College Spotlight – Gearing Goes From Clemson to Kentucky, Finishes XC Career as SEC Runner-Up

The journey of White County alum Jenna Gearing (Class of 2016) has been a windy road. The former 5-time state champion while running cross country and track & field long distance for the Lady Warriors has endured injuries and a big move from Clemson to Kentucky. True to her character, Gearing has passed with flying colors.

After finishing up her academic career at Clemson, Jenna made the move to Kentucky for an opportunity to compete while going for a Master’s program, studying Professional and Technical Writing.

“I had decided to transfer because I thought maybe with my recent PR’s in indoor I could continue to get better and I had the full fifth year,” says Gearing. “When it came down to it, I was stuck between UGA and Kentucky, and both had offered me great opportunities but I think there was just more of a leap of faith with Kentucky. I had never seen the campus or even been to the state and it wasn’t the comfortable choice (like UGA).”

Turns out, it was the right choice to choose to go to Lexington. The injury bug kept biting the star runner, but her love for the sport was never in question.

“I think at my lowest point in my career when it just seemed like I had injury after injury, I really held on to the feeling I had,” added Gearing. “I constantly craved to be running, whether it just be for 20 minutes or a full hour. When I was sitting on a bike for an hour or swimming doing laps in the pool for an hour, I just wanted to be running. I discovered that running is a privilege and when I could run again I couldn’t quit or take it for granted.”

This 2020 season was nothing close to normal, but perhaps what seemed to be the next closest thing was success by Gearing, who made an immediate impact for the Lady Wildcats. She finished her cross country season on October 30 in the SEC Championship, crossing the line with a new PR of 19:58 (6K), good enough to finish as runner-up in arguably the best conference in America.

“I never would’ve thought I’d get to experience that moment, being second in the SEC,” says Gearing. “It was just fun. I was surrounded with the people I love and the people that believed I could get to that point. It was just pure happiness and love for the sport.”

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She previously came in first at the Louisville Cross Country Classic on October 3, and 2nd at the Blazer Classic on October 16. Her initial meet with Kentucky saw her finish 5th at the Commodore Classic in September.

Over the course of her collegiate cross country career, she’s placed in the top 10 a total of 7 times. In previous conference championship meets, she finished 55th in 2016 at the ACC Championships, 80th in 2018, and 95th in 2019.

Gearing also competed at Clemson in Outdoor and Indoor Track & Field. In Outdoor, she had a pair of top-10 finishes while running in the 800, 1500, 3000, and 5000. In the Indoor 800, Mile, and 3000, she came in the top 10 6 times.

“This spring I will be competing during indoor and outdoor,” adds Gearing. “Moving forward I hope to stay another year at Kentucky because this year doesn’t count toward eligibility because of COVID. It’s a little confusing but all I know is if I have the chance to run then I’m going to keep doing that as long as I can.”

While at White County, Gearing was a 5-time state champion, though she missed a sixth title and third cross country title when her leg broke just short of the finish in a meet that she was winning by an outstanding margin. She totaled 8 region championships as well, including four in a row in cross country. She was the BLITZ XC Runner of the Year all four years of her high school career, and was twice named BLITZ Track & Field Athlete of the Year. She was an easy choice to go into the BLITZ Hall of Fame.

College Spotlight Framed Print (11×17) – Jenna Gearing

College Spotlight Framed Print (11×17) – Jenna Gearing

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