For Bishop Shanahan senior runner Rick Zink, the 2018 Daily Local News Boys Track Athlete of the Year, it was all about the finish.
On the final day of his high school track career, the PIAA state championships at Shippensburg University May 26, Zink was nearly a one-man show. He finished first in the 400-meter run (47.92), finishing ahead of St. Joseph’s Prep renowned senior Miles Green; then 20 minutes later placed fifth in the 200-meter run. Then in the final event of the day, the 4×400 relay, Zink led the Eagles to another victory, passing Green with about 15 meters to go. Thanks to Zink, Shanahan earned a share of the Class 3A team state championship.
“When I had crossed the finish line [in the 4×400], it was the greatest moment in my life,” said Zink. “There was nothing but pure joy. Realizing we were the team state champions was so fulfilling after what had happened last year at States [placing seventh after being a pre-tournament favorite]. From the beginning of the year we had a goal set out to become the team state champions, and we did exactly that.
“With 15 meters to go in the 4×400, I knew I was going to catch Miles. I felt strong the whole race and knew I could finish strong. The final 100 meters was my weakest point of my race going into States, but all week long leading up we had worked on finishing strong. My mindset was to shorten my strides and pump my arms in a controlled manner.”
Earlier in the day, Zink had reached a goal he had set for himself at the beginning of the year, winning the 400 meter run.
“Becoming the state champion in the 400 meter run was a goal I set out for myself after States last year,” said Zink. “My racing strategy coming in was to keep Miles within reach with 100 meters to go. Even though we had the 4×400 coming up later in the day I did not think about that race until it was next on my plate. I had to take it one race at a time.
“The key to my success was both of my coaches – [long sprint] coach Louis Corominas and [head] coach Pete Uhlman. They helped me stay cool and composed the whole day and stretched my out to make sure I was 100 percent ready. They worked the whole year with me improving my stamina and without them none of this would have been possible.”
Zink is a late bloomer, coming to the Shanahan track program as a junior after playing soccer for the Eagles. He credits Keegan Hughes, who was one year ahead of him at Shanahan, and is now running for Villanova University, for getting him onto the track.
“Keegan kept telling me to come out for the team, and once I did, I haven’t looked back,” said Zink. “I was always pushing myself to be better than Keegan and that competitive nature drove me to become better.”
Zink was injured during his junior year and did not have a full track season. Uhlman has credited much of Zink’s success and development this year to Corominas.
“The most important thing I learned from Louis is that it does not matter who you’re running against, because its all about the mindset,” said Zink. “Mentally you have to be stronger than everyone else in your race. He also taught me to be humble and seize every moment, because in track you only have one chance to show what you’ve got.”
Zink particularly likes running before a big crowd.
“I feed well off of people watching me,” said Zink. “It pushes me to win, and it gives me a good reason not to lose.”
This fall, Zink will be attending Penn State University. At this time, he is leaning toward a career in buisness or criminal justice. And, of course, he will be running for the Nittany Lions.
“I’m working on my [running] start and my strength,” said Zink. “I am [relatively] slow out of the blocks but my second half of my race is my best because I always finish strong and my top out speed is rare. In both the 400 and 4×400 at States, I hit my top speed at the end of each race and caught Miles both times.”