By JENNIFER HILL • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
ONEONTA – At his halfway point in his run on the “American Ninja Warrior” course, Oneonta native Anthony Eardley paused.
Then, he danced.
“I heard the crowd cheering, ‘Go, Ninja, go!’” he said. “I thought, that’s for me, and I had to.”
Monday night, about 100 people packed Foothills black box theater to watch Eardley take the “American Ninja Warrior” qualifying course in Baltimore, Md.
The episode was filmed in April, and Eardley’s family was all there to cheer him on. The course opened with “Shrinking Platforms,” a series of increasingly-smaller platforms that sink as the competitor crosses, rotating “Hazard Cones” and the night’s deadliest obstacle, “Dangerous Curves,” where he had to use his hands to climb across a series of wooden bars.
Though he cleared most of the course, Anthony missed the last obstacle,a horizontal bar about a 10-foot angled drop from the bar he was clinging to above and plunged into the pool of water below, the Foothills audience groaned, thinking he was out of contention.
“I felt my hands slipping,” Anthony said at a commercial break. “And I thought, ‘Well, here I go.’”
But Anthony’s midpoint dance turned out to be a victory one. He was number 22 of the 32 finalists of that round. The 32 will compete to become the top twelve Ninjas, who will then compete in Las Vegas. TV audiences will not know the top twelve for another four to five weeks.
Before the episode began, Anthony’s family members, friends, and kids milled around him as he posed for pictures with them and signed his autograph.
Michael Tandle, who played Stallion football with Anthony in high school, said when Anthony began doing Ninja courses just two years ago, “the glass slipper had found the foot.”
“He’s perfect for “America Ninja Warrior,” Michael said. “My dad called him the jack rabbit – you couldn’t catch him in football. And he has the personality for it – he becomes friends with everyone.”
One five-year old fan, Camden Hill, as he posed with Anthony and flexed his bicep with him, said he wanted to be a Ninja because of “the muscles.”
Anthony said “American Ninja Warrior” has been “a roller coaster.”
“I’m living my dream, being on it,” he said, “and at the same time, I’m trying to process it and keep focused on doing the courses.”
Anthony, who became a welder after learning the trade at SUNY Delhi, put those skills to work and made a miniature replica of the American Ninja Warrior course, which was on display in the Foothills theater. He showed some of the kids the different obstacles using his replica.
Anthony will be in Oneonta’s July 4 parade, and for those who want to see meet him, visit his family’s tent in Neahwa Park on Thursday July 4, 12- p.m. He will have his course replica on display there and will be demonstrating some of his moves on his homemade course. The Eardleys will also have a collection of refurbished athletic gear and gently used clothing equipment to give away to families who need them.