Three Syracuse University students have been selected as recipients of the Voyager Scholarship: the Obama-Chesky Scholarship for Public Service, a new award for juniors committed to public service funded by the Obama Foundation. The recipients are: Ka’ai Imaikalani I ’24…
‘American Ninja Warrior’ Contestant Among Incoming Freshman Class
Incoming freshman Jay Lewis comes to Syracuse University from Cheshire, Connecticut, and he just might be a familiar face to those who watch the hit NBC program “American Ninja Warrior.” On the show, contestants are put through a rigorous obstacle course, and Lewis says his decision to come to the University was partially driven by a cool feature found in the Barnes Center at The Arch: the giant climbing rock wall.
Recently, Lewis sat down with us to discuss his decision to attend Syracuse University and what it’s been like to appear on network TV.
01Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I was born in Vermont, however I moved to Cheshire, Connecticut, when I was 2 years old and have lived there for the past 16 years. I live with my older brother, Mike, my parents and our black lab, Dakota. Throughout my childhood, I was very involved in sports and always loved playing outside. The main sports I played were soccer and basketball and I did those until I stopped when I was 12 to focus all my time and energy toward “American Ninja Warrior” training. I still love playing sports like basketball and football for fun, as well as watching them on TV. I’m a big Chicago Bulls and New York Giants fan, and enjoy following the National Basketball Association (NBA) and National Football League (NFL) as a whole.
02Why did you decide to attend Syracuse University?
I decided to come to Syracuse for a number of reasons. For one, Syracuse has incredible academics and I know that it will set me up for success in the future. Their sports teams are also always competitive and I love having teams to root for. The location is also great for me as it is a drivable distance from home, while still being a new environment. Another factor that played a big role is that Syracuse has two ninja warrior training gyms right in town, as well as a rock climbing wall on campus and a climbing gym just a few minutes away. I definitely plan to continue to train and compete on “American Ninja Warrior” for as long as I can, and going to SU will allow me to do that.
03How did you become a contestant on "American Ninja Warrior?"
It’s been a dream come true being able to compete on “American Ninja Warrior” the past two years. I started doing ninja warrior training back in 2015 when I was 11 years old. I had been watching the show on TV for a few years with my family, and we decided to see if there were any gyms for it in our area. Luckily enough, a ninja warrior-specific gym had just opened up a few months prior in Hamden, Connecticut (Hamden Ninja Academy), so my brother and I started taking classes there.
I was invited to join the gym’s competitive team after doing classes for a few months, and started competing in local competitions in 2016. I kept training the next couple of years and was invited to compete on the first season of “American Ninja Warrior Junior” in 2018 when I was 14 years old. It was an amazing experience. I did pretty well and was able to make the semifinals. I really amped up my training after this, as I was determined to reach the next level.
In February 2020, I was invited to compete on season 12 of “American Ninja Warrior,” as the show had decided to lower its age limit from 19 to 15, and invited a small group of the top teenage competitors. I flew out to Los Angeles to compete on the show in March 2020, but the day before I was supposed to compete, the production shut down due to the [COVID-19] pandemic. They did end up filming the season in the summer of 2020, but without the teen competitors due to COVID restrictions.
However, the following year, I was invited to compete on the show, and was able to do pretty well. I cleared the qualifying and semifinal courses, plus I was able to get the fastest time in my semifinal episode. This meant I got to race on the Power Tower, which is a head-to-head race against the top two fastest ninjas. Although I went out earlier than I had wanted to, the whole experience was truly amazing and I was (and still am) so grateful for the opportunity to compete on the show. Going into this season, I was determined to get redemption and so far it’s gone very well.
04As an incoming student, we always like to ask, "how to you plan to make your impact in the world?"
I want to make my mark on the world by trying to be the best role model for the kids watching “American Ninja Warrior” that I can be. The show has given me a platform that I could have never imagined having before, and I want to use that platform to spread kindness and inspire people to follow their dreams.