Gatorade® National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year: Sarah Baxter

SIMI VALLEY, Calif., Jan. 25, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- In its 28th year of honoring the nation's best high school athletes, The Gatorade Company, in collaboration with USA TODAY High School Sports, today announced Sarah Baxter of Simi Valley High School (Simi Valley, Calif.) as its 2012-13 Gatorade National Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year. Baxter was surprised with the news at school by Allyson Felix , who earned Gatorade National Girls Track and Field Athlete of the Year and Gatorade Female Athlete of the Year honors in 2003.

"When I received the award, it was a really significant moment for me, so it felt great to surprise Sarah with the news and invite her into one of the most prestigious legacy programs in high school sports," said Felix, a three-time Summer Games athlete. "Gatorade has been on the sidelines fueling athletic performance for years, so to be recognized by a brand that understands the game and truly helps athletes perform is a huge honor for these kids."

The award, which recognizes not only outstanding athletic excellence, but also high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the racecourse, distinguishes Baxter as the nation's best high school girls cross country runner. A national advisory panel comprised of sport-specific experts and sports journalists helped select Baxter from nearly more than 212,000 high school girls cross country runners nationwide. Baxter is now a finalist for the prestigious Gatorade Female High School Athlete of the Year award, to be presented at a special ceremony prior to The ESPY Awards in July.

The 5-foot-6 junior raced to her second consecutive Nike Cross Nationals championship this past season with a time of 19:17. The state's two-time returning Gatorade Girls Cross Country Runner of the Year, Baxter was unbeaten on the season and captured the Division 1 state championship in a course record 16:40. She also broke course records at the Mt. SAC Invitational, the Woodbridge Invitational, the Marmonte League Championships and the Southern Section Championships.

Baxter has maintained a 3.15 GPA in the classroom. She has volunteered locally at a charity thrift store and on behalf of the American Legion Auxiliary.

" Sarah Baxter 's season was just for the ages," said Steve Underwood , editor for "Many of the greatest prep harriers of all time have been Californians—like Julia Stamps , Amber Trotter , Jordan Hasay and more—and you can argue now that Sarah tops them all. You can't get much better in the Golden State than setting course records at Mt. SAC and Woodward Park (state meet). And on a day where times went out the window, Sarah defended her NXN title against the best field of the season."

Baxter will begin her senior year of high school this fall.

"Without question, Sarah is deserving of recognition as the nation's best high school girls cross country runner based on her statistics on the course and the impact her accomplishments have had on Simi Valley's success," said Gatorade Vice President, Brand Marketing Morgan Flatley . "But she is also a shining example to peers and aspiring young athletes of what a leader and a student-athlete should be. She represents everything we hope for in a Gatorade Player of the Year recipient."

The Gatorade Player of the Year program annually recognizes one winner in the District of Columbia and each of the 50 states that sanction high school football, girls volleyball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, baseball, softball, and boys and girls track & field, and awards one National Player of the Year in each sport. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade high school sports leadership team in partnership with USA TODAY High School Sports, which work with top sport-specific experts and a media advisory board of accomplished, veteran prep sports journalists to determine the state winners in each sport.

Former notable Gatorade National Players of the Year include:

Super Bowl Most Valuable Player Peyton Manning
WNBA all-time leading scorer and rebounder Lisa Leslie
NFL all-time leading rusher Emmitt Smith
American Mile Record -holder Alan Webb

For more information on the Gatorade Player of the Year program, including nomination information, a complete list of former winners, and future announcement dates, visit the Gatorade Player of the Year Web site at, on Facebook at or follow us on Twitter at

SOURCE The Gatorade Company

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