‘We always have a running buddy’: RaeAnne and Jaimee Tutton continue to excel at Pensacola Christian

Jon and Linda Tutton just wanted one thing for their daughters, RaeAnne and Jaimee: to make sure a sport wasn’t taking over their lives.

At least in an unhealthy manner.

That’s not to say the sport of running – whether it be during cross country in the fall, track in the spring or just training in the off seasons – isn’t a major part of RaeAnne and Jaimee’s lives. The sisters, student-athletes at Pensacola Christian Academy, have excelled. They’ve done it since day one.

“We’re always together. Some of the girls (on the team), when we don’t have practice, will say, ‘I don’t like running by myself,’” RaeAnne said. “We don’t have that problem. We always have a running buddy.”

RaeAnne had already started running at PCA when she was in seventh grade. She started to make a name for herself in eighth grade. She was just following in her older brother, J.T.’s, footsteps after he was named the 2018 PNJ Boys Cross Country Runner of the Year.

That same year, Jaimee was in sixth grade. Jon remembered there was a meet at Fort Walton Beach where there was an open mile, meaning anyone could run and compete. And there sat Jaimee, “eating a donut, I’m pretty sure,” Jon quipped, who asked her parents if she could run it. They obliged, and she ran the mile in 6 minutes, 30 seconds.

That’s when their parents realized maybe they had something special. But they had to make sure of one thing.

“When they started this, we were like, they’ve got to survive the sport. They’ve got to have a relationship at the end of this,” Linda said. “They can’t hate each other because they’re so competitive. They haven’t. It’s been so good.”

“As parents, you’ve got to guide in that. If you’re not careful, you’ll put goals above relationship, above team spirit. It’s a healthy balance, right?” Jon added. “We talk about it every day. It’s sitting at dinner talking about it. They strategize all the time. They read about it all the time. Linda reads books about health. … It’s just a balance of making sure the sport isn’t taking over their life.”

The relationship between the sisters, with RaeAnne now a senior and Jaimee now a sophomore, hasn’t suffered. If anything, it’s only been bolstered and strengthened. While the dynamic duo does have some similar interests outside of running, “it’s mainly a lot of running,” RaeAnne said with a laugh.

After all, RaeAnne and Jaimee spend all fall running cross country together, train together in the winter to prepare for track, compete with one another on the track in the spring – running upward of 25 to 30 miles a week together – and then put on the miles during the summer to gear up for cross country again.

Lather, rinse, repeat.

“If we had been in opposite sports, I don’t think we would’ve built the relationship that we have right now,” RaeAnne said. “We’re always together at meets all day long, practices, at home when we’re running. It’s super special to build each other up through running, too.”

“We definitely would not have this relationship if we both hadn’t done running,” Jaimee said.

A competitive balance

There may be a two-year gap between the sisters, but as far as running goes, they’re “the same person,” RaeAnne said. Sometimes there’s an assumption that the sisters are twins. It’s a question the sisters have the field. Does it happen often?

“All the time,” Jaimee said with a laugh.

“We’ve trained at the same level for so long doing exactly the same, eating the same things,” RaeAnne said. “It’s not like one has the advantage over the other.”

Neither sister has a clear upper hand over the other. And that’s because of the running qualities each sister brings to the table, according to Jon. He compared RaeAnne to a metronome. And Jaimee brings a “burst of energy and speed.”

“RaeAnne can run off, and if she gets in her mind that it needs to be a certain time in every lap, she’ll do it,” Jon said. “They really do compliment one another, because one can say, ‘Let’s go,’ and the other can say, ‘How fast?’”

And clearly, the chemistry between the sisters is working.

Pensacola Christian Academy won the Class 1A state title in cross country during the fall.

“It was so fulfilling,” RaeAnne said of PCA finally winning the state title. “It really was,” Jaimee quickly added.

While the Warriors’ top runners stood out among the best in the state, the Tutton sisters led the pack. RaeAnne claimed fourth overall with a time of 18 minutes, 19.7 seconds. Jaimee wasn’t far behind – literally – with a time of 18 minutes, 19.8 seconds.

Finishing a tenth within the other sister isn’t uncommon, and it was primarily done all season long in cross country. RaeAnne usually was the victor.

“We’re both so competitive so it’s like, ‘OK, you go,’ and whoever gets it gets it,” RaeAnne said. “It makes us go faster because of that.”

“It’s not too competitive where we’re like, ‘Ugh, no’ (when the other one wins). But it’s competitive where we push each other to do better,” Jaimee said.

 Jaimee couldn’t help but smile a little bit when talking about finishing right alongside her sister.

“It gets emotional,” RaeAnne said of completing virtually every race together. “I mean, you’re exhausted, but afterward, kind of emotional.”

Before RaeAnne and Jaimee weren’t into running before attending PCA. J.T. had gotten the running bug with the Warriors and started to dominate. Because of his love for the sport, that’s what inspired the sisters to start running in middle school.

While Jaimee called it a “whole family dynamic” of the three runners, there was some laughter when asked if the running gene came from Jon and Linda. “Our parents don’t run,” Jaimee quickly quipped.

But having J.T. at their disposal is like having a “personal coach” at home.

With RaeAnne’s high-school running career coming to a close soon – she currently doesn’t have any plans to run with a college, but has had a couple offers though “their programs aren’t exactly what (she’s) wanting to do” – Jaimee said she’s excited to continue to put the Tutton name on top of the cross country charts.

“It’s big shoes to fill, but it’s really fun,” Jaimee said.

With the pair potentially splitting soon, they both enjoyed reflecting on what their careers together had meant. It was a “gradual” growth to becoming elite runners – they couldn’t pinpoint an exact time where they thought potentially something was brewing.

At first, the sisters just wanted to “constantly improve,” RaeAnne said, and “then push each other to keep getting better,” Jaimee followed.

“It just happened so gradually. There’s always going to be someone that’s better than you. If you haven’t found someone better than you, you’re just not looking hard enough,” RaeAnne said. “It’s not very hard to find someone that’s faster than you.”

In Class 1A in cross country, there were only three faster runners than the Tutton sisters. In track, in the 1,600-meter – or a mile – run, there aren’t many faster runners, either. RaeAnne, as of Friday, was ranked seventh in the state in Class 1A with a time of 5 minutes, 16.19 seconds. Jaimee is eighth, clocking in at 5:16.23. Just hundredths apart.

The goals for cross country and track are different, the sisters said. In the fall, PCA wanted to win state. For track, the goal is just to finish “as high as they can” at state. They both have a good chance to podium in a few different distance events, including the 4×800-meter relay, where the Warriors are currently ranked second in Class 1A.

The relay consists of Reagan Smith, Karissa Keyser and the Tutton sisters. On March 16, they finished with an overall time of 9 minutes, 51.28 seconds – just a few seconds behind Oak Hall, ranked first in the state.

And The relay “brings other girls into the family,” RaeAnne said.

“We call some of the girls on our team our adopted family,” Jaimee said. “Some people will ask if we’re all related because we kind of look similar and we’ll say, ‘Well, they’re our adopted sisters.’”

But it’s the Tutton sisters leading the “family.”

“It’s a good comradery and chemistry. This has been a good team within our team. They’ve helped duplicate that,” Jon said. “They’ve been a good example to this team.”

Ben Grieco is a sports reporter for the Pensacola News Journal. He can be reached on X (@BenGriecoSports) and via email at BGrieco@gannett.com.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: ‘We always have a running buddy’: RaeAnne and Jaimee Tutton continue to excel at Pensacola Christian

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