'I'm A Cali Girl At Heart.' Mia Brahe Pedersen Picks USC

* Mia Brahe Pedersen, MileSplit's No. 1 girls recruit in the Class of 2024, committed to Southern California on Friday, just six days shy of National Signing Day

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By Cory Mull - MileSplit 

Mia Brahe Pedersen was born in Southern California and named after a famous soccer player. Her parents went to college and met in California. And her dream, ever since she was in the sixth grade, was to come to Los Angeles to attend college. 

On Friday, after a long recruiting process that involved narrowing down her decision to five schools, that moment came. 

Pedersen, MileSplit's No. 1 girls track and field recruit in the Class of 2024, announced her commitment to the University of Southern California on Friday. 

"I'm a California girl at heart," Pedersen, 17, told MileSplit by phone.

Pedersen is already one of the fastest girls in high school track and field history. She clocked personal best times of 11.00 and 22.43 seconds last year, which ranked her fourth and third all-time, respectively. Her 200m best is also a national junior class record. 

Pedersen, who signed a Name, Image and Likeness deal with Nike, had narrowed down her search to five schools. That list included Oregon, Texas, Louisiana State, Georgia and Southern California. Her mother, Pamela, a software developer, had helped her build a spreadsheet to help log pros and cons of each school. 

Her first official visit was to Georgia in 2022. 

The ironic part, in fact, was that Pedersen went to Athens, Georgia, first to meet with Caryl Smith Gilbert, the former coach of USC and a national champion coach for the Trojans in 2018. 

It was there, Pedersen and her father, Christian, said, that she began to realize important criteria that would change the way she evaluated the recruiting process entirely. 

Dorm life, coaching dichotomies and facilities all factored heavily into her decision, maybe more so after visiting each campus. 

But it was on her second visit to Southern California -- on the Trojans' Los Angeles campus -- that ultimately stuck in her mind last year. 

"USC has been my dream school since I've been in the sixth grade," she said. "That's when I watched them win an NCAA title in 2018 in (the old) Hayward field. That was the first year when I said, 'I need to go there.'''

The interesting part, though, was that Pedersen remained steadfast with USC even through coaching transitions. Smith Gilbert left the program in 2021 for Georgia before the recruiting process even started for Pedersen. 

Then Quincy Watts, USC's current Director of Track and Field, and Carmelita Jeter were the first ones to meet with Mia. Jeter was hired as the head coach of UNLV within the last year. 

Watts remained, and was a huge part of Pedersen's recruiting. But the best relationship Pedersen said she developed over the process was with USC sprints coach Karl Goodman. 

"When I met coach Goodman, it was an instant click," Pedersen said. "I thought to myself, 'Everything happens for a reason.'" 

Weeks earlier, Southern California flew six of its coaches to Lake Oswego to see Pedersen run through a workout, including Watts and Goodman. 

Last week, Pedersen had one last visit to Southern California. 

That was the turning point. 

The entire visit was dedicated to Pedersen. 

"They blocked off the whole weekend for my visit," she said. "That showed me they were dedicated. 

"I texted my dad when I was on the unofficial. I wanted to commit right there. I've never been more sure of anything." 

Pedersen announced on her Instagram account, @mbrahepedersen on Friday morning at 7 a.m. PST. 

"This is going to work," Pedersen told herself once she knew of the decision. "I knew it was the right decision."

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