PROVO, Utah (WJHL) — Former Science Hill High School runner Jenna Hutchins made a strong statement in her first-ever college cross country meet as the redshirt freshman captured first place for the 7th-ranked BYU Cougars at their Autumn Classic Friday, which the team won handily.

The strong start comes after successful winter and spring indoor and outdoor track seasons for the two-time TSSAA state champion from Johnson City.

Jenna Hutchins, bib 2819, competes Friday on her way to a win in Brigham Young University’s Autumn Classic, the former Science Hill High All American’s first college cross country meet. (BYUPhoto)

Hutchins won two state championships for Science Hill and set a national 5K record before injuries cut short her senior season in 2021. She redshirted for coach Diljeet Taylor at BYU last fall before competing with the team in both the indoor and outdoor track seasons.

Hutchins covered the 5K course in 17:26.2, edging teammate Carmen Alder by .1 second at the tape. A BYU news release said the pair broke away from teammates Aubrey Frentheway and Lexy Halladay-Lowry with 200 meters left. Frentheway, a senior, and Halladay-Lowry, a junior, both were All-Americans last season, when BYU finished eighth at the NCAA Championship meet.

All the other runners scoring for BYU, which claimed the top six spots, were juniors and seniors.

Jenna Hutchins competes in the 2023 NCAA West Regionals May 27 in Sacramento, Calif. (BYUPhoto)

Hutchins could play a key role as BYU looks to remain a top-10 team nationally for a sixth straight year.

Once she came back from injuries to take the track in February, Hutchins showed the kind of promise that won her the USA Today Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year award in 2021. She ran BYU’s 10th-fastest 3,000 meters of all time at a Feb. 4 meet in Winston-Salem, N.C., then shaved time off that a week later with a 9:05.4 race that was good for eighth all time.

Two weeks later she was at it again, this time in the 5,000 meters, eclipsing 16 minutes with a 15:58.0 that stands as BYU’s seventh-best indoor 5,000 time.

Hutchins notched an even more prestigious performance during the outdoor season when she clocked a 15:35.7 in the 5,000 at the March 31 Stanford Invitational. That time stands as the third-fastest in BYU’s history.

Hutchins represented BYU at the May 27 NCAA West Regional in the 5,000 but failed to qualify for nationals.

BYU’s next cross country meet is Sept. 22, when the Cougars compete at the Bill Dellinger Invitational in Springfield, Ore. hosted by 10th-ranked Oregon.