As a toddler, Riley Fujioka said she enjoyed tumbling but wasn’t very coordinated when it came to playing sports that involved a ball. The Los Altos native spent several years as a gymnast before finding her ideal athletic endeavor – diving.
After four years as Los Altos High’s top diver, Fujioka earned a scholarship to Georgetown University, where she’s excelling as well. The junior was named the Big East Conference’s Most Outstanding Women’s Diver this year. She won the 1- and 3-meter diving events at the conference swimming and diving championships held Feb. 26-29 at the Nassau County Aquatic Center in New York.
Fujioka also holds the school records in both events. She set the 3-meter record her freshman year, surpassing that score at this year’s conference championships, and established a new 1-meter record last year.
None of it has come easy, but Fujioka is glad she persevered.
“Sticking with a sport for so long I think is really hard, and just learning to love it and hate it at the same time,” said the 2017 Los Altos High grad. “There are going to be hard times, but lean on your teammates and your coaches and stick it out because you’ve been training most of your life and college will probably be the last time you’re going to do your sport, so really
Fujioka, who is studying anthropology and sociology at Georgetown, has been diving since age 6. She started two years after taking up gymnastics and competed in both sports until middle school. As she advanced levels in gymnastics, the sport took more of a physical toll on Fujioka; she said the injuries led her to focus solely on diving.
She went from diving in the summer at Palo Alto Hills Country Club to training year-round with Palo Alto Stanford Aquatics.
That experience paid off once she got to Los Altos High. Fujioka was able to help coach her teammates – which she said gave her a different perspective than when she was on the platform – and was named team captain.
“Diving is a very social sport, and I love it because you get teammates and competitors and everyone boosts you up and wants you to do well because we all know how hard both mentally and physically the sport is,” she said.
The mental side is most demanding, she added.
“The hardest part is your mentality toward it,” Fujioka said. “I used to get really shy and I didn’t like to perform in front of people, so competing was always difficult for me. It was hard to get over it, but competing really teaches you discipline and how to present yourself, so I’m glad I stuck with it. It is very easy to get scared and nervous, but I think just trusting yourself and trusting your training will get you really far.”
That trust helped her land a scholarship to Georgetown, one of several schools that recruited her. While she was excited to join the team, it took Fujioka time to acclimate.
“When I first got to college, everyone was at a pretty elite level, and I came in as not one of the best on the team,” she said, “and I think that pushed me to want to be better, because no one kind of wants to be at the bottom of their team. I was motivated to help my team earn points, which really pushed me to do better.”
As an NCAA Division I athlete, Fujioka has a rigorous training and competing schedule. The season runs August through February, and she trains six days a week – in and out of the
“Like with any sport, it teaches you a lot of discipline and time management,” Fujioka said. “It was really hard when I first got started, but once you get in your routine, I feel like it’s normal and that’s all you know, which is nice.”