The life of 12-year-old Brianna Thornton did not start well, but now the Copperas Cove Junior High seventh-grader is a champion.

When she was 2, her father, a soldier, was killed in Iraq. In an effort to keep her family from spiraling into depression, Rebecca Thornton enrolled her daughter, Brianna, in classes at GymKix in Copperas Cove.

“GymKix has kept us normal. My husband was my soul mate. When he was taken away, everything was taken away,” Rebecca Thornton said. “He never got to see Brianna do cheer or gymnastics.”

After a decade of commitment to cheerleading and gymnastics, Brianna fulfilled her dream of winning a national championship at the National Cheerleading Association’s world competition.

“The big thing that inspired me to go for a national championship was when I attended NCA competition three years ago,” she said. “It’s huge and is the biggest competition in the world. It’s breathtaking.”

Brianna won the national championship as a member of a 10-15 member team in the Senior I level which requires the ability to execute front walk-overs, back walk-overs, cartwheels, and round-offs. Brianna is actually a Level II competitor which also requires back-handsprings, so she easily performed the techniques required in the Level I competition and won the coveted national championship Cheerpower jacket.

“It’s a real sense of accomplishment. I feel like a celebrity that just won a Grammy,” Brianna said. “It is just amazing to know that I finally made it and it inspires me to do more.”

Mo Vasquez, GymKix’s Cheer Program Director, has worked with Brianna since she first stepped into the facility a decade ago.

“A lot of it has to do with our instant connection. Without that athlete/coach connection, it’s hard to keep an athlete interested. We have both pushed each other to be our best,” Vasquez said. “She is one of the most hard working kids I know. This is coming from a coach who has worked with top athletes in the industry.”

Brianna trains and competes 15-20 hours a week and also works as a junior staff member at GymKix. She plans to compete throughout high school and college and return to GymKix to become a full-time instructor.

“To watch her go from a 2-year-old trying to do a ‘froggy roll’ to now coaching other 2-year-olds to do it makes everything we have sacrificed worth it,” Rebecca Thornton said.

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