Alli Ward of Colleyville Covenant admits diving was difficult to learn – she really had to stick with it. But now she loves it.“It was pretty hard – it was difficult to learn how to dive, because there was a little bit of fear of hitting the board, so I would always jump out and not do it right,” said Alli, who will be a sixth-grader in the fall and began diving at age 8.But after nearly three years of competition and a demanding practice schedule, Ward has risen to national ranking for her age group as she competes with the GC Divers.Ward helped the GC Divers club capture its seventh consecutive championship at the Junior West National Diving Championships in San Antonio earlier this spring. She came home with a silver medal in the three-meter high board competition and a bronze in the one-meter board.“You just have to practice a lot, and if you enjoy the sport, you’ll soon learn how to build up your mental abilities and overcome that fear,” Alli said.And practice a lot she has done. During the school year, Alli puts in about two and a half hours daily. Now that school’s out, she’s practicing for about five hours.But she’s also ramping up. Next on her schedule is the USA Diving Junior National Championships in Minneapolis, scheduled in early August.“I’m really excited (about the Nationals) because if I win or get second place, I qualify for Pan Am,” Alli said of the Junior Pan American Championships, which are scheduled for late September in Tucson, Ariz.Despite the sport’s difficulty and the need for tons of practice, Alli said she has loved diving since she started.“I actually was a gymnast (first),” she said. “A couple of my friends were going to go to a diving camp, and they invited me. I had a lot of fun.”Her gymnastics background helped quite a bit, Alli said.“Gymnastics helps a lot with the flexibility, the flipping and the twisting,” she said.While Alli was happy to take home two medals for the GC Divers earlier this year, she enjoys the sport for other reasons, she said.“It felt really good – I had a lot of fun and got to see my friends, and it was just a really good experience at the West Nationals.”Alli said that the environment in which she trains and competes helps make her diving career rewarding.“I love it; it’s so much fun to do,” she said. “It helps to have the right coach and all the great friends to help you and support you.”She’s gotten to see a lot of the country while pursuing her diving career as well. Alli said she has traveled to Tennessee, North Carolina, Nebraska, Georgia and other states for diving.“It’s a lot of fun traveling and meeting new people that you get to compete against,” she said.Her favorite dive is the front-dive pike, also known as a jacknife because of the way the diver doubles over at the top of the jump before stretching forward toward the water.“The dive that I can do but I really want to get good at it is my back two-and-a-half,” Alli said. That’s a dive in which the diver leaves the board facing backwards, flipping two and a half times to enter the water facing the opposite direction.Alli said she enjoys spending time with her family and friends in her precious spare time – and that she’s looking forward to heading back to CCA in the fall, where she’ll be starting her second year of Early Logic School.“I can’t wait to start my new school year and see all my friends again; I’m really excited,” she said.