Bethanie Brown visited five colleges during a lengthy recruiting process before deciding on the University of Connecticut around Thanksgiving.

The Waterville senior made it official Friday morning, signing her letter of intent at the Waterville Senior High School.

“It’s so exciting,” Brown said. “I’m just so excited it’s official now. I now have college to look forward to. It’s a big sense of relief to have it be over, but it’s really more exciting than anything else.”

Brown, 17, who will be on a full athletic scholarship, will arrive at UConn as one the most dominant distance runners in Maine history.

She holds an abundance of  state records from indoor and outdoor track and field, including the 1,600-meter run (4:50.39), the indoor mile (4:56.35), 2-mile (10:29.04) and the 5,000 (17:11.14).

Brown became a New England champion last spring in the 1,600 and 3,200. She won the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the Class B outdoor state championships last spring as well.

The Purple Panthers won the last three Class B outdoor track and field state championships, with Brown as a key contributor. She set Class B state records in the 1,600 with a time of 4:55.23 and the 3,200 (10:34.79).

Brown also excelled in cross country, winning the Class B title last fall after finishing runner-up in 2011. She also set a meet record at the Festival of Champions, running the 5-kilometer course in 17:56.69, at Troy Howard Middle School in Belfast.

“This represents a tremendous amount of hard work that she has put in,” Waterville coach Ian Wilson said. “This is really the period at the end of the sentence.”

Brown said it was a difficult decision. She visited four other colleges — Dartmouth, Furman, Virginia, Oregon — before deciding on UConn.

“I took five visits,” Brown said. “All the pieces made UConn a good fit. I’m looking forward to getting there. I just can’t wait to be able to compete at the college level.”

Added Wilson: “There was a lot of energy put into the decision. She really wanted to make the right decision. It’s a tremendous opportunity for her.”

She will be joining a growing program at UConn, which is competitive in the Big East.

Last spring, the Huskies sent a program-best nine athletes to the NCAA outdoor national championships.

They finished ninth in the Big East.

The UConn cross country team finished eighth out of 31 teams in the NCAA championship meet last fall.

Coach Andrea Grove-McDonough was named the Northeast Region Coach of the Year.

“I’m looking to going down there and working with the coaches,” said Brown, who is president of the school’s National Honor Society and holds a 4.27 grade point average. “I can’t wait to get going.”

Bill Stewart — 621-5640
[email protected]