Last weekend at the Nike Desert Twilight XC Festival in Casa Grande, Arizona, spectators were treated to the second-fastest 5-kilometer time by a sophomore since 2000 when Hutchins crossed the line in 16:38.97 in the sweepstakes division. That mark currently puts her third in the country by time.
“The atmosphere there was electric,” Hutchins said. “There were so many great spectators and great competition. I knew it was going to be a fast race and there were a lot of fast people in the race, but I did not expect to go that far under 17 (minutes). I think that just speaks to the hard work paying off.”
However, this weekend at the Great American Cross Country Festival in Cary, North Carolina, will be a tremendous test for the talented Hutchins.
Not only is the field stacked with great team talent, but the reigning two-time Nike Cross Nationals champion and undisputed top-ranked high school female distance runner in the country for the last two and a half years, Katelyn Tuohy, will pay a visit to the WakeMed Soccer Complex in her second race of the season.
The Nike Race of Champions is set to go off at 11:50 a.m.
A North Rockland (Thiells, New York) senior, Tuohy’s list of accolades goes on and on.
She has been the face of girls cross country and track & field since she was a sophomore and is regarded around the country as a “generational talent.”
She holds the national high school record for a girls cross country 5-kilometer race when she blazed a 16:06.87 (5:11/mile) at the Ocean State Invitational last September in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.
She has convincingly won the last two Nike Cross Nationals titles, prevailing by 17 seconds in 2018 and 41 seconds in 2017. Each time was a new course record and it looked like Secretariat’s 31-length victory at the 1973 Belmont Stakes.
The list doesn’t stop there.
On the track, she holds the national records for the outdoor one mile (4:33.87), 3,200 meters (9:47.88), indoor 3,000 meters (9:01.81) and 5,000 meters (15:37.12).
She hasn’t lost in a high school-only race in track or cross country above 1,600 meters since the 111th Millrose Games in 2018, when she was fourth in a loaded one-mile run.
Tuohy is arguably better at cross country, in which she hasn’t lost since 2016. Virtually every time she has toed the line at a cross country race for the last two years, the course record has not only been broken, but shattered. The closest anyone has been to beating her in cross country has been 17 seconds.
She is also the only girl in the history of the Gatorade Athlete of the Year series to win the cross country and track national awards in the same year, when she accomplished the feat in 2017-18. She also won the Gatorade Overall Female Athlete of the Year that same year and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in Sep. 2018 for her accomplishment.
“It will be an honor competing against her,” Hutchins said. “I know how much of an accomplished runner she is and how talented she is. ... My goal is not to focus on her so much, but to just run the best race that I can.”
HOW HUTCHINS MATCHES UP
Hutchins is certainly among the challengers to Tuohy this Saturday and it’s almost ironic since Hutchins passed Tuohy’s 16:44.70 performance at Nike Cross Nationals in 2017 for the second-best mark since 2000 for a sophomore.
Hutchins is less than six seconds away from Kathy Kroeger’s (Independence) state record for a cross country 5K of 16:32.0 at Foot Locker South in 2006.
With Hutchins’ run late Friday in Arizona, she moved into 20th all-time for a high school girls cross country 5K in the United States and is less than 10 seconds away from cracking the top 10.
“The consistency in the training over the past two years has really been what’s led to the improvements so far this year,” Hutchins said.
With Tuohy likely setting the pace and the rest of the field not being too far behind in what looks to be ideal conditions on Saturday morning, the event record of Aisling Cuffe (Cornwall, New York) from 2010 (16:40.90) and course record by Nevada Mareno (Raleigh, North Carolina) in 2015 (16:36.18) could be in grave danger.
The factor that will keep Hutchins in the conversation will be her unparalleled finishing kick, which was on full display during the spring track season. WakeMed has a slight uphill finish, but is a 400-meter straightaway finish once the runners round the last turn.
She also has an advantage of seeing the course beforehand, having raced at Great American last year and placing fifth.
There are plenty of other contenders in the girls race, including four ranked inside the top 25 by time this season.
Plenty of teams will be vying for the title as well and among the contenders are No. 10 Great Oak (Temecula, California) and No. 27 Pine Crest (Fort Lauderdale, Florida).
HOW TO WATCH
There will be a live stream available online via Milesplit.com. There are over 3,300 entered athletes in multiple divisions in the race.
The festivities begin at 8 a.m. from Cary and the Nike Girls Race of Champions will be the 12th race of the day. The boys race will be the event before the girls at 11:30 a.m.