• August 22, 2014

SWEETHEART DEAL: Heights track couple headed to Arkansas

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Posted: Saturday, February 9, 2013 4:30 am | Updated: 2:06 pm, Thu Jul 11, 2013.

HARKER HEIGHTS — In the end, young love won out.

As Harker Heights’ fastest couple, senior sprinters Aliayah McDonald and Brandon Hill were torn about where they’d go to college. Making matters more difficult was their relationship as boyfriend and girlfriend.

“It was a lot of talking,” Hill said.

“He got mad at me,” McDonald said.

“I was just asking her how serious our relationship was, things like that, and then I’d ask, ‘So what school are you going to go to?’ — I’d try to slip it in like that every once in a while,” Hill added.

But once McDonald, a four-year starter and multi-event record holder at Heights, settled on Arkansas over Southern Methodist, Hill’s decision became easier.

“I was going to be happy with Baylor or Arkansas, I told her that and that’s why I wanted her to make her decision first,” Hill said. “Truthfully, I’m kind of glad she decided on Arkansas, because I believe I’ll be happier at Arkansas than I would be at Baylor.”

Although not really a package deal, the Heights sprinting duo signed their National Letters of Intents to run track at the University of Arkansas during a joint ceremony Friday inside the Harker Heights gymnasium.

“I’m not just walking in blindly by myself, I have him right there beside me — as friends or in a relationship, it doesn’t matter,” McDonald said.

“This was like a huge plus,” Hill said.

McDonald originally wanted to take their relationship completely out of the picture and make the decision on her own, without any outside influence.

“I made my decision first and I didn’t want my decision to affect his decision, so I didn’t want to tell him where I was really leaning to,” she said. “He played a part in it, but it’s really where I wanted to go.”

Hill was just happy to have the decision over with.

“It was very frustrating and stressful,” Hill said. “The recruiting process is one of the most stressful things I’ve ever been through. I can even say it’s more stressful than grades sometimes.”

Now, with papers signed, both can get back to focusing on the important things — like times and gold medals.

“It feels good. I know the college I’m going to, I’m set. I’m performing for me know, I’m not performing for anybody else,” Hill said. “It’s relaxing.”

McDonald originally committed to SMU on Dec. 9 over a partial scholarship opportunity at Baylor, but de-committed and settled on Arkansas early last week after taking an official visit.

“It’s almost like a perfect school, and that’s what I saw, and I felt like I couldn’t turn that down,” McDonald said.

Hill really only had two options — the home-state Bears and the Razorbacks, currently ranked No. 1 in the country.

“Arkansas is No. 1 for a reason,” he said.

The Arkansas men are currently the top-ranked team in the NCAA indoor track and field standings, sitting 100 points ahead of second-place Florida. The Southeastern Conference holds the top three spots in the rankings with Texas A&M sitting at No. 3.

“It feels good, I feel like a super-athlete,” Hill joked of joining the SEC.

“It’s nice knowing that pretty much every track meet there’s going to be competition there for me, and that’s just going to help me get better as I go throughout the season.”

The Razorback women are ranked No. 4 and their home, the Randal Tyson Track, will play host to the 2013 indoor championship March 8-9. Arkansas is also the top-ranked women’s program in the SEC, which features four of the nation’s top seven programs.

And while she didn’t really want their relationship to factor in, McDonald couldn’t be happier with the end result.

“It usually doesn’t happen like this, but I’m glad it did,” McDonald said.

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