For Sydney and Dylan Yee, the dream was always the same: to appear on American Ninja Warrior Junior, the kids’ version of the popular American Ninja Warrior TV show, on which athletes race on an obstacle course with the goal of pushing the buzzer as they cross the finish line. When their dreams finally came true earlier this year, they enjoyed every minute of it.
For months, the brother and sister team wasn’t allowed to talk about how far they advanced.
Now that their episodes have aired (you can stream them on NBC Universal’s Peacock app or website), Sydney, from Troop 7332, and Dylan, a member of Troop 332, both in Columbus, Ohio, can finally share what it was like.
“I was super, super excited,” says Dylan. “It was my dream. We put in a lot of hard work to get in.”
(One important note: Ninja Warrior-type activities and parkour are prohibited within Scouting. Dylan and Sydney participate in this sport on their own.)
If at first you don’t succeed …
The Yees actually applied to appear on ANW Jr. last year but weren’t accepted. Instead of giving up, they decided to work even harder.
The family belongs to Movement Lab Ohio, which specializes in Ninja Warrior, parkour and obstacle course racing. There, they have the opportunity to train with Michelle Warnky Buurma, who appeared on seven seasons of American Ninja Warrior.
The application process is rather extensive and includes submitting photos and videos of the athletes in action.
Dylan was the first to get the call that he had been accepted.
“When I found out I was going to be on, too, I was so excited to be on the show with my brother,” Sydney says.
All that was left was to make a road trip to Los Angeles. And to keep things quiet in the meantime.
“You can’t tell anyone that you’re on it or anything,” Sydney says.
… try, try, try again.
One thing that’s neat about ANW and ANW Jr. is that both shows take time to let viewers get to know the athletes — usually with an interview and video footage showing them participating in other activities.
Dylan appeared on Season 3, Episode 2, titled Junior Qualifier 2, competing in the 11-12 age group. When it was Dylan’s turn to compete, the hosts took the time to talk a little about his background.
One segment focused on Dylan’s melodica, an instrument that’s part harmonica, part keyboard. They even showed footage of him playing it while wearing his Scout uniform.
As the video played, Dylan explained, “I think the melodica is so interesting, because you play it like a piano but blow into it like a trumpet. It used to be my mom’s when she was living in Hong Kong. It was given to her by her mom. It’s like my good luck charm.”
Then came the competition.
The Happy Ninja
The hosts noted that Dylan, nicknamed Happy Ninja because of his positive attitude and overall happy demeanor, competes while wearing sunglasses. (Dylan confessed to us that those are his regular prescription glasses that transition to sunglasses in bright light.)
“How cool is Dylan Yee with his sunglasses?” one host said.
In his first run, Dylan took the lead over his opponent by scorching through the Lunatic Ledges obstacle. When he won the race and pushed the buzzer, the camera cut to a quick shot of Sydney — along with their mom, Christina, and dad, Ken, cheering like crazy.
“It was an amazing feeling,” Dylan says. “First I got on the show, then I got to run the course and now I got to hit the buzzer.”
Once again, Dylan took the lead on Lunatic Ledges. But this time, he misread a jump later in the course and fell into the water, ending his run.
Fittingly, Dylan’s time on the show ended with him showing a lot of Scout spirit by cheering on Molly, who finished her run and got to push the buzzer at the end.
“I felt a little sad for myself, but at the same time I really wanted her to finish the course,” Dylan says. “I didn’t want to have any negative thoughts.”
Dylan ended up earning the “wild card” for the fastest time in the bracket. That meant he got to appear in an additional episode, where he hit two more buzzers.
Sydney appeared on Season 3, Episode 7, titled Junior Qualifier 7, competing in the 13-14 age bracket.
As Sydney prepared to make her run, the announcers noted that she “was one of the first girls to join her [Scouts BSA] group and had no problem showing the boys who’s boss.”
As they showed video of both Yee siblings working on their knot-tying skills while wearing their Scout uniforms, the host notes, “Especially her brother Dylan, who competed earlier this season.”
The hosts really got into the BSA references as Sydney began her run down the course.
“Sydney followed the Scout motto and was prepared for anything,” said one host as Sydney progressed past an obstacle.
As Sydney breezed through an obstacle called Sideways, named because the competitor has to turn their body to the side to make it through, one of the hosts joked, “Somebody better get this girl her Sideways merit badge!”
Sydney ended up taking a spill on an obstacle called Spinball Wizard, which means she didn’t get to push the buzzer this time around.
On her second run, Sydney went up against an ANW Jr. veteran.
Sydney and her opponent were neck and neck for much of the race, prompting one of the show’s hosts to say, “This is a battle!” Sydney’s worthy opponent ended up finishing first, but in these races, you can keep going as long as you don’t fall off one of the obstacles.
“Sydney Yee is not giving up!” the announcer said.
She finished the course and pushed the buzzer, and the dreams of both Yee siblings had officially come true.
“That was the best experience ever,” Sydney says. “I had seen people hit the buzzer on the show before. I thought, ‘I want to do that.’”
Sydney was featured in an additional episode of the show as one of the most promising members of the next generation of ninjas for fans to keep their eyes on.
Last month, both Yee siblings participated in the Federation of International Ninja Athletics world championships. Dylan finished fourth in the 11-and-under Round of Champions male category, while Sydney finished fifth in the 13-and-under Round of Champions female bracket.
Both say that Scouting helps them succeed in their ninja activities.
“[Scouts BSA] is like, ‘Be Prepared,’” Sydney says. “That translates over to ninja. There are always new obstacles. You have to Be Prepared for any obstacle that comes your way.”