Chad Riddle's kindergarten students have a countdown every morning during "calendar time."
It's not for the last day of school, but instead for the number of days until Riddle leaves for Miami to compete in a television show on NBC.
"My kids are so excited about it," Riddle said, who teaches at Manheim Elementary School in the South Western School District.
Riddle, 24, leaves Wednesday for Miami, where he will take part in a regional competition for the sixth season of the show "American Ninja Warrior."
The competitor has trained for the past two years to qualify, often creating his own obstacles and keeping up a rock-climbing regimen to boost his chances of completing the course.
Obstacle course: The show pits competitors against an obstacle course that requires training in speed, agility, and grip strength, among other factors.
Riddle is a fan of a Japanese show "Sasuke," the basis for the American show. Riddle said he likes the idea that the conflict is with the course, not other contestants.
"It's not about me versus someone else," he said. "It's about me bettering myself."
Riddle added the "immense" camaraderie between athletes on the show is another reason he has enjoyed watching past seasons and looks forward to participating.
Prep work: Riddle repurposed 2-by-4 lumber, railings and other items to practice balance, and gave up most of his Easter holiday to train on mock courses with a few friends.
"I've been walking on anything and everything I can find," Riddle said.
Riddle's overall goal is to reach the show's final round in Las Vegas, but he has to be one of the people to make it out of the qualifying rounds by completing the regional obstacle course. After six seasons, there has yet to be a person to conquer the final course in Las Vegas, Mount Midoriyama, and win a $500,000 prize.
For the qualifying round, Riddle said he plans to take his time. The five qualifiers taking place around the country are more about completing the course instead of racing against a clock. Riddle said the national competition becomes more about speed, but he's taking it one step at a time.
"The goal has always been to qualify and to get to Vegas," he said. "At the same time, I'm always kind of focused on keeping my eyes on the first obstacle I'll see."
"American Ninja Warrior" will premiere Monday, May 26.
— Reach Nikelle Snader at firstname.lastname@example.org.