East Tennessee had a great cross country season.
And of course...Jenna Hutchins rewrote the state and national record books with the best cross country campaign in state history.
I'll start our end of year accolades in East Tennessee by first congratulating us all on getting to this point. Getting through a successful state meet is a win for everyone involved this season in a year like no other. And each coach, athlete and parent should be commended for their perseverance to get us to this point.
Here are a few honors for East Tennessee teams and individuals from the 2020 cross country season.
Runner of the Year: Jenna Hutchins
Jenna Hutchins set a new state record at the start of the season with a 16:25.08 in Alabama. But we knew she was far from finished this season.
She won another state championship with a 16:30.84 in Hendersonville. And then she followed that up by breaking 16 minutes at the RunningLane National Championship in 15:58.42.
Last weekend, she broke the national high school record and set a new American U20 outdoor track record at 5,000 meters in South Carolina.
We will always remember the 2020 season for being the year Hutchins rewrote the local and national record books.
Boys Team of the Year: Hardin Valley Academy
Hardin Valley Academy left no doubt in their Division One Large Schools State Championship.
Keller took home six individual wins in local meets around East Tennessee. Including a 15:40.72 career-best at the Knoxville 5K PR Classic on November 21.
The Hawks put six runners in the top ten of that postseason race a few weeks ago in Knoxville. Andrew Schultz, another one of the top juniors in the state, was the runner-up in 16:02.83.
This team wasn't just great this year, but they're also not going anywhere. Four of their top seven were juniors this past fall, including Keller. Losing Schultz to graduation will be a big loss, but expect the Hawks to start the 2021 cross country season as the favorites to defend their title in Division One Large Schools.
Girls Team of the Year: Farragut High School
With 112 points at the state meet in loaded Division One Large Schools, Farragut finished as the state runner-up to a strong Brentwood team and was ranked as our second-best team across all classes at the end of the year.
Top runner Grace Lathrop led the way for the Admirals at state with a 19th-place finish in a career-best of 19:20.65. But this team was built around incredible depth.
Only 37 seconds separated Lathrop from No. 5 Kennedy Reynolds at state. Camryn Johnson (19:24) and Melanie Hayman (19:40) provided excellent depth through No. 3. And Lexi Foley was only two seconds back of her in the No. 4 spot.
This team is young and will certainly be back to contend for a first place finish at state next year. Each of their top five runners are underclassmen.
Looking forward to seeing what this team can do in the future.
Breakout Star: Evan Simpson
Breaking 16 minutes is a big accomplishment if you're a senior.
McCallie has a freshman who did that in his first year of high school running.
Evan Simpson is a name to remember across the state. He ran a 15:56.67 to finish off his season at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championship. That was on the heels of a fourth-place finish in 16:33.19 at state in DII-AA as well.
Simpson competes for one of the best teams in the state at McCallie. And he'll certainly play a big part in their defense of two-straight state championships next fall.