Turner Ashby graduate competes on “Ninja Warrior”

For nearly two years, Jordan Halterman has been encouraging her husband, Luke, to apply to be on "American Ninja Warrior."

He had always hesitated to actually submit his application due to fear of publicly embarrassing himself on the obstacle course, but earlier this year he worked up the nerve to submit a video for a different television show. That show has the same casting director as American Ninja Warrior, and the producers wanted Luke Halterman to compete in the Denver qualifier for American Ninja Warrior in May.

When he shared the news with his wife, she was more excited than he was, he said in a phone interview, and it became an easy decision to test his strength against some of the better athletes in the country.

"I couldn't say no to that opportunity," said Halterman, whose third wedding anniversary with Jordan is today. "I was a bit nervous out there. When the lights are on and thousands of people are watching, and then you think about the millions of people who will be watching at home, it's pretty nerve-wracking."

Halterman tried to keep expectations low for his first attempt on a stage this large, debating whether or not to even give himself a Ninja nickname. However, Jordan prodded him to come up with a name, settling on "Ninja Skywalker," a play on his childhood nickname derived from both his name, Luke, and his jumping ability. His entire cheering section wore light blue shirts while watching him compete.

"I honestly don't think I would be doing anything I would be doing nowadays without [my family]," Halterman said. "I need them in my corner. I can't do a race without them and I especially can't do anything Ninja Warrior without them."

Halterman ran cross country and track and field for Turner Ashby growing up in Dayton, and running has always been a major part of his life. In 2011, he saw an ad for a race called Hell Run and decided to attempt it, assuming he would be able to use his endurance to power through the course.

He soon was in for a rude awakening.

"I've always been a runner, [but] I didn't realize how much the obstacles took out of you," Halterman said. "I had my ego put in check pretty quickly."

The American Ninja Warrior course was a completely different animal for Halterman, who only had one month to prepare after he received the casting phone call. Unlike the obstacle course races he had become accustomed to running where Halterman has small breaks of running between obstacles, American Ninja Warrior stacks obstacles in a gauntlet that does not allow competitors much time to recuperate after the last event.

In Halterman's case, the 2008 Turner Ashby graduate succumbed to the Warped Wall during Monday's episode on NBC and did not post a fast enough time to qualify for the next round.

"It was a lot more endurance, it will fatigue you," Halterman said. "Just doing an obstacle followed by another obstacle. You wouldn't think it would take a lot of cardio, but it wears you down. ... In American Ninja Warrior, balance is key; balance is the one obstacle that can throw you off no matter your skill level."

As part of his video application, Halterman discussed how he has grown from his criminal past to lead a good upstanding life in Fort Worth, Texas, where he lives with Jordan and his two kids. At the age of 17, Halterman was placed in a juvenile correctional facility in Verona after getting into trouble in Bridgewater.

He said the time he spent locked up gave him a new perspective on life, one he did not fully understand until he moved to Texas and discovered his passions in life. He decided he wanted to be a personal trainer to combine his love of fitness with his desire to help people, and now works at a rehab clinic — although he is not a physical therapist.

Halterman called the whole experience a big confidence booster and said he has started to accomplish milestones while training in Dallas he never anticipated he would be able to do. Despite appearing on the show this year, Halterman will still need to apply to be on the show again next season, but he's ready for redemption in 2018.

"There's not a doubt in my mind, I'm going to submit a video the second it opens up for next year," Halterman said. "To be able to call myself a ninja and inspire millions of people, it's priceless. There's no words to describe that feeling."

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