Amanda Burke is 24 years old, has 14 body piercings (tongue included) and now she is a first-time national diving champion.
Burke, of Southampton, Pa., won the 2011 AT&T women's 1-meter springboard title Thursday night at the Spieker Aquatics Center on UCLA's campus.
Though the 1-meter isn't an Olympic event, Burke is hoping the confidence she gained will be a positive push forward to her performance in the 3-meter competition that begins Friday.
"I won something," Burke said after scoring 270.10 points and edging Erin Mertz, who finished second with 270.00. "I don't even feel like I won, but now I feel really confident."
Samantha Pickens was third with 264.05 and 16-year-old Kassidy Cook, who has won five junior national titles and 2010 world junior championships on the 1-meter and 3-meter events, finished fourth.
Amy Cozad of Indianapolis and Amy Korthauer of Naperville, Ill., won the women's platform synchronized event with 295.92 points. Sisters Haley and Victoria Ishimatsu of Seal Beach finished third, behind Jessica Parratto of Dover, N.H., and Anna James of Midland, Texas.
Burke broke her right leg doing a dive in 2001. She needed four surgeries and was told she might not be able to get back into the sport, so winning her first national championship was special.
"Now I have the feeling I can do something. I can do five dives really well. I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing," Burke said.
Cook, who competed in the recent world championships in Shanghai and made it into the finals with partner Christina Loukas in the 3-meter synchronized event, said she was content with her performance Thursday night.
"I missed my front 21/2 in finals, I usually do 20 points higher," Cook said. "Just coming back from worlds to a national event, there's nowhere to go but down, it seems like. But I'm so pumped for the next year."
Cook, who lives in the Woodlands, Texas, is going to start focusing on the Olympics by cutting back to two classes in person in high school next year and taking two classes online.
"I'm so ready for the Olympic year," she said.
Cook said that the biggest thing she took from competing at the world championships was watching fellow American David Boudia win a silver medal in the men's platform.
"That was really a good confidence-booster for the whole team," Cook said. "We've been coming so close and to finally get a medal, everbody's pretty excited."
Cook said she learned about technique from watching the Chinese and even learned some Chinese phrases, including hello, goodbye and some others that aren't fit for print. Winning is something she had already learned about.