By Dave Ongie
This time last year, Johnson City’s Jenna Hutchins was still basking in the glow of a middle school state cross country championship. Little did she know what 2018 had in store for her.Hutchins wrapped up a phenomenal year last Saturday by finishing ninth in a field of elite runners from all over the nation in the Foot Locker Cross Country National Championships. The Science Hill freshman traversed the famed course at San Diego’s Balboa Park in a time of 17:43, closing strong to secure All-American status.
The result was the cherry on top of a year that included a historic win at the Crazy 8s road race in Kingsport and a TSSAA state championship.
“It’s just been an amazing past year for me,” Hutchins said. “It’s been really great.”
Hutchins went into last Saturday’s race with a conservative approach. The course in Balboa Park has two loops, so Hutchins planned to pace herself on the first lap, see how she felt and then adjust accordingly in the second half of the race. Her patience was put to the test right after the starting gun fired, but Hutchins kept her composure.
“Everyone started out really fast, so I just tried to stay calm and know a lot of people would drop off and that I would have packs to stay with and that I would eventually be able to move up,” she said.
By the midway point, Hutchins was feeling good, so she started reeling in competitors. By the time she reached the finish line, Hutchins had passed enough runners to finish in the top 10, an extraordinary end to a phenomenal freshman campaign.
While the All-American honors were nice, the trip to San Diego also provided Hutchins with a glimpse into her future, provided she keeps working hard at her craft.
“I’ve been able to meet so many professional runners, Hutchins said. “It’s just been such an amazing experience. It just lets me know to keep going, and the future I could have ahead if I just keep working hard and still have the passion for running, which I think I will.”