'Small town girl' hoping for Olympic gold

Published: Jun. 12, 2012 at 9:34 PM CDT|Updated: Dec. 14, 2014 at 3:26 AM CST
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Earnest training at the Acrospirit facility in Levelland
Earnest training at the Acrospirit facility in Levelland

LEVELLAND, TX (KCBD) - Football is "king" in the towns of West Texas. However, Plains, TX., may soon be put on the global map due to another sport.

Dakota Earnest, 18, is vying to go to the 2012 Olympic Games in trampoline.

"It's kind of weird, but it's also kind of unique," said the second-ranked qualifier in the nation. "It is crazy being from Plains and having a chance to go to the Olympics - everyone always asks me, 'have you made it yet?'"

"They used to not understand so much. But now that it's an Olympic year, and I'm actually up there, and hopefully going to the Olympics, they understand a lot better," said Earnest.

The sport might be easier to grasp for some when Earnest brought back 13 national titles and a silver medal in the Pan American Games. Only one athlete makes the US Olympic team, and there is one qualifying event left to compete.

"Dakota's been one of the easiest athletes I've ever coach, and I've coached 41 years," said her trainer, Sherry Arnwine Mulkey. "Dakota drives from within, she listens to [all of our coaches]...she's our real shot. That's been my dream, my life, to have a kid go to the Olympics."

As with so many other things on the South Plains, even Trampoline can relate back to football.

"[These athletes] can do any sport there is with the discipline and strength we develop in this sport," said Mulkey. "So many of the coaches around here have started to believe in that - we've played a big part in a lot of the football athletes' lives."

For a sport that may be new to most - Trampoline has only been in the Summer Games since 2000 - it has grown quickly on the South Plains. Mulkey and the other coaches at the Acrospirit Tumbling & Trampoline Team have seen four other athletes go through US qualifying; only one made it to the Olympic Games.

Nevertheless, Mulkey acknowledges that Earnest could be West Texas' best shot to bring back a medal.

"I really dream of being on the awards stand and hearing the national anthem," said Earnest. "I'm sure everyone would want to see it, because they wouldn't believe it...a small town girl got a gold."

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