On Friday, January 25, 2013 Sarah Baxter made her way into history class. She was expecting, like every other school day, to learn about impressive men, women and events of the past. What she didn’t anticipate was that she was about to make history herself. Baxter walked into a classroom where four-time Olympic gold medalist Allyson Felix was waiting. Felix made her way to the front of the classroom to announce that someone in the room was an outstanding runner. This individual was so impressive that she was recognized nationally for her talent and has just entered the ranks several Olympic and world-renowned athletes, like herself, also did as a high school athletes. Then, Sarah was called up to the podium to accept the Gatorade National Runner of the Year (2012-2013) award.
Felix explains that “it’s just an amazing thing that Gatorade does” with this program. Adding, “I’m just excited I got to be here to surprise Sarah.” Felix’s experience receiving this award as a high school athlete was something she’ll never forget. But, she told me that she also very much enjoys being on the giving side of the equation. On this side she is able to see up-and-coming athletes in the beginning stages of their career. In this stage their involvement is “so genuine,” and they are just out there having fun.
“Winning this award is so special; it’s a huge legacy,” Felix shares. It really is! Many outstanding professional athletes are products of this program. They started exactly where Baxter has. But, Baxter has mentioned in several previous interviews that she’s just a regular girl. She doesn’t see her talents as anything extraordinary. She just runs. Felix, and the rest of the running community, sees something different. Felix pressed Baxter a bit, asking, “Now does it feel like a big deal? You have a whole pep rally and everyone is calling your name!” Baxter is starting to believe it. “I’m really excited!” she explains. However, with the excitement comes nervousness about the media attention. I assured her that she’d get the hang of it because it is likely to continue.
It is apparent that Baxter is a well-rounded individual. She loves spending time with and sharing her successes with friends and family. After asking her about her future goals, intending to hear something about running, she responded with “Well, I definitely want to go to college and get an education.” She is looking into “a couple of running schools like Stanford, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.” While she explores different collegiate opportunities, she plans to keep doing what she’s done in the past. She wants to keep breaking records.
Felix, who is focusing on making the 2013 World Championship team, offered valuable advice to Baxter and other athletes in the beginning stages of their careers. “Just enjoy the journey. It’s not going to be an overnight success. There are going to be ups and downs along the way, so embrace the experience.” She ended with a fitting reminder: “keep having fun.” This, I think, Baxter has covered.