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Is Monroe native an 'American Ninja Warrior'?
Monroe native Dakota Phillips transitions from one challenge to a rope wall during his "American Ninja Warrior" qualifying run April 24 in Kansas City, Missouri. At 21, Phillips achieved his dream of competing to be on the NBC show. (Photo supplied)
MONROE - "American Ninja Warrior" is a television competition filled with moving metal bars, ropes and steep ramps for contestants to maneuver while mostly swinging 12 feet above a pool of water they cannot touch.

Popular in its last eight seasons on NBC, it began as a Japanese competition called Sasuke. Monroe native Dakota Phillips knew he wanted to be a part of the contest even as he watched the early iteration, understanding little but what he could grasp from quick-moving subtitles on the screen.

Now 21, he has realized his dream. On April 24, the soon-to-be University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, and took part in a qualifying round for the ninth season of "American Ninja Warrior." He was selected to compete in a qualifying round out of roughly 77,000 applicants.

When Phillips received the call, he paused a moment to read the number. As soon as he recognized the Los Angeles area code, Phillips said he could hardly speak as he answered the phone.

"It was pretty exciting," Phillips said. "I was lucky to be one of the 125 to go to Kansas City."

Despite the exhilaration, Phillips will not know how much the competition thought of his abilities until his trial airs after the new season of the show premieres June 12.

"I won't know for sure if they air me until I actually see myself on TV," Phillips said.

A major in health and human science, Phillips chose to pursue training for some of the best conditioned people in the country when it comes to core and upperbody strength. He even hopes to open a gym in the future that caters to "American Ninja Warrior" contenders.

An internship with Tremayne Dortch at Beast Body Fitness in Houston, Texas, aided his plan. Dortch competed in six seasons of the show. The gym focuses on ninja warrior training. Dortch was alongside Phillips as he waited roughly six hours for his turn at the course.

Phillips, a former Monroe High School track and field athlete, had plenty of support in the stands as well. His mother, Connie, and father, Aaron, were there with his three younger sisters. In all, 20 people were present to cheer him on, wearing yellow in support.

"I think we were all holding our breath, some of us were crying," Connie Phillips said. "It's amazing to see your child living out their dream."

Aaron and Connie previously owned a gym. Aaron now serves as CEO of the Green County Family YMCA. He believes that because Dakota grew up around an athletic environment, he was predisposed toward a life of fitness.

"He's always enjoyed training and competing in things like this," Aaron Phillips said.

In preparation for his time in the competition, Phillips trained using a variety of fitness exercises. Lifting heavy weights builds strength, but it does little to help one balance on inflated spheres across a 6-foot path with nothing below but water.

"I work out almost every day anyway," Phillips said, noting exercises can take one to three hours of his day. "The hardest part was working up to it. You have to be prepared for anything."

Other activities included a mock-up of a popular challenge in which the contestant must hold on to a steel bar and jump upward to reach new notches on either side of two wooded frames in order to make it to the top and reach a new bar. Phillips also trained by perfecting the handstand and spent significant time doing pull-up exercises or walking on gymnastic rings.

Even having now gone through it, Phillips said the experience still feels slightly unreal.

Aaron and Connie both expressed pride for their son's accomplishments.

"Obviously it was very intense to see our son, who has worked hard for something for so long, reach his dream," Aaron said. "That was incredible. He's a good kid, he makes good choices. It was nice seeing good things happen to good people."