The University of Nevada Las Vegas has signed California's No. 1 returner in the 100-meter hurdles.
Calabasas High School's Bella Witt, the third fastest 100-meter hurdler in the Class of 2021 and the No. 45 recruit in MileSplit's senior rankings, announced she would be joining the Rebels next fall in an exclusive video on MileSplit's Instagram.
The senior chose UNLV over the University of Oregon, Cal Berkeley, North Carolina A&T and Oklahoma.
While UNLV may not be a powerhouse in track and field just yet, Witt knows what the Rebels are capable of.
"They're underrated in a sense that not everyone is talking about them, but the people that are, understand they're on the come up," Witt said. "I really feel as though UNLV as a whole has this mentality of determination and drive, where bigger schools have it as well but being an underdog -- which I know personally -- is a really big drive to be the best."
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For Witt, UNLV had always been in
the conversation from the beginning. But when she went about eliminating schools, she found that they checked more
boxes than she originally thought.
"As soon as it got closer to deciding day and figuring out what I would like in a university, where I'll feel most comfortable and where I'll be most successful, I was literally marking off boxes and crossing things off on paper," she said. "It was kind of like wow, UNLV is up there."
One of the most important things Witt said she was looking for was trust in a coaching stsaff. And she's found that connection in assistant coach Larry Wade.
"I feel that UNLV is the best fit for me because I do believe in the coach -- Coach Larry -- but then also the fact that Coach Yvonne [Wade], a strong Black woman, is the head coach," she said. "They really created an amazing team environment at UNLV...
[Coach Larry] pretty much flat out said, 'If I want to be great, he'll help me be great.' His thing is he builds champions and I feel like that statement is true. We'll be a cool little duo once I'm there."
Prior to COVID-19, the Rebels had won their second Mountain West indoor title in three seasons. Witt will be a strong addition to the women's team's growing sprints and hurdles corps.
The Calabasas senior didn't compete much in 2020, but her sophomore efforts were among the best in the overall class. Witt earned marks of US No. 14 in the 60mh (8.48) and US No. 20 in the 100mh (13.63) -- the latter poducing a third-place finish at Arcadia.
She also had impressive top five performances at Brooks PR and the Texas Relays and owns other PRs of 11.90 (100m), 24.49 (200m) and 43.33 (300mh).
Witt will reunite with her former prep competition in UNLV, sophomore Jada Hicks and freshmen Jazlynn Shearer and Taylor Shorter. Hicks is already thriving, having earned an indoor 60mH title and also setting the 60mH school record. She also ran a wind-legal mark of 13.13 seconds in the 100mH for No. 3 all-time in the program.
"Going to be able to practice with Jada, Jazlynn and Taylor, it's going to be competitive," Witt said. "I'm a competitive person and I know they are as well. So, I'm excited for that because we'll be in practice going hard and when it comes to the track meet, it won't be anything new for us."
While the hurdler is happy to have a strong training group, Witt knows she'll also get the one-on-one attention she needs to progress.
"The environment they made, it's a very family oriented environment and it's not based on how you perform is how they're going to treat you," she said. "A lot of bigger schools, if you don't do well you won't get as much attention or you won't get the same as everyone else. But at UNLV, it's the weakest link they're going to focus on as much as the top competitor."
With Witt not having the smoothest high school journey, she's relieved to have finally reached this milestone in her career.
"I feel like everything that has happened, my freshman year not doing great, sophomore year getting disqualified [at the CIF state meet], junior year not having a season," she explained. "I just feel all that has led up to my senior year. Even with all the recognition and accolades I have achieved; I feel like there's so much more I can achieve."
And Witt does have some big goals. The senior is looking to become the best hurdler to ever come out of California by breaking Vashti Thomas' CIF state championship record of 13.03 and Tara Davis' all-time effort of 12.95.