When Blair Quarles leaves for Erskine College in the fall for her freshman year, she won’t be going alone.
Quarles, who graduates this year from Laurens Academy, signed this past week to play basketball and compete in rodeo for at Erskine. The Flying Fleet rodeo team will be in its second year of competition with fall and spring seasons.
An experienced barrel racer, Quarles will be taking two of her horses – Houston and Ellie Mae – on the short trip to Due West for collegiate rodeo competition.
The ability to continue her education and pursue her athletic passions close to home made the choice to attend Erskine an easy one.
“Erskine is about 30 minutes from my house,” said Quarles of why she chose Erskine. “It’s very convenient, and it’s a very small campus as well. That’s a lot like Laurens Academy as well, and it’s really family oriented.”
Quarles was a four-time all-region and three-time SCISA all-state performer with the Crusaders. She won four region championships as a player with LA and back-to-back state titles at LA. As a senior co-captain, she averaged 13.9 points, eight rebounds and three steals per game.
“Blair is a great teammate and talented athlete who gives max effort,” said LA head coach Jason Marlett. “She has matured into a trusted leader in our program. Her work ethic leading into her senior year made this opportunity possible for her as she improved her offensive skills and basketball IQ. Her ability to embrace challenges will serve her well at Erskine. we appreciate and are so proud of Blair.”
After being accepted to Erskine, Quarles was contacted by the NCAA Division II basketball program leaders and the rodeo team to gauge her interest. Marlett had sent out information to potential colleges, so she was surprised when the chance to play in college was presented.
“My junior year, I hadn’t even thought about playing basketball in college,” Quarles said. “But I kept working and busting my butt for my team so we could have a good year.”
Quarles will join LA alums Ruthie Moore (Covenant College) and Taylor Campbell (Newberry) on college rosters for 2020-21.
She said she hopes to take the experience she gained as a leader and a bit of LA’s winning culture to Flying Fleet head coach Shannon Reid’s program.
“College sports is definitely at a different level than high school,” Quarles said. “So, I’m definitely going to have a whole new pace.”
Rodeo will compete for five weekends in each the fall and spring, sandwiching basketball season.
“Horses have always been a big part of my life,” she said. “I definitely see myself continuing with horses in the future, so that was definitely my main thing in going to Erskine. I’ve really striven to get there.”
She said she would like to pursue a career in physical therapy after college.