As Jenna Hutchins ran up Fort Henry Drive in Kingsport on the night of July 13, she had no idea she was in the process of making history.
Hutchins was locked in on maintaining her torrid pace as she tackled the famed 8K course during the annual Crazy 8s road race. Through the dimly lit streets of Kingsport, she fought through the driving rain before finally being bathed in a burst of bright light as she approached the finish line inside J. Fred Johnson Stadium.
The roar of the crowd gave her a shot of adrenaline when she needed it most, and the shout of “first female” from someone watching next to the course gave her a hint of what was to come. When Hutchins crossed the finish line in a time of 30:45, the 14-year-old became the youngest winner in Crazy 8s history.
“I actually wasn’t coming into the race to try to win,” said Hutchins, a rising freshman at Science Hill High School. “I was really just trying to improve my time from last year. So it was just kind of a nice surprise.”
Until that fateful July evening, Hutchins had quietly been building a sterling reputation as an up-and-coming track and cross-country star. She led Liberty Bell Middle School to track and cross country championships this past season as an eighth-grader. At the state track meet, she racked up more than a third of her team’s winning point total by winning state titles in both the 800 and 1600.
Die-hard running fanatics may know that Hutchins’ 5:07 in the mile is widely considered to be the fastest time for a girl her age in the nation. But her victory at the Crazy 8s against female runners of all ages removed any trace of anonymity surrounding the Johnson City native as she prepares for her first season of high school competition.
David Nutter, who coached Hutchins at Liberty Bell, believes she’s destined for greatness.
“Her work ethic, discipline, and determination are unmatched from any athlete I’ve ever coached before,” Nutter said. “I have seen hundreds of great runners over the course of 11 years come through the cross country and track program at Liberty Bell Middle School, but Jenna Hutchins is in a league of her own when it comes to preparation, mental toughness, and meeting every goal that was set before her.”
Hutchins said the running bug first bit her during a trip to the track that sits next to Indian Trail Intermediate School. As a young girl, she enjoyed riding her bike around the asphalt ring while her parents jogged. But one day, she decided to put down her bike, and the rest is history.
“One day I just sort of started to jog with them,” she said. “I just really got into it from there.”
Hutchins started out in the Little 8s race, a kids event in Kingsport that precedes the Crazy 8s event she won this summer. A string of 5K and 10K races led her to Liberty Bell. It was there when she started to get a sense that she was fast.
As Hutchins prepares for her first fall as a high-school cross country runner, she’s excited about the road ahead, and as always, she has a definite set of goals.
“I definitely want to compete through high school, and I definitely run in college,” she said.