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Rowe to compete on American Ninja Warrior

By Heather Graves

DE PERE – Meet Megan Rowe – the “Axe Throwing Ninja.”

The nickname may sound peculiar to some, but the 25-year-old Rowe said it fits her to a T.

An avid rock climber, hobby axe thrower and two-time competitor on the NBC show American Ninja Warrior (ANW), the Minnesota transplant is no stranger to hard work.

“I think ninja and rock climbing have taught me to just enjoy the process of trying new things and reaching new goals,” she said. “It also takes a lot of hard work, but knowing that each time, even if you fall, you’re learning from the process, is so important. Even pro ninjas fall, sometimes on the show.”

When Rowe started ninja training just a few years ago, she never imagined it would turn into the passion it has become.

In fact, when she began training, she said she had no intention of competing on the show.

However, as she trained and her love for the sport grew, it seemed like the next step.

Rowe was introduced to the ninja world by her boyfriend, Dalton Knapp, an ANW competitor from Suamico.

“Before doing ninja, I was mostly a rock climber,” she said. “Through rock climbing, I met my boyfriend, Dalton Knapp, who introduced me to American Ninja Warrior. Dalton and his brother, Drew, had been training for the show since they were kids and had a course in their backyard that I did ninja on for the first time. I applied to the show the next year during my senior year of college and got on.”

After graduating from college, Rowe moved to Green Bay and started training full-time at Warrior Jungle in De Pere, which opened in 2019.

American Ninja Warrior is a televised competition where athletes are challenged in balance, strength and agility as they make their way through a course of obstacles.

Competitors with the fastest times move forward, eventually making it to the finals.

The rules are quite strict when it comes to pre-competition.

Ninjas are not allowed to touch or try any obstacles until they compete, and aren’t even able to see the course until the day of the competition.

Rowe’s dedication to the sport was immediate – starting when she skipped her college graduation to compete in the 2019 qualifier in Tacoma, Washington.

“I got the call during the end of my senior year of college (in 2019) and found out that it filmed the same day as graduation,” she said. “I decided it was worth it to miss my graduation to walk across a different stage and take my shot on the course.”

A newbie to the sport, Rowe held her own, placing sixth for females in the region, narrowly missing the semifinals.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the limited number of competitors invited to participate in Season 12, just coming off her rookie season, Rowe was not invited to compete in 2020.

The gap year, however, gave Rowe even more time to train.

“Because of that, I had much more time to train and get ready for this season, season 13, where I did get the call to compete in Tacoma, Washington again,” she said.

With her rookie appearance in Season 11, Rowe said she was just getting her feet wet.

“Being a rookie on the show, I was just so grateful to be there and was taking it all in,” Rowe said. “Being on set for the first time is so crazy, seeing the course and the lights and knowing you’ll be on those obstacles in a short amount of time. As a rookie, I was just taking it one obstacle at a time – just enjoying every moment and obstacle I could complete.”

This year, however, Rowe is aiming higher.

“This year I was in a different mindset, having gotten over the first year I knew what to expect and was ready to get on the course and hit a buzzer,” she said. “I’d been training so hard in my gap year from the show and was in my best ninja shape I’ve ever been in.”

Rowe competed in several rock climbing competitions around Wisconsin during her sophomore to senior years in college through the Wisconsin Indoor Climbing Series.

“I have three siblings who are also avid rock climbers, and my younger brother and I built our own course in our back yard in Rochester,” she said.

She also started axe throwing in college through a friend who was in a lumberjack company in Stillwater, Minnesota.

“Since then I have collected a few different sizes and shapes of axes, as well as have had a few different targets through the years,” she said.

“For the show, I brought my axes with me as I traveled to bring them onto the stage before I ran the course. So my axes have traveled a lot with me through college and now American Ninja Warrior.”

This is a tradition Rowe plans to continue – sparking her competition nickname.

She now has four axes in her collection.

“My newest, and biggest, one is named Tiny,” she said.

Rowe’s talents don’t end on the ninja course or with axe throwing.

Add artist to the list as well.

“I have always really been into art, even as a kid,” she said. “So in my free time, I tend to be doing something along those lines. Recently, I started making earrings that look like ninja obstacles, and have even created some that look like miniature versions of my axes. I have also gotten into juggling, which resulted in me making my own one-of-a-kind set of juggling balls.”

Rowe graduated from the University of Minnesota-Duluth with a degree in graphic design.

She currently works as the marketing and graphic designer for Urban Battlefield in De Pere, coaches at Warrior Jungle and is a barista at The Exchange Coffee and Mercantile in De Pere.

As far as encouraging others to take up ninja training?

Rowe’s recommendation – “just try it.”

“Ninja is such an amazing sport, as there is always something you’ll be able to do when you walk into the gym,” she said. “Even on the show, you see what different strengths each ninja has, whether it be grip strength or their ability to do balance/agility obstacles so gracefully. The amazing thing about the sport is there’s always some new obstacle to try and always something more to work for.”

Rowe takes on the massive course in the July 12 episode.

“The ninja community is just so amazing and unique, compared to a lot of other sports,” she said. “At the end of the day, we are all cheering on and rooting for each other to finish the obstacles, even if they get farther than us. It’s just one big welcoming family to everyone, rookies, pros and all in between.”

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