PREP TRACK: Bentonville duo to remain teammates at Arkansas

By: Henry Apple
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2018
Lainey Quandt (left) and Tori Willis, Bentonville cross country runners, pose for a photo after signing to run at Arkansas on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, during a signing ceremony at Bentonville's Tiger Athletic Complex.
Photo by Ben Goff
Lainey Quandt (left) and Tori Willis, Bentonville cross country runners, pose for a photo after signing to run at Arkansas on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, during a signing ceremony at Bentonville's Tiger Athletic Complex.

BENTONVILLE -- One possible drawback to national signing day is to see longtime high school teammates go their separate ways to different colleges when the time comes to announce their decisions.

That won't be the case for Tori Willis and Lainey Quandt. The Bentonville High duo, who have run side-by-side as members of the girls track and cross country teams the past three years, will remain teammates after they signed their national letters of intent with the University of Arkansas on Wednesday.

"That's going to be exciting," Willis said. "Lainey has always been somebody that will push me in practice, and she's been there to encourage me as well. I think we work really well together to push and draw each other along during races."

While both Lady Tigers reached the same destinations, they took different routes to get there. Willis said she committed to Arkansas shortly after her official visit -- the only one she eventually took -- and canceled her other college visits to Tulsa and Missouri.

Quandt, however, admitted she didn't have her decision figured out until earlier this week, when she chose Arkansas over Stanford. She said she also waited until Tuesday afternoon before she called Razorbacks coach Lance Harter and announced her choice.

"It just came down to two colleges," Quandt said. "It just took a while, just thinking and praying and talking to other people about it. But ultimately, I decided to go with Arkansas just because I felt it was where my heart was. I was cutting it a little bit close, but I feel confident in my decision."

Quandt and Willis were normally Bentonville's top two runners throughout the cross country season this fall and helped the Lady Tigers when the 6A state title earlier this month. Quandt finished second as an individual, but Willis took a spill on the muddy course and wound up finishing 13th, helping Bentonville edge Rogers for the state title.

Willis said she will run both track and cross country at Arkansas, but she wants to focus on longer races because she believes they are her strong suits.

"Coach Harter knows I'm better at the longer races," Willis said. "He knows I'm better at settling in on pace. I really excel the 3,000 meters because that's where I won nationals as a freshman. I think that's a good race for me to develop."

Quandt said that she'll continue to run cross country, even though it's not her forte. She's a better runner in the 800 and the 1,600, the races she won during the Class 7A state meet in the spring, but she sees different races coming her way at Arkansas.

"I see myself running the 1,500 and the 3,000, maybe," Quandt said. "I'm not built to be a collegiate 800 runner. I'm planning on running plenty of miles in the spring and getting myself ready for it, and even more during the summer."

Sports on 11/15/2018

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