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Vacaville teen competing on new season of American Ninja Warrior Junior

Joaquin Rayford, 15, trained for three years leading up to his appearance on the second season of American Ninja Warrior Junior

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Vacaville native Joaquin Rayford makes reaching the top of a 16-foot warped wall look easy. The 15-year-old has been training at Stone Core Ninja Fitness, an American Ninja Warrior-style gym in Vacaville, for almost four years.

"The ninja gym... This is where he feels most successful when in other areas of his life it's pretty challenging," Joaquin's mom, Jayme Desormier, explained "Day to day things could be pretty challenging for him."

That's because Joaquin is living with dyslexia, which, admittedly, makes communication a little difficult for him. But competition? That's where Joaquin shines.

His years of training at his favorite gym culminated last summer in Downtown Los Angeles when he competed on American Ninja Warrior Junior.

The show, in its second season, features junior ninjas from across the United States facing off on head-to-head courses alongside season one reigning champions and fan favorites in three age brackets: 9 & 10, 11 & 12, and 13 & 14.

Credit: Eddy Chen/Universal Kids
AMERICAN NINJA WARRIOR JUNIOR -- Age Group 13-14 Qualifying -- Pictured: (l-r) -- (Photo by: Eddy Chen/Universal Kids)

"Being on the course that's just where he excels," Desormier said. "It's just a natural gift."

Rayford competed against three other 13- and 14-year-olds from across the country. He said the most challenging part of the experience was the interview process.

"I ended up training for three years before I was picked," Rayford said. "I may have looked very serious on the show but I was having a great time. It was thrilling! Very, very thrilling."

Rayford took to the obstacle course like a fish to water. Before COVID-19 he was close to achieving his goal of reaching the top of a 20-foot warped wall — a challenging feat even for adults. 

He couldn't share any spoilers about this new season of the American Ninja Warrior Junior, but you can catch the debut on Universal Kids every Friday at 3 p.m. PST.

Three final winners (one per age bracket) will be crowned American Ninja Warrior Junior Champions on June 12.

Follow the conversation with Lina Washington on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. You can e-mail Lina at LWashington@abc10.com.

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