WILSON, N.C. – Barton College is adding acrobatics and tumbling as the College’s 24th intercollegiate sport, President Dr. Douglas N. Searcy and Director of Athletics Todd Wilkinson have announced.

Former Baylor University Acro and Tumbling National Champion Alexis Florence Fowlkes has been named the inaugural head coach. Barton College will welcome the first acrobatics and tumbling team members to campus in the Fall of 2023. The Bulldogs’ first competition will occur in early 2024.

"Barton College Division of Athletics continues to find ways to create opportunities for female students attending our great college," said Director of Athletics Todd Wilkinson. "The momentum for Acro and Tumbling across the nation and Conference Carolinas makes this sport addition a great fit."

Acrobatics & Tumbling, an NCAA Emerging Sport for women, competes during the spring athletic season. It will become Barton’s 12th NCAA sponsored sport for women. Acro is governed nationally by the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association (NCATA).

"We are excited to continue to enhance our college by adding the emerging sport of acrobatics & tumbling," Wilkinson said. "At the same time, we’re looking forward to working with the NCATA to grow the sport and expand opportunities nationwide."

"First and foremost, I’d like to thank God for blessing me with this opportunity to become a head coach, said Fowlkes. "Thank you to all the outstanding people who have been there for me throughout my athletic career and who will continue to support me throughout this next endeavor of mine. I’d also like to thank the Barton athletic staff as well for seeing me and the potential I have to bring this inaugural team to greatness inside and outside the classroom."

"I am excited to get to Wilson and share with the community the sport of Acrobatics and Tumbling," said Fowlkes. "I want to continue the rich culture that is already in place at Barton College by recruiting student-athletes that are academically and athletically motivated to be successful. This sport offers young women with a variety of athletic backgrounds such as acrobatic gymnastics, cheer, gymnastics, and many others an opportunity to continue competing at the collegiate level. I am overjoyed to have this sport come to Barton! Go Bulldogs!"

Fowlkes lettered four years on the Baylor University Acrobatics and Tumbling Team (2017-21) where she was part of four straight NCATA National Championship Teams. Fowlkes, a native of Fresno, Calif., won individual event national championships as part of the six-element acro heat, inversion pyramid heat, 450 salto toss heat, and synchronized toss heat.

"Alexis knows what a championship team looks like for Acro and Tumbling," added Wilkinson. "Baylor University sets the standard and her experience in the program will be valuable as we build our Acro brand. Barton feels fortunate to attract a young and dynamic coach to make history on our campus."

Acrobatics & tumbling is the evolution of different forms of gymnastics. The sport involves tumbling, tosses, acrobatic lifts, and pyramids. Young women are primarily recruited from the various disciplines of gymnastics and cheerleading to participate in acrobatics & tumbling, as well as multi-sport athletes, divers, and weightlifters. The Bulldogs will become the 50th collegiate program nationwide to add acrobatics & tumbling.

"The NCATA is excited to share the news of Barton College adding the 50th NCAA Acrobatics & Tumbling program," said Janell Cook, the Executive Director of the NCATA. "We are thankful for Barton’s administration, and the team at Conference Carolinas, for investing in new opportunities that will allow women training in gymnastics and cheerleading to compete at the varsity collegiate level. Barton will strengthen the conference line-up and provide additional competitive opportunities for other NCATA members in the southeast region."

"Fifty NCAA programs sponsoring Acrobatics & Tumbling at the varsity level is another major milestone for everyone working to grow the sport and to deliver high quality experiences for student-athletes," added Cook. "Acrobatics & tumbling continues to gain momentum as we move forward in the process of becoming an NCAA Championship sport. We’re grateful for this community and excited about the future of Acrobatics & Tumbling."

The first NCATA National Championships took place in 2011 at the University of Oregon. Championships are held annually in April on an NCATA member campus. The sport is governed as a team sport at the youth level by USA Gymnastics.