* Science Hill (TN) junior Jenna Hutchins has committed to BYU
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The timing of the Brigham Young University women's program's fifth national championship -- and its first under Diljeet Taylor -- at the NCAA Cross Country Championships in March couldn't have been better.
At least if you think about it in terms of recruiting.
Because on Monday, the Cougars received yet another great spell of news as Jenna Hutchins, the No. 1 girls distance runner in the Class of 2022 -- and MileSplit's No. 4 ranked prospect overall -- committed to the program after a long process that included unofficial visits to a handful of schools.
"I've been pretty confident in my decision for a pretty long time now," Hutchins told MileSplit on Monday. " I knew in December that BYU was where I wanted to end up. I developed a special relationship with Coach Taylor from early on in the recruiting process. She seemed to offer me what other people couldn't. I was impressed with the team culture, but also, importantly, it was how she treated her athletes with the utmost respect and that she did everything she could to give them the best college experience possible."
Hutchins narrowed down her final decision to the Cougars, Stanford and Notre Dame.
"I kind of like being a small fish in a big pond," Hutchins added. "You will have so many great athletes surrounding you and challenging you constantly. I love being surrounded by people who are better than me. I'm super excited for that and honored to run with those girls."
Hutchins will be the most accomplished high school athlete Taylor, BYU's associate director of track and field and cross country, has landed since arriving in Provo in 2016. And the Tennessee native's alignment with the Cougars could also signal a continuation of that success with Taylor.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, BYU saw a stretch where it won four national cross country titles within a six-year period.
The Science Hill junior owns the high school national record in the 5K, capturing a time of 15:34.12 this past December. That followed an undefeated cross country season, where Hutchins became the high school girl to break 16 minutes on grass for 5K, doing so at the RunningLane National Cross Country Championships in November.
* Hutchins ran a national record fo 5K at the Five and Dime Athletics Meeting in December
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She was named the MileSplit50 Runner of the Year following the fall season.
Hutchins, who has won her last 13 races and hasn't lost since February of 2020, also owns career outdoor bests of 4:43.33 for the mile and 9:49.83 for 3,200 meters. She's also a two-time All-American at Foot Locker Nationals, where she finished fifth in 2019.
Then again, perhaps Taylor's gift in developing runners from very good high school careers to exceptional ones in college was part of the allure for Hutchins, who has plans on graduating from Science Hill High School early in December of 2021.
"I think for me, it was this: I know I love the sport of running so much," Hutchins said. "To me, (Coach Taylor) is a coach who is just as passionate about coaching as I am about running, which I think is pretty hard to match. But that drew me to her."
Hutchins will ultimately take an unconventional path to Provo. Her plan is to graduate from Science Hill early and then spend the next spring and summer in Jacksonville, Florida, where she will be mentored by her strength coach Julie Stackhouse.
At BYU, Huchins will look to major in exercise and wellness.
Early on in the recruitment process, Hutchins said she knew BYU was an early favorite.
Taylor's resume is chalk full of All-Americans -- currently seven at BYU and another 16 at her previous stop, her alma mater Cal State Stanislaus.
* Hutchins' most recent 3,200m race at the New Balance Dash for Doobie in March
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But more than that, Taylor has built a culture with the Cougars that has also brought into focus her ability to coach a team, building individual into cohesive units.
On a Cougars' program that features young women who are often mature for their age -- a good percentage go on missions for the LDS church before enrolling -- Hutchins still has the potential to contribute right away.
While BYU's student body is largely mormon, Hutchins is not, and that fact could surprise some. However, Hutchins' overall goal -- which her close inner circle has long maintained -- has always been to find the right program fit.
"Although we're not members of the church, we are very religious ourselves. Our beliefs correspond really well," Hutchins said.
A trip to Provo over spring break gave her the chance to meet the team and connect.
"More than anything, I got along with the team super well and they were very welcoming," she said. "I can picture myself there."
- Hutchins breaks 16 minutes or 5K at the RunningLane National XC Championships
- Hutchins was slightly surprised by her record-breaking season