Simi Valley (Simi Valley, California) junior distance runner Sarah Baxter was named 2012-13 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year on Friday.
Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix delivered the news in a surprise visit to Simi Valley. Felix, who won the 200-meter dash at the 2012 London Games, was named the Gatorade National Girls Track & Field Athlete of the Year as a high school senior in 2002-03.
This past fall, the 5-foot-6 Baxter won her second consecutive Nike Cross Nationals title (19:17). The three-time Gatorade California Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, Baxter went unbeaten for the season and captured the Division 1 state championship in a course-record time of 16:40. She also broke course records at the Mt. SAC Invitational, Woodbridge Invitational, Marmonte League championships and Southern Section championships.
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“Sarah Baxter really had a season for the ages,” said Steve Underwood, DyeStat Editor for Runnerspace.com. “The Golden State has produced many greats, but no one has run faster in the two biggest meets on the most storied layouts: The Mt. SAC Invitational and the state meet at Woodward Park. She is arguably already California’s greatest of all time.”
The Gatorade Player of the Year program recognizes outstanding athletic excellence as well as high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the course. Baxter is now a finalist for the Gatorade Girls High School Athlete of the Year award.
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A three-time cross country state champion, Baxter became the first high school runner to defend the NXN title since the event’s inception in 2004. She has never lost a high school cross country race.
Baxter, 17, has maintained a 3.22 GPA. She has volunteered as a member of the Junior American Legion Auxiliary and the Simi Valley High recycling club. She has also donated her time on behalf of a senior citizen thrift store and coached youth running.
Baxter remains undecided on a collegiate destination.