Morinishi leads team in final year

Justin Morinishi leads the team along with seven other seniors.

Minnesota's Justin Morinishi competes on the pommel horse Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

Daily File Photo, Amanda Snyder

Minnesota’s Justin Morinishi competes on the pommel horse Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013, at the Sports Pavilion.

David Nelson

After his third trip around the high bar in practice Tuesday, senior Justin Morinishi let go, somersaulted through the air and planted both feet on the mat.

Another stuck landing.

“I came in as more of a floor and vault guy,” Morinishi said. “And high bar was one of our weaker events, so I worked harder and harder to get on [the] high bar lineup.”

And for the past two meets, he’s made the cut.

Morinishi trying to improve his skill set comes as no surprise to his coaches and teammates.

“His work ethic is always something I’ve admired,” junior Sean Bauer said. “It’s easy to be around him and work with him.”

Yoshi — a nickname he received at the St. Louis Gym Centre — wears a smile on his face every day when he comes to practice, and it rarely fades away.

“I try to tell these guys there’s only a couple of things you can control, and that’s your attitude and your effort,” head coach Mike Burns said. “So he’s kind of taken that to heart. Even when he’s having a bad day, you kind of wouldn’t know it.”

Still, his team wouldn’t fault the senior for showing signs of negative emotion.

Morinishi, an electrical engineering senior, deals with a heavy course load in hopes of pursuing a master’s degree in electrical engineering, all while training for a Division I sport.

“I feel for him,” Bauer said, “but that kid never complains about it, and he is a hard worker, and he’s one of the smarter kids that I’ve ever met.”

While the stress of his schedule might get to him at times, Morinishi said gymnastics is a way to alleviate some of that pressure.

“I kind of think of gymnastics as a release from all of that,” he said. “[The workload] affects your sleep schedule a lot, but if you enjoy what you do, it’s not as big of a factor.”

Morinishi admitted he’s had difficult days but said he always tries to have the best attitude when he goes to practice.

“I try not to let [bad days] affect me in the gym, because in the gym, I’m doing gymnastics, and I know what I’m going to do,” he said.

Morinishi’s leadership qualities extend beyond the gym as well. He has been a member of the Boy Scouts since he was 12 years old. While attempting to become an Eagle Scout, he volunteered at an inner-city orphanage in St. Louis, building shelves for its play space and collecting toys.

After much dedication and hard work, he finally won the prestigious award.

“It’s a huge honor,” he said. “It’s something you can call yourself … the rest of your life.”

Burns said with Morinishi and seven other seniors on the roster, the team is in good hands. But he understands Morinishi is under extra pressure.

“His days are pretty packed,” Burns said. “The studying he’s got to put in every night, time in the gym, early morning workouts — hopefully we’re building these guys to be successful.”

For a talented senior like Yoshi, that shouldn’t be a problem.