By Dave Ongie, News Editor
As the victories and honors accumulate with alarming frequency, Science Hill sophomore Jenna Hutchins just keeps on doing what every good runner does. She puts one foot in front of the other.
Accolades and awards have done little to change Hutchins, who shuns self-congratulation in favor of self-improvement. On the heels of another All-American finish to her cross country campaign, Hutchins hit the ground running last month by winning the first two races of her indoor track season, the one-mile and two-mile races at the Virginia Showcase in Lynchburg.
Her assessment of those victories dripped with modesty.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect in my first couple races back from my break from cross country season,” Hutchins said. “I was a little rusty, getting back into it. I’m feeling much better now, and I’m excited for future races. It was definitely a good start for the indoor season, and I enjoyed racing there.”
For Hutchins, the victories she scores with alarming regularity are built on a firm foundation of hard work. Her relentless training regimen reached a crescendo in San Diego at the end of last year when she finished fifth in the nation in the Foot Locker Nationals.
Following that race, Hutchins took some time off to allow her body to reset after a long, grueling cross country season. When she got back at it in preparation for track, she did so with an heightened focus on speed work with an eye toward competing primarily in 800-, 1600- and 3200-meter races once her spring track season hits full swing.
“You have to take it slow at first, but once you get back into it, you can start doing more speed stuff,” Hutchins said. “I find once I start doing more of the speed workouts and get some good training sessions in, then the fast feeling starts coming back to my legs. The longer you go the more you get used to it.”
As Hutchins prepared to compete in the prestigious Millrose Games in New York City last Saturday, she received another honor – the title of Gatorade Tennessee Girls Cross Country Player of the Year. Hutchins won the Gatorade award for track & field last year, which allowed her to donate a $1,000 grant to the local Girls on the Run chapter.
Hutchins said she plans to make a donation to Girls on the Run again with the knowledge that it will introduce more girls to the sport of running.
“I’m going to donate it to them because I really like the message they send to all the girls there,” Hutchins said. “They said they were able to use (the money) to help sponsor a lot of the girls that didn’t have enough money to pay to be part of the program. It meant a lot to me to know I was helping other people who may not get the chance to experience running through a program like that.”
Last Saturday, Hutchins stepped to the starting line alongside a star-studded field of runners for the mile run at the Millrose Games, which were broadcast live on NBC. Hutchins more than held her own in the event, finishing fourth with a time of 4:45.12, a new high school record for an indoor mile in the state of Tennessee.
Hutchins already owned the state record for the fastest outdoor mile, and the indoor time she posted in New York this past weekend is currently the fourth fastest in the nation. Needless to say, Hutchins has turned a lot of heads in the running community as of late.
Come June, NCAA coaches will finally be able to start recruiting Hutchins, and scholarship offers will come pouring in. It should come as no surprise that Hutchins plans to take it all in stride.
“I just know I’m definitely interested in a place that has a good running program where I fit in well,” she said.