Itís quite possible the most successful young athlete in Stephenville has never donned shoulder pads or a helmet, laced up his sneakers for a high school basketball game or swung a bat in baseball.

Dillon Auvenshine is an athlete of a different breed, but in terms of success, he's arguably the best around.

Auvenshine, 17, is one step away from reaching the 2009 world championships in gymnastics. Qualifying for the event in Saint Petersburg, Russia would complete a journey the Stephenville High School senior-to-be began when he was seven years old.

He has previously competed in all three phases of tumbling gymnastics - floor, double-mini and trampoline - but is now focusing solely on his floor routines because he believes that is his best bet at reaching the international event.

After placing in the top six at various levels in seven straight national junior olympics, Auvenshine won Texas junior elite gold at the state meet in March and followed that up with a regional championship in April. He then reached the required difficulty rating in competition in Arkansas May 8-10 to qualify for the USA Gymnastics 2009 Visa Championships Aug. 12-15 at American Airlines Center in Dallas.

"That's going to be really cool," Auvenshine said of performing at American Airlines Center, which is home to the NBA's Dallas Mavericks and the NHL's Dallas Stars. "All the Olympians are going to be there and it's close so some of the hometown people can come and watch."

He will also be competing in the World Finals Selections in Las Vegas in September. Dallas and Las Vegas are the last two opportunities for gymnasts to qualify for the world finals.

"I dream about it all the time," Auvenshine said of potentially reaching the world games. "I just can't imagine being there."

What he can't imagine today could become reality in the very near future. First, however, there's one major obstacle to overcome. Auvenshine, who trains and coaches at Texas Twisters Gymnasium, sprained his right ankle last Tuesday displaying skills for younger competitors.

"I came down on it kind of awkward and I walked on it at first, but then it started to hurt really bad and it swelled up. I'm probably going to miss a month to a month and a half," he said.

Doctors told Auvenshine it would take the majority of the summer to heal, but he says he is hoping to be back on both feet in plenty of time to prepare for the Visa Championships.

"(Texas Twisters coach Lisa Lively) counted out 11 weeks until (the Visa Championships). I'm hoping to be back in six. We're going to have to work hard almost every day to get ready," he said.

Lively says she is confident Auvenshine will be ready by August.

"It shouldn't be too bad," she said. "He can already do everything in his passes. He just needs to learn to tumble out of a double back tuck. We'll probably be working out about six hours a day when he gets back."

Lively says she's never had a competitor reach this level.

"Most coaches never have someone reach the level Dillon is at now," she said. "It's huge. I consider it one of the biggest honors of my life just getting to be part of his success. He's such a hard worker and a great kid. He's the easiest kid to coach I've ever been around and he deserves everything he gets."

For Auvenshine, the journey through gymnastics' various levels of competition began in Dublin at Valerie's Gym, then took him to train under James Chapman, then to a gym in Springtown and finally to Texas Twisters in Stephenville.

"I started coming to (Texas Twisters) just to get extra work in on their open fun nights," he says. "Then I started training here full time and got a job coaching here, too."

That was in June of 2007, and since that time, Auvenshine and Lively have developed a strong bond.

"Brenna Tatum and I have been his main coaches since he came here, and we have a great relationship with him. He and I have kind of a brother-sister type of relationship," said Lively. "We all work great together and he's done so well. We're very proud of him."

Auvenshine has more than his tumbling skills to be proud of. He is also ranked fourth in his class of more than 200 and is hoping to attend Houston's Rice University to begin studying to become a surgeon.

At SHS, Auvenshine also competes in cross country and track. He used to play soccer as well, but as a freshman decided he should focus on two sports.

"I wanted to pick two sports so I could focus hard on them and give them my very best," Auvenshine said. "Tumbling is my favorite, and even though I like soccer, I like running even more."

Auvenshine says he has definitely earned a label at school.

"Everybody just knows me as the kid that can tumble," he said. "I'm even going to be the mascot next year, and they ordered a special new head (to the mascot uniform) so I can tumble."

The kid who can tumble may now be just one step away from being known worldwide.