From the moment she got into gymnastics at age 6, Diandra Milliner knew it was the sport for her.
"I just loved it," she said. "Being able to do tricks and stuff, it was fun. And it let me show off. I like showing off sometimes."
Through the years, that is something she has been able to do countless times across the country. Milliner, a three-time national champion and a Maize High junior, has parlayed her favorite hobby into a head-turning talent that will soon take her to college.
At the USA Gymnastics national championships last week in Dallas, she took first place in both the Level 10 vault and floor exercise competitions. Her performance on the vault earned a near-perfect 9.95.
Her coach, Mark Folger, has no problem saying she is the greatest gymnast he has ever tutored.
"I would go as far as to say she is probably the best gymnast to ever come out of the Wichita area," Folger said. "The success she has had in the past few years is unmatched."
Milliner's achievements are impossible to ignore. College coaches from all over sent recruitment letters, and many came to Folger's gym to see her in person.
After some deliberation, she orally committed to powerhouse Alabama, because of its tradition and her relationship with its coaches. She plans on graduating from high school in December so she can join the Crimson Tide in January.
Though it will be difficult for her to say goodbye to her friends a semester early, she is excited to begin her college career. Her goals are already high.
"I really hope to get to the NCAA nationals as a team," she said. "Hopefully we can win a team title. I've always wanted to win an all-around title or individual event title, too."
Folger believes all three are attainable. With Milliner's mix of experience and power, she could be good enough to compete immediately.
Her power long ago helped her standout at the vault and on the floor. When she soars into the air, she climbs higher and travels further than nearly all of her competitors.
After practicing her craft four hours a day, five times a week, for the majority of her life, she has learned how to maximize her time in the air.
"She's extremely powerful," Folger said. "That's come with practice over the years. The skill level has always been there, but the strength and power has always improved. But the best thing about Diandra is she's always made steady progress. From the day she came to us to now, she's spent every day improving."
Milliner has also spent every day having fun. While many friends gave up on gymnastics over the years to focus on other things, she kept a good balance between practice and free time.
Folger said she spent the month before nationals talking more about going to prom than the big meet.
"She's a pretty happy-go-lucky kid," Folger said. "She likes what most girls like. Her time is limited, but she manages to do both."
Milliner loves the combination.
"I've had to give up a lot to go to practice every day and commit like I have," Milliner said. "But it's been worth it."