This was one promise Aliayah McDonald wasn’t going to break.
Before starting her track career in seventh grade, the future Harker Heights sprinter told her parents they wouldn’t have to pay for her to go to college — her legs would do that.
And they never let her forget it either.
“They (reminded me about it) all the time. If I didn’t get it, that was all going to be on my shoulders because I promised it,” McDonald said.
Well, after Sunday, the McDonalds won’t have to worry about college after their daughter, now a senior with the Lady Knights, verbally committed to run track at Southern Methodist University, accepting a full ride to the Dallas-based program.
“I had to fulfill my end of the deal. They said they’d give me every opportunity to
fulfill my goal, and they did and I got it,” McDonald said Monday.
McDonald picked SMU over a partial scholarship opportunity at Baylor, where friend and fellow track star Cion Hicks committed last week. She also received interest from Alabama, Houston, North Texas, TCU, and even West Point among others.
But much like the nationally ranked Shoemaker thrower, McDonald was just happy to put an end to the recruiting process.
“I didn’t like the recruiting process — phone calls every week, it was hectic,” McDonald said. “But it’s a good experience, it’s an experience not everybody gets.”
Which made her growing friendship with Hicks all the stronger as the two Division I prospects talked on a weekly basis and even went on official visits together. McDonald actually visited Baylor last weekend alongside Hicks when she committed to the Bears, and the pair discussed going to the same school at one point.
“It wasn’t as hectic as it probably would have been if I didn’t have her or somebody else in my ear helping me with it, or telling me to calm down when I got frustrated with it,” said McDonald, who is the fourth Division I commit in the last three years under Lady Knights head track coach Michelle Womack.
Entering her senior season with the Lady Knights in February, McDonald already holds the Heights school record in the 400-meter dash (55.64 seconds) — her premier event — and has qualified for the Region II-5A meet in both the 200- and 400-meter runs each of the last two years along with anchoring the Lady Knights’ 12-5A champion 1,600 relay team last season.
But none of that prepared her for the stress of being recruited this summer.
“It was like going to a big test that you didn’t study for and you don’t know what you’re looking for. I was going into something I had never done before, so everything was a surprise to me,” she said.
Despite that, McDonald managed to ace that test and can now focus on her senior season.
“It feels good. I know I’ve taken all that burden off of my family, they don’t have that in their corner that they have to pay for college, they don’t have to think about that any more because I’ve taken care of my business,” McDonald said.
Now all that’s left is the other promise McDonald made to her parents — that she’d compete in the Olympics one day.
But with one promise already fulfilled, she’s already on her way to making that a reality as well.