They slid, they slopped, they tossed tires with mighty roars.

They are Brown County’s Hillbilly Ninja Warriors, and Aug. 1 — and into the wee hours of Aug. 2 — they dominated the grandstand at the 4-H fairgrounds.

The start was delayed when the sky opened up, drenching the crowd and turning the field into a slurry of mud and muck.

Yet, 121 contestants had paid their entry fee, and they would not be denied their shot.

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Morgan Osborn may be small — she is 8, after all. But as the first contestant of the night, she won the 5-to-8 age group by tearing through the freshly muddied course.

A fan of the television show “American Ninja Warrior,” which inspired the course, Osborn’s eyes were steely as she navigated each obstacle with ease.

This was, quite literally, what she had been training for.

“We practice on playgrounds and local creeks and hills,” said her father, Erick Osborn.

She always gets excited when a woman is running the course on the TV show, he said.

Morgan did not struggle until the very end, slipping more than once as she found her way up over a hay bale capped with a timer button that would end her run.

She stretched out her hand and slapped the button, and her face beamed with joy.

Did she think she would make it to the top of the bale?

“Yeah,” Morgan said, smiling.

Brother and sister Winter Shaver and Tommy Morrill may not have won the 9 to 12 age group, but the real competition for Shaver was her younger brother. “I wanted to try and beat him,” she said.

Morrill’s focus was elsewhere: “I just kind of went for the win,” he said.

The family constructed a course in their backyard. Older brother Sam Morrill took third place that night in the 13 to 15 category.

Dakota Holland, 9, hit the button and turned to the stands, his arms raised in victory. Swaggering down to where his family and friends waited, he was swept up in a hug by his older cousin, Shelby Mayo.

“It was really hard climbin’ up the hay bale, but I did it,” he said.

This was the first event of its kind at the fair.

Brown County wellness committee member Melissa Stinson credited Debbie Schroeder, who works in the courthouse, with originating the idea.

There were a lot of adjustments along the way. The log-hop obstacle on the children’s course had to be tweaked as the event progressed to account for slipperiness and short legs. The rope swing was made more difficult after rain washed away dirt that was intended to give the children a better grip when they landed.

Only about 25 of the eventual 121 contestants signed up before the day of the event. Even as he was still crunching numbers, Brown County Parks and Recreation Director Mark Shields said he was surprised at how well it went.

Various county employees put in time constructing and manning the course, which included a rope swing with a toilet seat attached, tire swing obstacle, hay bales and balance beams.

County IT Director Ric Fox designed and assembled the timing system in his spare time and from his own equipment, basing it on a system he created for downhill skiing.

Surveyor’s office employee Tom Reoch built the salmon ladder at the end of the adult course, adding more rungs than needed in the hope it would challenge people to get in better shape for next year.

“We had a lot more participants than I ever thought we would have, and I think the way it came together — when it was all put together finally — is amazing,” Stinson said.

“I was in awe with what we’ve done.”

Top Hillbilly Ninja Warriors

Top finishers by age group


  1. Morgan Osborn
  2. Cole Write
  3. Keegan Steele


  1. Aidan Norcutt
  2. Brian Cox
  3. Sammy Langston


  1. Dale Phelps
  2. Jacob Shaver
  3. Sam Morrill


  1. Justin Burns
  2. Bryce Nolan
  3. Jake Rucker
Author photo
Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.