Johnson City Press: Science Hill's Hutchins named Gatorade athlete of the year
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Science Hill's Hutchins named Gatorade athlete of the year

Tanner Cook • Jun 20, 2019 at 10:35 PM

The accolades keep on coming for Science Hill freshman sensation Jenna Hutchins, who can’t yet drive.

It was announced on Thursday morning that Hutchins was the recipient of the Gatorade girls track athlete of the year award for Tennessee. She is the fourth Science Hill athlete to win the award and first for girls track.

Hutchins had quite the decorated season on the track, winning two state championships in the 800 and 1,600 meters — and setting the state record for the one-mile run at 4:43.33 in the Music City Distance Carnival at the end of May.

She joins names such as Daniel Norris (2011, baseball), Lucas Altman (2016, boys soccer) and Todd Smalling (2005, boys cross country) as former Hilltoppers to win the award.

“I was really honored to receive the award for Tennessee. I was satisfied with my season and I did a lot better than I thought I would do,” Hutchins said. 

HARD TO BEAT

It’s hard to go undefeated in any sport, but it is almost unheard of in track and field.

Hutchins nearly accomplished that feat in individual events over 800 meters this spring, losing only once and it was at the last race in the Brooks PR Invitational one mile in Seattle.

“I learned a lot from that race. There were a lot of really good girls and the main thing was learning about strategy,” she said. “It was a really fun meet and hopefully I’ll get to go back in the future.” 

In the middle of the third lap, she tried to make a move on the outside to join the lead pack, but got tripped up with another runner and fell. She did end up finishing the race in 16th, but her time of 4:57.64 was not what she was looking for.

Hutchins was known throughout the state as having one of the deadliest finishing sprints for a girls distance runner and she used it when she needed it. In the 1,600 state finals, she sprinted past Dobyns-Bennett’s Sasha Neglia and won by less than one-tenth of a second.

“(Using my kick) is one of the most exciting moments of the race,” she said. “You wait around the entire race and then go by people at the end. It makes watching the race exciting, too.”

Hutchins also finished the season with the best two mile of 10:25.01 in Tennessee, and that also ranked fifth nationally.

Her state record shattered Rebecca Story’s two-year-old mark and ranked as the second-best time ever run by a freshman girl in the United States. The freshman national record still stands at 4:41.80.

OFF THE TRACK

Most people see Hutchins on the track and running through town or on the Tweetsie Trail and think that she runs all the time.

That is certainly not the case as she volunteers regularly as a youth track coach and used to be a member of the theatre club at Science Hill. She also volunteers her time at the Johnson City Public Library. 

“I help a lot with the State of Franklin Track Club in the youth meets in the summer and sometimes give a little bit of coaching,” she said. “Doing theatre club at Science Hill is great. It’s almost like a break from running and it really helps me stay balanced.”

During her freshman year, she maintained an “A” average in the classroom.

In winning the state award, Hutchins has the opportunity to award a $1,000 grant to a local or national youth sports organization of her choice. She is also eligible to submit an essay to win one of twelve $10,000 spotlight grants for the organization of choice, which will be announced throughout the year.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Hutchins is now one of 50 finalists in contention for the national Gatorade girls track athlete of the year, which will be announced in the coming weeks.

She has the opportunity to join names like Olympians Lolo Jones (Roosevelt, Iowa) in 1997-98 and Allyson Felix (Los Angeles) in 2002-03 to garner the national award.

“There are a lot of really great girls across the country and I don’t think I’ll get the national one,” she said. “I was just really happy that I got the one for Tennessee and I can take what I’ve learned from this year to better myself for next season.”

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