Moments before Tiana Webberley ‘14 (Kinesiology) took part in her first competition on USA Network’s Team Ninja Warrior, she flashed back to her time as a pole vaulter at California State University, Northridge.
The same strength, athleticism and mental focus it took for Webberley to become a two-time Big West Conference pole vault champion were needed on the big stage as she competed against some of the country’s best athletes.
“My pole vault background at CSUN has really helped me since I started on the show,” Webberley said. “Especially competing in the Big West Championships, I was able to transfer that pressure again to Team Ninja Warrior.”
A spin-off of NBC’s American Ninja Warrior — a show Webberley also has competed on for three seasons — Team Ninja Warrior (renamed American Ninja Warrior: Ninja vs. Ninja in its third season) is a relay-style race where teams of three go through a series of grueling obstacles consisting of rope and ring swings, climbing under nets, and sprinting to, and pulling yourself up, a 14-foot curved wall called the “Warped Wall.”
Webberley, who was named the Big West Freshman of the Year in 2010, finished her first year at CSUN as the school freshman pole vault record holder with a 12-foot, 8¾ inch leap and her senior year ended with a then-school record 13 foot, 3½ jump.
The Palmdale native credited CSUN track and field coaches Bridget and Avery Anderson for helping shape her into the athlete she is today.
“Bridget was my personal pole vault coach, so I spent most of my time with her, but I still learned a ton from Avery as well,” Webberley said. “They truly support each individual athlete and work so hard to give everyone the help and best opportunities both on the track and in the classroom.”
Webberley said her interest in trying out for the Ninja Warrior series started after her dad sent her a video of former contestant Kacy Catanzaro, who gained fame on the show after becoming the first woman to conquer the 14-foot Warped Wall.
“I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do after graduation and knew I wanted to train or compete in something,” Webberley said. “After my dad sent me the video of [Catanzaro] on American Ninja Warrior, I saw how cool that looked.”
Webberley sent American Nina Warrior producers a three-minute video about herself, her background and her training. Soon after, she began training with former show contestant Flip Rodriguez — who became her partner on Team Ninja Warrior.
Webberley first began competing on American Ninja Warrior in 2015, where she finished as the fourth-fastest female in American Ninja Warrior qualifiers but didn’t make it into the top 30 final stage. However, the past two seasons Webberley has made it farther each time. After her first stint, she soon received a call to take part in Team Ninja Warrior, where she joined Rodriguez and JJ Woods to make up Team Ronin.
Besides competing on the show — the trio was one of eight teams to make it to the finals this past July — the team competes in off-show tours, which are streamed live on Facebook with prize money at stake.
Webberley said the classes she took at CSUN also played a role in her day-to-day training.
“As a kinesiology major, I learned how the body moved in my classes and how everything works,” Webberley said. “CSUN was definitely helpful for my training and my routine by making sure I don’t burn out or hurt myself.”
Webberley has found great enjoyment in competing in obstacle course challenges, but she has also started to spread her wings elsewhere.
She’s pushed her body even further in 2017 by being a stuntwoman in movies such as Baywatch, Cat Dexx and Shelter.
“I ended up getting the gig for Baywatch through [Rodriguez] and his trainer while we were out at a [Ninja Warrior] workshop, and the producers of Baywatch said they needed a girl who could do some stunts,” Webberley said. “It’s really adaptable to Ninja Warrior.”
With the seeds planted at CSUN, Webberley’s athletic ability, work ethic and strength should allow her to go down many avenues in the future.
“At the moment, I’m preparing for Ninja Warrior again in February or March and also trying to get more work in the film industry,” Webberley said. “My goal is to have consistent work coming in and do a lot of networking so coordinators can get to know me and hire me for more jobs.”