Mary Beth Dunnichay had plenty in common with her opponents in the 2011 IHSAA State diving competition at the IU Natatorium on Saturday afternoon. All of the competitors were proudly representing a school, many of them will be off to college soon, and all the girls were just excited to be competing at the biggest meet of their prep career.

"It's a lot of fun, because I definitely don't get to dive with people my age a lot," said Dunnichay. "So it's a totally different environment, it's way more laid back and fun. So I liked it a lot."

Of course, the Elwood senior also had some key differences from her opponents.

For instance, none of them probably won a gold medal (a third national title) at the USA Diving Winter National Championships in Iowa City, Iowa the previous Saturday such as Dunnichay had. In fact, they probably weren't silver medalists in the 2009 Diving World Championships in Rome either. And strangely enough, Dunnichay was the only one that had her name painted on the historic Natatorium's walls under "2008 Olympian", where she finished fifth in the 10-meter synchronized event, where at age 15 she was the youngest athlete representing the United States in Beijing.

But all past accomplishments behind her, Dunnichay was just another IHSAA student-athlete on Saturday, a "Panther" rather then an Olympian, one that left a mark in the diving competition that may resonate for a many years to come. Dunnichay dove off the one-meter board like no other athlete in IHSAA history has ever done before, scoring a total of 544.05 points, 39.95 points better then Harrison's Kelci Bryant's 504.10 from 2005.

"It means a lot to be able to come out here to win and set the record," said Dunnichay. "To bring home a State championship for my school, for my community, to do it in front of my friends and family was awesome."

Entering the finals competition Dunnichay already had a commanding 379.85 to 308.55 lead over then second place Katie Taylor from Munster. And with her first of the final three dives, an inward dive with a pike position, Dunnichay wasn't letting up on the competition. The diver's face looked as serious and focused as ever, as if she was competing on a grand national or international stage, and then nailed the dive that had judges scoring anywhere from an 8.5-10.0. Of course, the 8.5 did not receive a very good response from the crowd watching on, but Dunnichay's total for the dive was a 40.50.

"I came out and dove consistency," said Dunnichay. "I hit my dives, and even if I didn't, I went on to the next one, so I was excited."

Dunnichay's second dive of the finals was a forward 2.5 somersault with a twist, receiving straight scores of 8.5 from all the judges except one, who gave the future Purdue Boilermaker a 7.5 for a total of 61.20. But her final dive, a back 1.5 summersault with a twist, was her favorite of them all.

"Just because once I hit the water, I knew it was good," said Dunnichay, who once ranged from a 7.5 to 9.0 on the dive, scoring a 62.50. "I came up and heard everyone cheering, so it was good just to see the final score on the scoreboard. I knew I broke the State record, it was just awesome."

Dunnichay's 544.05 finished well ahead of runner-up Lacey Houser of Danville, who finished with a 438.15 and just above 2009 State champion Katie Bittner of Noblesville, who finished with 437.35.

So like her name is written on the wall in the Natatorium, Mary Beth Dunnichay's name is now in the record books of the IHSAA. Some people have pondered why Dunnichay would enter the competition, considering the dramatic difference in skill level between her and the fellow athletes, but Dunnichay stands by her decision.

"Alot of people have asked me, why would I even want to do that," said Dunnichay. "But it means a lot more to me, and again to do it in front of my friends and family who don't always get to see me dive at my competitions, I think that was one of the main reasons."

But now, Dunnichay gets to be like all the other IHSAA athletes she competed against. She'll get a little break during the winter, finish some homework, take some pop quizzes, and prepare for college next year. Well, and a couple other events.

"I have the Grand Prix in Fort Lauderdale in May, and the World Trials after that. So hopefully Worlds this summer, then Purdue, and hopefully 2012."