Growing up in a small town in Northern California, Boise State junior gymnast Kelsey Black had to seek challenging competition.
She commuted 90 minutes each way to a gym to accelerate her club career and graduated a semester early from high school to join the Broncos just as the 2011 season began.
Two years later, Black, who turned 20 on Thursday, has developed into one of the program's most reliable gymnasts. She has scored at least a 9.8 on 14 of 18 routines on her three primary events this season with a low of 9.725.
"She's grown up a lot," said Boise State co-coach Neil Resnick, who has known Black since she was in sixth grade. "We did have a high school student our first year. Her eyes got real big the first couple meets. Through last year, she matured, and she came in this year a completely different kid."
Black and the Broncos compete in their home finale Friday at Taco Bell Arena against Southern Utah (7 p.m.). The team will honor three seniors - Brittany Potvin-Green, Erin Wippermann and Cristy Dahlquist.
It's a bounce-back meet for the Broncos, who posted a season-worst 194.575 last week when they competed one day later in a different city than expected because of snow in the Midwest.
Black was off last week, too - that meet accounts for two of her four sub-9.8 scores this season - but even those weren't ugly. She can't explain why she's been so consistent.
"Even my parents were like, 'Kelsey, what have you done? What is it?' " Black said. "I was like, 'I don't know. I really don't know.' I think I finally realized I don't have that much longer left in gymnastics and since it's been my life for so long, I need to make the best of it."
Her career will end a year sooner than it could have because of her decision to join the Broncos early.
"When I was in club gymnastics, I didn't really have anybody to push me," Black said. "I knew that there were girls here already who could push me to do better. I definitely wanted that."
She contributed on three events as a freshman at Boise State and established a career high that still stands on floor - 9.925.
She contributed on three events last year, too, but didn't post a score higher than 9.85.
She has a 9.9 and a 9.925 this season and has flirted with a couple more big scores.
"I know I need to be a little more confident in myself," Black said. "I need to be thinking 9.9."
Those scores will be common by next season, Resnick said, because of Black's talent - extreme coordination and air sense, he said - and her work habits.
She also relishes her time in the gym.
"She laughs and enjoys her practice 90 percent of the time," Resnick said. "She keeps us all laughing. She's just got a great sense of humor. She is at the center of our laughter a great deal of the time -- at her, or with her."
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398,Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat