Note: Former Science Hill runner Jenna Hutchins will compete for BYU Friday at 2:45 p.m. EDT in the University of Oregon’s Bill Dellinger Invitational. Live results (and a paid video option) will be available at the Athletic Timing website.
PROVO, Utah (WJHL) — The sky is the limit for former Science Hill distance runner Jenna Hutchins, Brigham Young University (BYU) Women’s Cross Country Coach Diljeet Taylor told News Channel 11.
“She has the characteristics of a champion,” Taylor said after Hutchins paced the field in her first official college cross country meet Sept. 8. “It’s really fun to be able to work with her.”
After redshirting last fall, Hutchins competed for BYU in both indoor and outdoor track and field, turning the Cougars’ third-fastest time ever at a meet in Stanford last March. That made her performance at BYU’s Autumn Classic — when she outpaced two All-American teammates and nipped another teammate at the finish — no surprise to Taylor, who coached the team to a national championship in 2021.
“She and two of her teammates all ran pretty equivalent times at Stanford in the 5K so there was a good indication based on that fitness that if we had a good summer of training she would be a big contributor for our program,” Taylor said.
Hutchins told News Channel 11 that is exactly what she was hoping for entering her first truly healthy cross country season since 2020.
“I just want to be able to continue to run consistent, do my very best and I feel if I just focus on working together with my teammates and kind of achieving these small goals together then great things will happen,” Hutchins said via Zoom. “I don’t know exactly what that is but just excited to find out and see what we can do later on in the season.”
She’ll hit the course tomorrow at more competitive meet than the Autumn Classic, the University of Oregon’s Bill Dellinger Classic. Along with sixth-ranked BYU, it features seventh-ranked Oregon and No. 17 Oregon State in the field.
“I know Oregon is ranked really high this year, so I know we’re going to be battling it out with them,” Hutchins said. “I think we’re just going to go try our very best, just continue to work together as that pack and see.”
Even though the Cougars finished eighth at last year’s national championships, the team was disappointed after falling from fourth in the final 1,000 meters of the 6,000-meter race. Hutchins said team members realized they were long on affirmation and support for each other, but might have lacked a bit of killer instinct.
“Coach Taylor talks about this year we’re going in with kind of a mindset of like, high expectations and high love …
“I feel like we’re really trying to dial that in and make sure that we’re not only having a positive attitude and giving each other a lot of support but also holding each other accountable. So I think we’ve been doing a good job of that so far and we’re excited.”
‘Her talent speaks for itself … her mindset sets her apart’
Taylor said she loves coaching Hutchins for reasons that have nothing to do with what she called limitless talent.
“Our kind of team culture at BYU is faith, trust, love built on gratitude, and there isn’t an athlete I’ve ever coached that expresses and shows more gratitude than Jenna Hutchins,” Taylor, who recruited Hutchins starting in 2020, said.
She recalled Hutchins knitting her a royal blue scarf for Christmas during the recruiting process.
“I wrote a note card to an athlete before every race, I send note cards to athletes when I’m recruiting them, but Jenna was kind of the first athlete that was consistently doing that back and was really grateful for the time I was investing in her as a recruit. And that has multiplied since she’s become my athlete, that level of gratitude that she shows. She’s just very, very grounded in that gratitude.”
But Hutchins, who set national records while still a junior at Science Hill, is also the kind of runner who can achieve big dreams for herself and help the Cougars achieve them collectively, Taylor said.
“She’s got a really strong aerobic engine,” Taylor said. “She’s able to do threshold work and stay in that uncomfortable zone for a really long time and has a great amount of strength.”
Taylor said she “wouldn’t put a ceiling” on Hutchins’ prospects as a college runner and beyond.
“I think the dreams are going to change and evolve the older she gets and the more she accomplishes,” Taylor said. “I’m just here to really invest in those dreams and support her so that she’s got the best opportunity to reach that long term success.”
Hutchins, who said she always runs “best when I don’t have a specific goal in mind but I’m just confident in myself,” seems to have taken to Taylor’s philosophy. She said it drew her to BYU to begin with.
“She’s very passionate about what she does and we go into her office for individual meetings and things and she’ll ask us what our dreams are,” Hutchins said.
“I feel like it’s really important to me because I can tell her all my dreams, what I want to accomplish and she makes our dreams her dreams as well.”
For Hutchins, the dreams extend beyond what she hopes will be a highly successful college career.
“I would love to be able to run professionally. It’s my favorite thing to do. And I’d love to make that my career one day as long as everything goes well.”
Taylor has little doubt that it can.
“She’s super competitive and she’s got the right mixture of humility and confidence, because I think it takes both to be great. I see her excelling in whatever she goes into because the mindset that she brings is one of a champion whether that’s in sport or in life.”