Dakota Yount lives in Ozark and trains in Nixa. And of the 5-million athletes in the United States who participate in gymnastics, she's now considered one of the top 48 gymnasts in the country at her level by virtue of qualifying for this prestigious event.
Dakota qualified for the championships by finishing in the top 12 of a seven state regional at her level of ability, which is level 9 on a 1-10 scale..
"Level 1 is for the raw beginner," explained Dwan Parkyn, one of Dakota's coaches. "By the time you're up to level 9, you're talking about a lot of athleticism and a lot of attention to detail. The goal is to get a college scholarship out of this."
"A lot of good gymnasts don't make it that far," adds Jessie Boling, another of Dakota's coaches.
Dakota started in the sport at age three and has spent a large part of her life in the gym. She currently works out six-days-a-week, four-hours-a-day, in a world where dedication, discipline, and patience are required skills.
"A lot of times we're laying groundwork for skills two years ahead of when we want to compete," Parkyn said.
And the sacrifices-financial, physical, and mental-make the possibility of leading a normal life.. Impossible.
"The further they go the more time it takes," Boling said. "Dakota's made a lot of sacrifices to get where she is now. Whether it's missing school events or time with friends. But there comes a time when you have to decide if it's worth putting in the work for."
"I think there's a time in every gymnasts life when you burn out," Dakota added. "Even though I'm home-schooled, I have friends (in public schools) and I miss out on football games and things like that. But it's worth it."
Dakota says it's worth it because the sport has changed her as a person. More self-motivated and more self-confident.
"It can be really scary," she said of the routines she does.
"This sport is all about fear," Parkyn adds. "If you're going to flip on a four-inch beam, there's a lot of fear involved."
"You misstep with one foot and you can be out for the season," Boling said.
"That's why once you do it, you feel so proud of yourself," Dakota explains.
And she does have a bright future. At age 15, she's already on the verge of getting her high school GED, and by next year she plans on taking college courses on-line. By the time she's 18, she's hoping to get a scholarship offer to continue her gymnastic career at either the University of Arkansas or the University of Missouri.