ninja friends encouraged Beird to submit a video and a questionnaire to compete in last year. She made it to the preliminary round in Philadelphia, where she did not qualify for Las Vegas but was chosen as a wild card.

“I was able to get my feet wet,” she said about last year’s competition.

She said that experience helped her this year. She said she felt more confident under the pressure.

In the city finals in Cleveland this year, she did well enough to make it to finals in Las Vegas.

Michael Beird said he was just four weeks out from an open-heart surgery when he went to watch his daughter compete in Vegas.

“Allyssa has been a real inspiration for recovery from my heart surgery,” Michael Beird said.

He said he’s lost about 50 pounds since the surgery and feels like he has “a new lease on life.” Michael Beird is 57; he said his father passed away at 47.

“Words cannot describe the joy I felt to be a part of that experience and to be well enough so soon after my own challenge of recovering from heart surgery, to congratulate her in person,” he said.

Daria Beird said watching her daughter compete in ninja competitions has inspired her too.

“When I first saw the show, I said I definitely want to try that,” Daria Beird said.

Daria Beird said earlier on in her life she was a gymnast and now she works in a barn where the physical labor has kept her in good shape. But she hasn’t worked out for many years.

Then she started watching her daughter compete as a ninja.

“That still looks like fun, I want to do it,” Daria Beird said.

Daria Beird now travels to a ninja gym in Massachusetts once or twice a week. She’s learning how to step across six floating steps, maneuver over a balance slack line, and jump across a swinging bar called the flying squirrel.

“You look at some of the objects and you think, ‘Oh, that’s not so bad,’ ” she said. “And then you try it and you think, ‘Oh, that’s really hard.’ ”

Two weeks ago, Daria Beird competed in her first competition.

She said she plans to piece together footage in coming months with the intention of submitting it to the America Ninja Warrior competition. If the video is selected, Daria Beird thinks, at age 54, that she might be the oldest woman competing.

Allyssa Beird said her ninja lifestyle has also motivated some of her fifth-grade students to stay active.

She said one of her students recently sent her an Instagram message that she had climbed a tree at home. She said others enjoy acting like ninjas on the monkey bars at school.

“I hope they are watching (the show) and that it will inspire them to stay active,” Beird said.

The show airs Monday at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Abby Kessler can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 234 or akessler@ledger-
transcript.com.