0

Hall of fame: Wesleyan diver making mark in athletic family

It takes quite an effort to stand out athletically in the Hall family, which is no secret to Lauren Hall.

Her cousins are current Air Force running back Chad Hall, former Florida State cheerleader Jenny Hall, and Kelly Hall, a key guard on Wesleyan's state championship basketball team. Two of her other cousins, Merritt and Megan Hall, are standouts at the Norcross private school in football and soccer, respectively. Her sister Erin also plays for Wesleyan's powerful basketball program.

So keeping up with the other Halls may be tough, but Lauren has found a way.

"It's easy," the 12-year-old said. "I'm the first one in diving."

So it's safe to say no Hall wants to challenge her off the diving board. In fact, very few divers in her age group can top her.

The Wesleyan seventh-grader heads to the Indiana University Natatorium this week as one of the nation's best 13-and-under divers at the Speedo Junior National Diving Championships, USA Diving's premier junior event. She qualified for the meet in two events, placing high in the 3-meter springboard and platform at this year's Junior Summer East Championships.

Only 25 divers in her age group qualified for the prestigious competition.

"I want to place in the top 12 (at nationals), that's my goal," Hall said.

"Making the finals (at nationals) is a big deal, which is basically the top 12," said Grant Segal, program director of Atlanta Diving, where Hall trains. "She's got a really good chance at finals in the 3-meter springboard. For her to get to nationals is a huge, huge deal when you back up a few weeks ago and there were more than 1,000 kids in her age group going for (nationals). Now there are 25."

Hall's summer is even more extraordinary considering her focus on competitive diving is a relatively new commitment.

Like all of the Halls, she manages multiple sports. She is an accomplished cheerleader and basketball player. She also plays tennis and plans to run track next season.

Segal said he saw the potential for a top-notch diver in Hall as far back as five years ago when she was a recreational competitor on her summer league team. He noticed her talents - as a "fly" in cheerleading she was accustomed to flips and turns - but also her positive attitude.

The other sports still interest Hall, but she made the decision last year to commit the bulk of her year-round training time to diving.

"Lauren's a great athlete and she does a little bit of everything," Segal said. "She's good at everything she does so getting her to commit more time to one sport was a chore.

"But as she leaves for nationals as one of the top 25 in the country in her age group, I think she realizes she made a good decision."

Not that she plans to give up the other sports entirely.

She plans to be a cheerleader for Wesleyan in the fall, play basketball in the winter and run track in the spring. All the while she will continue her diving programs at Atlanta Diving.

The other sports are still fun for her, but she said she likes the thrill of diving.

"The higher, the scarier, the more twists and turns, the better for her," said Donna Hall, Lauren's mother.

"She has no fear."

That was evident at the Summer East Championships. She placed third in the 3-meter springboard with a score of 235.45, but also stepped up on a higher level with an 11th-place finish on the platform.

Her first practice on platform was just two weeks before the Summer East competition, yet she still managed to qualify for nationals.

"At first I was nervous, but when I (dove off the platform) once, it was kind of fun," Hall said. "It's scarier (than the 1-meter and 3-meter springboards) but it's not bad. The hard part is you have to have a lot of control."

It also takes natural athletic ability, something she shares with the other Halls. Although her chosen sport may be different from the rest of the family, her future is as promising as any of them.

"Lauren has a lot of potential, very much so," Segal said. "She's only been competing seriously for around two years and she just turned 12. She's already top 25 in the nation in 13-and-under and she's got another whole year in that age group. So I'd say she's definitely got a bright future."