When Erika Schmidt broke her leg and upon recovery promptly dislocated her elbow, all in the cause of gymnastics, she decided it would be wise, or at least safer, if she gave up the sport.

That was three years ago when Schmidt was 15. Now she's injury-free and aiming for her third Montgomery County Diving League (MCDL) All Stars title in the 15-18 age group.

Two years ago as a senior at Walt Whitman High School, Schmidt won the county title and finished second in the Washington Metropolitan Interscholastic Swimming and Diving Championships.

Last year as a freshman on diving scholarship at the University of North Carolina, Schmidt was a finalist in the Atlantic Coast Conference championships, helping her team to the title.

To advance to the NCAA championships, a diver must qualify by his or her zone meet score. Schmidt made the zone meet but failed to qualify for the NCAAs.

Before quitting gymnastics, Schmidt had spent her summers diving since she was 12. But gymnastics was her first love.

"I was still in gymnastics that summer and I didn't want to just quit," she said the other day at Mohican pool, where she is a lifeguard and coach of the diving team she also represents in MCDL competition. "I decided to go to the spring diving session they were having at White Oak and (Mike) Tober (her current U.S. Diving coach) was running it. I just wanted to get ready for the summer.

"After that, I learned three new dives that summer and I went back to him before the (MCDL) All Stars (meet). He encouraged me to get into diving in the winter. I'd been active for so long, I didn't want to just sit around, so I got into the program that fall."

It was Schmidt's performance in the All Stars meet that summer that all but pushed her off the balance beam and onto the diving board.

"I was 15 that summer and won. That was a great summer," she said. "Pam Walker had beaten me in the dual meet and at the divisionals and I beat her by one point in the All Stars. That helped me decide to dive year-round. It was a big victory for me."

"I've been diving well. But my goal is to be a finalist in the pre-qual (top 16). I've come within points of making it before. When I was 15 and won the All Stars, at the time it was a big thing. But looking back, it's not that big anymore."