Honesdale woman to compete on ‘American Ninja Warrior’
HONESDALE, PA — Most moms struggle to find the balance between work and home life. But for Jessica Lee Ebert that balance also includes finding the time to become the next American Ninja Warrior. Ebert, a Honesdale native, auditioned and was accepted to be on the ninth season of NBC’s hit television show “American Ninja Warrior.”
If you’re not familiar with the phenomenon, contestants compete to finish an obstacle course in the fastest time—that is, if they even make it past the first obstacle. Each one is incredibly difficult and grueling, and some seem virtually impossible to accomplish. They require strength, stamina and balance, and even some of the most seasoned athletes don’t make it to the end.
“My family has been a huge fan of the show,” Ebert said. She and her husband, Jeremy, have three boys: Shane, 11, Jackson, 3, and their new baby boy Killian. “I’ve always watched it thinking, ‘I can do that,’” she said. “It got my adrenaline going.” After the birth of her third son, she decided to hit the gym and get her body back. On her 32nd birthday, just seven months ago, she signed up for a class at CrossFit Honesdale at the Garage. “It was ridiculously hard but super gratifying,” she said of the class. Now she goes six times a week, sometimes twice a day.
CrossFit is a form of exercise that focuses on strength and conditioning and incorporates Olympic weight lifting, gymnastics and more. Ebert has a background in gymnastics, so that, along with strength, makes her well suited for the American Ninja Warrior obstacles. She said she is not adding any special training to be on the show, just continuing her workout program and working with trainers at both her CrossFit gym and a gym outside Philadelphia that is affiliated with the show.
To be selected for the show, she had to submit a two- to three-minute video explaining who she is and showcasing her physical abilities, as well as to fill out an application, which she said took three hours. She applied in January and in the beginning of April heard from the producers that she had been chosen. For this season, 77,000 people applied. Ebert will travel to Cleveland in May to compete. There are six regional locations, and the top 15 finishers from each city’s finals move on to compete in the national finals. The show will premiere on June 12.
Ebert works as the broadcast traffic manager at Bold Gold Media, where she also has an on-air shift on Saturday morning and helps with billing and other tasks.
“It’s a balance,” Ebert said of fitting in work, gym and family time. “But my kids come first.” She said her family has been really supportive; and they will be going with her, along with many other family members, to Cleveland to watch her compete.
Is she nervous about going on live television in front of a huge audience? Well, not really. Ebert explained that she is used to being in front of a crowd and that part doesn’t really scare her. “The hardest part I’ve already done,” she said, “which is getting the producers to notice me.” Now, all she can do is train hard and prepare herself. “The obstacles are up to me,” she said. Some of the obstacles are notoriously challenging, and her husband surprised her by building two of them at their home. The “warped wall” is a 14.5-foot curved wall that you must run to the top of, and on the “salmon ladder” you must hang on to a bar and move it to the next rung.
To date only two competitors, rock-climbers Isaac Caldiero and Geoff Britten, have won the course and achieved “Total Victory.” It is less common for women who compete on the show to move on to higher levels. Jessie Graff, a television stunt woman, achieved fame in 2016 by becoming the first woman ever to complete Stage One of the Las Vegas Finals course.
Family, friends and members of the community will cheer Ebert on her journey. They threw a fundraising party to help with the costs of travel at The View Saloon in Equinunk. “The blessing of being from a small town is people really rally behind you,” Ebert said. “I’m super thankful for all of the support.”