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Four Michigan kids to be American Ninja Warrior Junior

Sarah Rahal
The Detroit News

Four athletic kids from Michigan will tackle challenging obstacle courses and compete to take home the title of American Ninja Warrior Junior premiering this weekend. 

Four athletic kids from Michigan compete at the American Ninja Warrior Junior in Los Angeles.

Watch the pair of ambitious siblings Nick Porter, 9, and Riley Porter, 11, from South Lyon compete alongside Grant Snook, 9, Carli Snook, 11, from Dimondale.

Riley, known as Bookworm Ninja, will appear in the first episode premiering Saturday evening on NBC affliate channel called Universal Kids showing off her dedication and skill. 

"I was a little nervous because although I’ve done it before, this took it to a whole new level with cameras and over 1,000 people watching you," said Riley, a sixth-grade student of South Lyon Schools. "Other than ninja, I like reading and play the piano, flute, violin, recorder and tiny ukelele. (Later,) I think I want to be a scientist of some sort."

Riley and Nick Porter, known as Curly Ninja, practice a least twice a week at Iron Grip Ninja Gym in Howell with Grant and Carli Snook. The four were excited to travel to Los Angeles together for the filming, said Lisa Porter.

"We had my daughter's birthday party at this gym in Howell last spring and they were hooked they wanted to live there," said Porter. "After a million questions from casting and submitting videos of them doing their ninja thing and why they should be picked... we flew out in July and had four days of filming for each kid. The course is nothing like they've ever been on. They got to do one run through and that's it."

Nearly 200 boy and girl junior ninjas from across the U.S. will face off on the same head-to-head courses in three age brackets: 9 and 10, 11 and 12, and 13 and 14-year-olds. Each age bracket will be mentored by All-Star Ninja Mentors and three final winners (one per age bracket) will be crowned the first American Ninja Warrior Junior Champions

The other three athletes are expected to appear sometime within the 20-episode first season. 

Jill Snook, the mother of Carli and Grant, said the family was longtime fans of the original adult American Ninja Warrior and once they saw it on social media, they had to apply.

"They got involved about four years ago when their cousin sent a video of himself climbing doorframes and started watching the show," said Snook. "We attended the Rockford Ninja Warrior show and were hooked ever since. When we went to LA the feeling was just 'this is amazing, no mater what we've already won."

Carli, known as Glitter Gun, has great upper body strength and Grant, known as Grant Man, said he likes laches, flying through the air from bar to bar. The pair will be appearing sometime after the first three episodes. 

"I like grip strength and the people who compete at the show, they're really nice," said Carli. "I was so nervous but super excited. I like to do theater and art. Drawing unicorns is my favorite and I want to be an art teacher like my dad."

The course features six obstacles that have been scaled down for the various age groups "with plenty of room for error," according to the show. 

A sneak peak of the course shows challenges including archer steps, tick toc, devil steps (for the 13-14-year-olds), floating tiles, floating shelf grab and the famous warped wall. 

The Warped Wall is 13 feet to the top, and will be completed at that height but the 13-14 year olds. The wall is equipped with two pocket levels which will provide assistance to the other age groups. Ages 9 and 10 have a foot pocket at 10 feet and 11 and 12-year-olds have a pocket at 11.5 feet.

"We're having a watch party Saturday night," said Porter. "It was a blessing because I had another mother to do all this with and it was fun for the kids to have each other and support eachother on the sidelines."

Hosts include Akbar Gbajabiamila, former NFL linebacker and defensive end, Laurie Hernandez, U.S. Olympic gymnast and gold-medalist, and comedian Matt Iseman. 

The episode premieres Saturday at 7 p.m. on Universal Kids right after Top Chef Junior Field Day.

Twitter: @SarahRahal_