PASS CHRISTIAN, MS (WLOX) - At the Brook-Lin Center for Gymnastics, you'll run into Gracie, a dog that loves to fetch and leap into the gym's foam pit. While it's fun for her, it also includes a challenge of trying to jump out of the soft cubes on her first try.
One of Gracie's biggest fans is Brittany Atchison, who is a senior at Biloxi High School and just signed an athletic and academic scholarship with Seattle Pacific University. That accomplishment was due in large part to practicing for six of seven days per week during her last year of high school.
"It does get hard at times missing some high school events like football, baseball and soccer games with all your friends," Atchison said. "I actually missed senior prom for my state meet, but my state meet was definitely important to me. You have to make sacrifices."
While Atchison enjoys sinking into the foam cubes that lay below the uneven bars in which she practices, one of her biggest challenges this year was not climbing out from the pit like Gracie, but climbing back from a serious injury that was initially thought to only keep her out of action for one to two weeks.
It turned into five months of missed competition.
"It's called a tenosynovitis of the wrist and the elbow," said Terry Dalton, who opened the Brook-Lin Center for Gymnastics in 2003 with business partner Cynthia Dedeaux. "A couple of not so good injections prolonged the healing process for that. She was out much longer than anyone anticipated. As far as training goes, she was out for eight months of competitive training. She still had skills she needed to learn to make herself marketable to schools."
However, Atchison battled back. The 17-year-old was once invisible to all universities, but after winning all her events at the state meet -- the one that she skipped prom for -- Seattle Pacific, and other schools like the University of New Hampshire, and the Air Force Academy came calling.
"She was the kid that kept plugging away and focused on her dream," Dalton said. "She was willing to do what she needed to do to get those skills."
Atchison also had opportunities to walk-on at the University of Michigan or Ohio State University, but chose to become a Seattle Pacific Falcon in order to receive financial support.
When Atchison isn't improving her skills, she's assisting others as a coach at the Brook-Lin Center for Gymnastics.
"It's definitely fun for me to give them some advice and tell them how I started," Atchison said. "If you push through, you can really go far and where you want to be."