Hutchins will be toeing the line in the annual Brooks PR Invitational on the campus of the University of Washington in Seattle as part of arguably the best girls high school mile field ever assembled. Her time of 4:43.33, which broke Rebecca Story’s two-year-old record, got her national attention and is currently third-best in the field. It is also currently fourth-best nationally and the leading freshman time by more than three seconds.
Hutchins, who is undefeated this season on the track in individual events over 800 meters — both indoors and outdoors — came away with the 1,600 and 800 large school titles three weeks ago at the TSSAA state meet and will look to add to her trophy case.
“I’m really excited to be here,” Hutchins said. “(Brooks PR) always has a good field and I’m proud to represent Tennessee.”
WHO HUTCHINS WILL SEE
Every entry into the one-mile field on Saturday is seeded under 4:50 and there are currently 16 scheduled starters. This will be the toughest test Hutchins has faced since December’s Foot Locker Cross Country Nationals in San Diego.
She placed ninth in that race and earned All-American honors, so she has both experience and success against a high-caliber field like she will see at the Husky Outdoor Track.
The top entry is Victoria Starcher (Ripley, West Virginia) at 4:38.19, which is the current best time for the one mile in the country. Starcher set the mark earlier this season by winning the famous Penn Relays Carnival in a meet record.
With her run at the Penn Relays, Starcher also recorded the 10th-fastest one mile time in high school girls history.
The second-fastest athlete is Taryn Parks (Greencastle, Pennsylvania) with a 4:38.68 converted 1,600. She is the Pennsylvania state champion, but it was by the narrowest of margins. She edged out Marlee Starliper of Dillsburg by just under a half-second.
“I’ve prepared for this race like I usually do every other one,” Hutchins said. “There are some great runners that are going to be out there on Saturday and I’ll just try to do my best. I just want to try to stay close to the top pack and see what happens from there.”
Some other notables that will be a part of the race include Idaho state champion Lexy Halladay and California state champion Jacqueline Duarte.
Of the 15 other entrants, Hutchins has one of the better 800 personal bests of 2:13.88. However, Starcher has the fastest personal best in the half mile with a scintillating 2:07.42 and is a three-time West Virginia state champion in the 3,200, 1,600 and 800. She is known for her fast finishes and is a pure middle-distance runner.
Hutchins has a personal best of 1:01.38 in the 400, which she ran at the Big Seven Conference meet and finished second by less than a half-second. It was her only loss in an individual track race all season.
Her 400 personal best comes in as ninth-best amongst the field, but where she is deadly in the last 200 meters of the race. In her few close races this season, Hutchins has relied on a strong finishing kick to bring home win after win.
“I felt really good after running that fast time at Music City,” Hutchins said. “I think I could’ve gone faster.
“I think it’s great that I’m getting all this national racing experience early. It will only help me down the road, and I can always learn from my mistakes.”
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Brooks PR is one of the more exclusive high school postseason meets in the entire country with only a certain amount of invitees and events taking place on the one-day meet.
Hutchins is one of just three athletes from Tennessee participating in the meet — along with Emmanuel Bynum (Whitehaven) in the 400 and Cole Bullock (Chattanooga Red Bank) in the two mile — and is the youngest in the girls mile field.
With multiple national records holder Katelyn Tuohy (Thiells, New York) choosing to end her season prematurely, Hutchins can certainly bolster her resume for Gatorade national girls track athlete of the year with a win.
When Hutchins clocked her personal best of 4:43.33 in Nashville two weeks ago, she came within 1.5 seconds of the national freshman class record in the one mile (4:41.80), which is held by Halladay, who will be in the race on Saturday.
“The national record is not my main objective going into the race,” Hutchins said. “I just want to try to finish high and if I get the record, it’s just like icing on the cake.”
The meet record was set in 2014 by Sarah Feeney (Ogden, Utah) in 4:39.32. It will certainly be under threat from the gun, with a lot of fast finishers lining up for the premier event of the meet.
There will also be a pair of professional 1,500-meter races featuring athletes like Brooks Beasts Track Club members Katie Mackey and Josh Kerr.
HOW TO WATCH
The meet can be live streamed through the Brooks website at www.brooksrunning.com, beginning at 6 p.m. (EDT). The girls invitational mile is scheduled to begin at 8:45 p.m.