Karen Potts continues American Ninja Warrior ascent


Photo courtesy of Karen Potts

Senior Karen Potts competes in Las Vegas in the American Ninja Warrior finals this summer.

While the school knows senior Karen Potts as the shortstop in softball or a starter on the varsity soccer team, the rest of the world knows her as Ninja KJP. 

She started with her time on American Ninja Warrior Junior and continued onto the flagship show watched by millions weekly. Potts has been training to perform on American Ninja Warrior Junior since 2019. Her season was filmed in 2019 and finally aired a year later in May of 2020. Karen’s training and journey on the season took her far enough to make the national finals in Las Vegas. which aired on Aug. 15. The obstacle course consisted of swinging from moving monkey bars and crossing over a big pool with only handholds big enough for fingertips. 

Natural athleticism was not enough for Potts to advance as far as she did. In the two months she had to prepare, Potts trained at mock courses in ninja gyms to build up specific skill sets for the courses. She focused on building her upper body ability, balance, and pull strength. Training for competition was especially difficult for Potts as she didn’t know which obstacles would be on which course. None of the ninjas were able to see their course until the day of the race.  

All eyes were on Potts, but  she put aside her nerves and was able to find enjoyment on the course. “Waiting in line for my run in qualifiers and walking up to the start platform to see the course for the first time was the most nerve wracking experience,” Potts said. 

This attitude brought her through qualifiers and eventually to semi-finals, which she recounts as being her proudest performance. “I was so shaky, but once I got through the first obstacle, the rest of the course was just fun,” Potts said. 

Suddenly the playing field was elevated for Potts and she had to compete against ninjas with much more experience than herself. “It was my first time competing overnight and against ninjas that I have looked up to for years,” Potts said. 

Not only was Potts able to make finals, she finished first out of all the women in American Ninja Warrior. “I went there just hoping to qualify for finals in Vegas,” Potts said. 

While Potts competed in Las Vegas, close friends from school hosted a watch party that was  featured on national television. Senior Zara Okudo, longtime friend and teammate of Potts, was seated front row in her Ninja KJP shirt during the watch party. “It was so amazing to see Karen go so far, we are all so proud of her,” Okudo said. 

She has been following the journey and supporting her friend the whole way through. 

Also a part of the watch party was senior Hope Safai.“It was so cool watching her live. I know how hard she’d been training to get to that point, and I was so happy I got to be a part of her journey,” Safai said. 

Now that the season has ended, Potts shared that she will continue her training through the fall and into the winter where she will compete in other local ninja leagues and competitions. She will apply for the show again in the Spring and if she gets the call back, she plans on returning and striving to do even better than the last season.

“My biggest takeaway from this experience has been learning how to really push myself through the challenges, and still have fun.” Potts said.