Recent editorials from Tennessee newspapers:
The Johnson City Press on a local track star who is breaking records:
Anyone who hasn’t heard the name Jenna Hutchins by now must live in a local news vacuum.
The Science Hill High School long-distance runner added to her long list of accomplishments Nov. 21 by setting a national record. She became the first high school girl to break the 16-minute mark on a cross-country course, completing the 5K in 15:58.42. Her closest competitor was nearly a full minute behind her.
As Sports Writer Tanner Cook reported, Hutchins’ time broke the previous record by 8 seconds, her own Tennessee state and Alabama soil records from earlier this season by 27 seconds and the John Hunt Running Park course record by 1:38. Hutchins already was a four-time Tennessee individual champion in track and cross country and a two-time Foot Locker All-American.
Most of us can barely imagine the training, self-discipline and grit involved in what she does.
And when you think about the stress everyone in the world has been under in 2020, Hutchins’ achievements take on even greater significance. The novel coronavirus pandemic has been no picnic for anyone. It has presented unique challenges to high school students in two school years now — in academics, college preparations, socialization and extracurricular activities.
The latter has been especially hard on student athletes. Entire teams have been quarantined because of COVID-19 exposure. Seasons have been shortened. Games have been postponed and canceled. Tournaments and championship games have gone unplayed.
So it must be especially gratifying for the Elizabethton Cyclones to be back in the Class 4A state championship football game for the second consecutive year, having won the state title in 2019. The team has won a mind-boggling 29 games in a row. That includes a 56-21 blowout over Nolensville in Friday’s semifinal.
When the Cyclones face Haywood at Tennessee Tech’s Tucker Stadium in Cookeville on Saturday, they should have not just the city of Elizabethton but all of Northeast Tennessee behind them. The team should be a point of pride for the entire region.
Hutchins should be, too.
Life in 2020 has been anything but normal, but seeing young people achieve their dreams gives us a glimpse of how life should be. While some may question whether team sports should have been played at all this year given the danger of COVID-19, that takes nothing away from the athletes who have persevered and excelled.
Such moments in life are always special, but they mean even more in a year like this.
The Kingsport Times-News on winter months and house fire dangers:
The winter season doesn’t begin until Dec. 21, but average temperatures are dropping, and we’ve seen several hard frosts. And that ushers in the most dangerous time of the year for house fires, with fire related to home heating the leading cause of fatal blazes in Tennessee, according to the State Fire Marshal’s Office.
The cause has yet to be determined, but a recent fire in a Rogersville mobile home took the life of a 75-year-old woman. Tennessee, historically, has had a high fire mortality rate along with many other Southern states. The National Fire Protection Association reports that Tennessee’s fire mortality rate is the nation’s eighth highest, and the most common element in fires during the winter is home heating.
It may turn out that the pandemic will also contribute. People are more likely to be at home, do more cooking, use the fireplace more, and use space heaters trying to stay warm. Fireplaces, space heaters, chimneys and wood stoves are a leading cause of residential fires nationwide, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. As many as 87% of house fires have been traced to heating sources.
It is important to keep furnaces and chimneys well-maintained by having them inspected and to exercise caution and common sense. For instance, don’t use the oven or stove to heat the house, use flashlights rather than candles if the power goes out, and follow the “3 foot” rule by keeping kids, pets and anything flammable at least 3 feet away from heating sources such as space heaters. And keep in mind that Christmas trees are also a leading cause of home fires.
Among the more popular ways to keep warm are electric space heaters, which officials remind must not be plugged into power strips or extension cords but rather directly into a wall outlet. Because these heaters require increased energy load, extension cords are at risk of overheating and becoming a fire hazard.
Some safety tips for the winter months:
— Test your smoke alarms on a monthly basis. Replace the batteries every year.
— Create a fire escape plan and practice it with your family.
— Keep flammable decorations away from heat sources.
— Use candles on sturdy surfaces away from objects that could catch fire.
— Don’t use candles in bedrooms or where your child or pet is alone with them.
— Never leave a space heater running unattended.
— Keep flashlights and plenty of batteries on hand if the power goes out so you don’t have to use candles.
— Unplug decorations for the night or when you’re away from home.
— Stay in the kitchen when cooking on the stove.
Don’t take chances when there may be a fire risk. Remember: Safety first.