Written by Alyssa Langer | Photo by Craig Schreiner
When residents from area nursing homes visited the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater for an on-campus day on April 11, Warhawk students entertained them by performing feats of physical strength, endurance and flexibility.
Dakota Phillips outlasted them all.
His handstand looked effortless, from his impeccable form to the huge smile across his face.
Although, he may have had an unfair advantage. Phillips, a physical education major from Monroe, Wisconsin, is about to fulfill a dream many years in the making. On April 24-25, he will compete in Kansas City, Missouri, on NBC's "American Ninja Warrior."
In the show, people compete by attempting increasingly challenging obstacles that involve high levels of athleticism and focus. If a competitor completes every level, they win the grand prize of $1,000,000 and the title of "American Ninja Warrior."
"Coming to college, you had all of the speakers come in and tell you that you can be whatever you wanted to be and I wanted to be a ninja," said Phillips, who, as a child, was an avid fan of the Japanese version of the show "Sasuke," before the U.S. version launched. "I was watching the show where they had the English subtitles before I could even read the subtitles."
Initially, Phillips came to UW-Whitewater to pursue a degree in business, but his passion would soon evolve to include physical education.
"I've always loved helping others and someday I would like to open up my own ninja warrior training gym," said Phillips.
To be considered for the show, Phillips had to send in an audition video and he recruited fellow Warhawks to help. Physical education major William Breault served as cameraman. Media arts and game development major Gabrielle Alexander edited the video. Alumnus Nate Smith provided some acting talent.
On campus, Phillips is an engaged student leader and serves as a Wells West resident assistant.
He found a mentor in lecturer in psychology Clifford O'Beirne, who founded the Nursing Home Visitation Program. Since 1975, UW-Whitewater students in NHVP have visited nursing homes and assisted living centers each week to spend time with residents, who, in turn, visit campus from time to time.
Phillips is head coordinator of the program, and has earned deep respect from O'Beirne.
"When you look for the good in people, you can find it, and there are so many good people who don't get the publicity, but there are so many students doing good things and it's uplifting," said O'Beirne. "Dakota is an understated kind of a guy. He can lead the group when it's appropriate, but he is not the kind of guy to toot his own horn. Students like him and the residents, of course, love him."
Phillips' performance on "American Ninja Warrior" is expected to air on NBC in early August.
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