Freshman Idaho track standout Zion Stuffle received a plethora of collegiate offers during his senior year of high school in Lewiston.
Stuffle received calls from the University of Arizona, the University of Washington and the University of Mississippi during his recruitment.
Although Idaho was Stuffleâ€™s last stop during the recruiting process, the sprinter said he was hooked from the start.
â€œ(Coach Tim) Cawley had made a huge impact on me,â€ the freshman said. â€œTheyâ€™re really great people, better than any other coaches I saw, so I was really set on coming here.â€
Idaho head coach Tim Cawley said had been watching Stuffle throughout his high school career, as had many other coaches in the region.
â€œJust about every coach in the area was asking us, â€˜Well, are you talking to Zion yet?â€™â€ Cawley said. â€œAs a junior he ran times that were some of the best in the country. Heâ€™s just a talented kid.â€
The transition from high school to collegiate athletics did not come without obstacles for Stuffle. Before his senior season, Stuffle suffered from two torn hamstrings, forcing him to miss two years of competition.
â€œIt was tough for him because I think he just wanted to jump in, and when he jumped in, he kind of aggravated his injury,â€ Cawley said. â€œWhen youâ€™re an athlete and when youâ€™re as talented as him, theyâ€™re like racehorses. They donâ€™t want to hold back and they just want to keep going.â€
Now that the outdoor season is in full swing, Stuffle is back on the track for the Vandals. In the WAR IX track and field meet, the freshman ran the 400-meter hurdles in a time of 53.31 seconds, the fastest time in the Big Sky Conference this season.
â€œI just feel blessed because itâ€™s been two years since Iâ€™ve competed and I didnâ€™t think Iâ€™d open up that strong,â€ Stuffle said. â€œNow I just have all that momentum behind me.â€
Cawley said he has seen a new developing strength in Stuffle â€“ a tough and competitive nature.
â€œYou can really see his confidence start to come back,â€ Cawley said.
Stuffle said he never rarely saw much competition during high school races, but that all changed once he hit the collegiate level.
â€œI actually got some good competition and it was able to push me a lot,â€ Stuffle said. â€œI get better times and there are a lot more goals to accomplish because I have people to push me.â€
Stuffle said his teammates are also constantly pushing him toward success.
â€œBefore I used to only practice by myself, and it is kind of hard to push myself in practice,â€ Stuffle said. â€œBut now I have four great training partners in the hurdles.â€
Even though this is his first year as a Vandal, Stuffle said he has already seen personal improvements, including his speed and his skills on the blocks, as well as his endurance overall.
â€œMy endurance is off the charts and Iâ€™m just really happy about the training here,â€ he said.
Stuffle said he is focused on making it to the conference meet as a freshman and showcasing his ability.
â€œI just want to show everyone that I can win after coming off of two years with an injury,â€ Stuffle said. â€œI want to surprise everybody and make everyone scared of my name throughout the next four years.â€
Mihaela Karst can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org