POCATELLO — Just as she is on the track, Madilyn Zink was diligent with her college announcement.
She had a spare hat and shirt ready to go, and she rush-ordered balloons and her new school’s flag for the special occasion.
When the red and blue balloons emerged from Zink’s sealed cardboard box and floated toward the ceiling at the Pocatello High media center on Tuesday, Zink officially ended a lengthy recruiting process. The senior hurdler revealed her commitment to the University of Kansas, which she picked over four other finalists — Colorado, Oregon, Oregon State and Texas Christian — and quickly swapped her Poky-blue gear for Kansas-blue garb before signing her National Letter of Intent.
“I was kind of worried about it, because I didn’t know how it was going to work,” Zink said of her big reveal. “But it ended up working all right. I thought it would be a cool way to do it.”
Zink had her heart set on KU as soon as she took her recruiting visit earlier this fall, but couldn’t make her commitment official until the Jayhawks offered a scholarship over the weekend. Once the offer came in, any doubts Zink had disappeared.
She first visited the campus in Lawrence, Kansas, during a track camp in July. She familiarized herself with the coaching staff and the facilities and went home with a good first impression.
Her official recruiting visit reinforced her positive feelings. She knew Kansas was where she wanted to go, and her mind didn’t change through the rest of her visits.
Even Oregon, her longtime dream school that bears the moniker Track Town USA, couldn’t pull her away from the Jayhawks.
“I just knew that Kansas was definitely the place that I can see myself not only liking the most, but contributing the most,” Zink said. “So that was the biggest part of it.”
Zink’s college commitment comes on the heels of her most successful high school track season.
As a junior, Zink won 4A state titles in the 100-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles, redeeming multiple runner-up finishes from early in her career. She was dominant in both races all season, finishing the campaign with the top times in Idaho across all classifications.
Her state-winning time of 14.16 seconds in the 100 hurdles would have been a 4A state meet record, but a strong tailwind made it ineligible.
Once her high school season was over, Zink dabbled in the heptathlon over the summer and finished 16th at June’s New Balance Nationals Outdoor in North Carolina.
Her multi-event capabilities — and elite times in the hurdles — opened up a slew of college opportunities.
“The recruiting process was hard,” Zink said. “There’s just a lot of things you don’t know. You know the name of the school, but when you actually get on campus you mostly just feel what feels right, then it changes a lot. So that was kind of the biggest thing about this process, was just feeling it out.”
Zink transferred to Pocatello after spending two years at Century High. She credits the Poky coaching staff with helping her reach new heights.
Her coaches are just as complimentary. They haven’t seen many athletes who are as dedicated or determined as Zink, who trains nearly year-round and even competed in cross country as a junior and senior to help improve her times on the track.
“Some kids, they have those visions, but they’re not ready to put in the work to make that vision come to fruition,” said Shannon Whitmer, Poky’s head cross country coach and assistant track coach. “She’s willing to put the work in.”
With a college decision filed away and two state gold medals on her resume, Zink can spend this spring pressure-free and enjoy her final high school track season.
But that’s not her style. She doesn’t do anything halfway — Tuesday was another example.