Growing up in Salt Lake City, Fumina Kobayashi was introduced to gymnastics as a youngster because she had too much energy and her parents desperately wanted to give her an outlet other than having her bound around the house.
The beginning of her gymnastics career sounds like a similar one to many gymnasts in Utah. What makes her uncommon though is she earned a college scholarship, to Utah of all places.
Kobayashi, like teammates Mary Beth Lofgren and Hailee Hansen, are gymnasts who defied the odds and were good enough to make the cut and earn spots as members of Utah's gymnastics team.
Lofgren has a scholarship while the other two walked onto the team.
The Utes rarely offer scholarships to in-state recruits simply because there are few elite gymnasts who are from the state. Rarer still is for the Utes to offer local gymnasts the chance to walk on since most are good enough to earn scholarships elsewhere.
But the Utes needed depth this year and all three exhibited the necessary skills to buck the trend and don Utah leotards.
They all know how lucky they are, too.
"I'm still amazed I'm here," Kobayashi said. "It's a big point of pride to be here."
Kobayashi has competed in the last two meets, scoring 9.775 and 9.725 on the balance beam while Hansen has performed in exhibition. Lofgren has competed in everything but the uneven bars and had the gut-wrenching spot of anchoring Utah's beam lineup at Nebraska after senior Kyndal Robarts was injured.
She delivered, scoring a 9.85 on the event for the second week in a row. When Utah coach Greg Marsden announced the lineup, Lofgren was a little shocked she was going last. She still is having a hard time comprehending the fact she is competing at all.
"This is what every girl wanted to be who was at the meets watching," Lofgren said. "You always wanted to be like the girls you saw on the floor. As long as I can remember that is what I wanted."
Her role for Friday's meet against No. 2 Stanford became even larger this week when senior Jacquelyn Johnson suffered a concussion in practice and is out for the meet. Lofgren is going in her place in the uneven bars lineup, making her an all-around competitor for the first time this year.
Having Utahns on the team is uncommon but not unheard of for the Utes. Jessica Duke (2005-08), Missy Marlowe (1989-92) and Shelly Schaerrer (1989-92) were all Utahns who had major roles for the Utes. However, the Utes rarely have more than one as they often mine the big gyms in Texas, Pennsylvania and Ohio for recruits, as well as international locales.
While it might be a nice gesture to allow an aspiring gymnast from within the county to tag along on the team, Utah coach Greg Marsden has never felt like offering that much charity and is clear his current threesome deserve their roles.
"I've always had the philosophy you don't invite walk-ons unless they are capable of contributing," he said. "It's too much work and we want people who are going to contribute and we don't want a lot of distractions. Sometimes it's a close call and we're not always right, but most of the time the ones who don't come here can get a scholarship somewhere else."
At the same time, Marsden said he is mindful that the Utes do have a responsibility to continue to foster gymnastics in Utah knowing the Utes' success is what probably encouraged them to get into the sport in the first place. He estimated there are about 25 to 30 clubs in the state and is aware other gymnasts are working hard, hoping for a chance similar to the one the current three freshmen have.
"We try to recruit elite athletes but also people who can help us on other events, that is an important part of our team," he said. "It's rewarding as a coach to see gymnasts develop and have Hailee involved and see her progress and getting better each week and see Fumina leading us off on beam. Those things are rewarding."
The Utahns know they have a responsibility, too, hoping they can be examples for aspiring gymnasts while also proving they deserved their spot along with elite gymnasts such as Corrie Lothrop and Nansy Damianova.
"Every day we know we have to work hard to improve," Kobayashi said. "But that is the same no matter where we are from, you always have to work hard."
No. 2 Stanford at No. 4 Utah
P Friday, 7 p.m., Huntsman Center
Records • Utah 3-0; Stanford 7-0
Series • Utah leads, 16-3
Last meeting • Utah won, 197.425-196.025
About the meet • The short-handed Utes face a Stanford team that opened the season by winning the Pac-10 challenge with a season high of 196.625. ... Top all-around gymnasts are Shelley Alexander (39.35), Allyse Ishino (39.35) and Danielle Ikoma (39.0). ... This is the first of four home meets for the Utes, who are coming off a 196.2-194.75 win at Nebraska. ... Utah seniors Kyndal Robarts (knee) and Jacquelyn Johnson (concussion) are out, leaving the freshmen to perform 15 of the team's 24 routines.
5-foot-3, freshman, Bountiful
Club • USA Gymnastics World
What to know • Best event is bars, in which she has competed in exhibition
Mary Beth Lofgren
5-3, freshman, Salt Lake City
Club • Olympus Gymnastics
What to know • Has competed in all events but uneven bars
5-2, sophomore, Salt Lake City
Club • Olympus Gymnastics
What to know • Joined the team last year, has competed on balance beam