Though Danielle Hulvey took her first diving lesson she she was 5 years old, the Pickerington High School Central senior didn't begin focusing on the sport until last September when she started working with U.S. Elite Diving Academy instructor Justin Sochor.

Though Danielle Hulvey took her first diving lesson she she was 5 years old, the Pickerington High School Central senior didn't begin focusing on the sport until last September when she started working with U.S. Elite Diving Academy instructor Justin Sochor.

According to Sochor, Hulvey has improved vastly over the last 10 months.

"She's come along fast," he said. "She's made a huge growth mechanics-wise."

Sochor and Hulvey attribute much of her quick growth to her extensive background in gymnastics. She competed in the sport for more than eight years and reached level 10 in club before deciding to give up the sport in May 2007.

"It's helped quite a bit," Hulvey said. "It helps you be a faster flipper or twister and it helps with your body position because you already know how keep your legs straight and your body tight."

Sochor believes divers who have a background in gymnastics have an advantage.

"Coming in as a 16-year-old, (Hulvey) was a little behind in the game, but her gymnastics training made it a little easier to transfer her into a diver," he said. "She came in as a gymnast, so she had strength, speed and flexibility. But we had to turn her from a gymnast to a diver. Over the last six or seven months, she's has gained a lot more control of her mechanics. She has a lot of power and control."

Last February, five months after beginning her training with Sochor, Hulvey became the first member of the Central girls team to qualify for the Division I state meet since Meghan Kroll in 2001. She survived the first two rounds of competition at state and advanced to the final, finishing with 323.75 points to place 16th of 24 behind champion Leanna Hoover (413.95) of Akron Firestone.

Hulvey, who was named Performer of the Year for Central, had advanced to state by placing second (394.95) at the district meet behind Westerville South's Molly Wood (429.6). The top five qualified for state.

Hulvey set a program record for an 11-dive meet by scoring 401.05 points in the OCC-Cardinal Division meet. Her performance earned her a second-place finish.

Hulvey also earned a letter in swimming last season. She swam the 50-yard freestyle, 100 free and 100 breaststroke and on the 200 and 400 relays but is leaning toward concentrating solely on diving in her senior season.

"I'm kind of excited for the high-school season to start up," said Hulvey, who said one of her goals for her senior season is to score consistently higher than 400. "I want to do better than last year. I'm going to try to get higher scores."

As a result of her scores in the OCC-Cardinal and district meets, Hulvey was eligible to compete in the Junior Spring Region 4 Championship held March 21-23 in Louisville, Ky.

All participants must have had an 11-dive score of 372 or better on a 1-meter board -- all high-school meets in Ohio use a 1-meter board -- during the past season.

Hulvey scored 276.95 to place sixth of 25 in the Junior Spring Region 4 meet, earning her the final qualifying spot for the Junior East National Championship held April 25-27 in Rockville, Md. She placed 20th of 30 at the national meet with a score of 289.3.

Hulvey also placed 10th (281.45) of 21 on the 3-meter board at the Junior Spring Region 4 meet. The meet marked the first time in which she had competed on a 3-meter board.

"I used to prefer the 1-meter, but now I like both the same," she said.

Hulvey, who will compete in the AAU Nationals from July 28-Aug. 4 in Coral Springs, Fla., is spending this summer "learning new dives and making sure they're clean." She also is looking at colleges. Among the schools which have shown interest in recruiting her are Miami University, Notre Dame, Indiana, Denison, Cincinnati, Illinois and Kentucky.

"She's going to be a fantastic college diver," Sochor said. "She's going to be 10 steps ahead of most college divers."