What do Keuka College and the television competition “American Ninja Warrior” have in common? Rachel Parker Cornish ’14 M’15 has excelled at both.
Rachel played volleyball for the Wolves and was a competitor on Season 14 of “ANW,” which pits some of the most elite athletes in the country against the world's most difficult obstacle courses. A lifelong athlete, Rachel is now set to return for Season 16. Notorious for its obstacle course, “ANW” forces competitors to push through seemingly impossible tests of strength and endurance on an ever-changing set of challenges.
“I’m a longtime fan of ‘ANW,’ and am impressed with the athletes and their abilities,” said Rachel, an occupational therapy major. “I wanted something like that to push me physically and mentally. So when I discovered a ninja warrior training gym, I was hooked. It’s fun.”
Being in the gym is familiar territory for Rachel. As a volleyball player at Keuka College, her coach had the team under a regular weightlifting and training schedule. Since college, she’s continued her workout regimen near her home in suburban Syracuse.
That’s no surprise to Jon Accardi M’09, Keuka College’s associate vice president and director of athletics.
“Rachel was not only a leader for women’s volleyball, she also competed for our equestrian team,” he recalled. “She turned herself into quite a fitness enthusiast.” Rachel practices using obstacles similar to those on the show so she can be strong and prepared. Her biggest challenge, she said, is that some of the obstacles can be tricky for shorter athletes, like herself.
“I’ve looked up to Kacy Catanzaro, who was the first female to make it up the warped wall and I think she’s shorter than I am. And I'm only five-one,” said Rachel. The warped wall is a curved platform used as the last obstacle in the “ANW” courses.
Before tackling the warped wall, Rachel had to clear a different hurdle: Being accepted for the show. Potential competitors are required to send in online applications containing a three-minute highlight reel and written details of their lives.
“And if the producers like your story, you get the call,” said Rachel, who provides occupational therapy for children from birth to age five when she’s not training. “Even if you’re invited to compete, not everyone makes it on the TV show itself. I didn’t get any airtime last time, but I'm hoping this time I will.”
But with another year of training under her belt, Rachel’s determined to beat whatever obstacles “ANW” may throw in her way. And she will have the entire College behind her.
“One of the things I love most about Keuka College athletics is how much it's about challenging yourself physically and mentally, pushing past your limits, and discovering resilience within you,” said Jon. “Like Rachel, you can see how she’s not only sustained a healthy lifestyle, but taken those habits to the next level! We’re really excited to follow her journey in Season 16!
The exact time slot and airing dates of Season 16 of “American Ninja Warrior” are not yet known. Episodes of Season 15 are expected to begin running sometime this summer.