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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

It’s Wyatt Baxter’s time

#16 Wyatt Baxter is a dual-sport athlete who runs cross-country in the Fall and the men’s 5,000 meters and 10,000 meters for track in the spring. Image courtesy: Chico sports information

Growing up with a sibling that plays the same sport as you has positives and negatives.

On the one hand, you always have somebody to practice or play with. On the other hand, they often become your greatest competitor.

And what do you tend to try and do to your greatest competition? Beat them in every way imaginable.

For Wyatt Baxter, that has been the case his whole life.

But when your sibling ends up being a superstar, how do you remind people you’re still relevant and talented in your own way right when you’re growing up with a four-time Gatorade XC runner of the year and four-time California State champion as a sister?

How do you shoulder the expectations and pressures that accompany that? How do you step outside of their shadow and develop your own legacy?

Well, just ask Chico State’s Wyatt Baxter.

Baxter is a third-year student and red-shirt sophomore for the Chico Men’s Track and Field team. He is the reigning California Collegiate Athletic Association 10,000 meter champion, a conference champion and an NCAA All-American. He’s a pivotal part of what makes Chico’s team so dominant, and a perfect fit in a team that views itself more as a family than a team.

“I value personal growth and for the team to do well more than my individual accomplishments,” Baxter said.

Baxter has demonstrated his talent and has begun to build a legacy that stands on its own legs after dealing with years of being referred to as “Sarah Baxter’s little brother.” Comparisons can be expected and exhausting when your sister is rewriting every record in high school running.

“Junior year (of high school) is when I realized I don’t really f**k with being called Sarah Baxter’s little brother,” Baxter said. “It was cool, don’t get me wrong, but I always felt like we were totally different. You can’t really compare us. I’m me. So it kinda became about making a name for myself.”

Yet, even as he started succeeding and garnering attention for his skill rather than his last name, there were those who would try to belittle his accomplishments.

“Everybody started to see that I was trying to separate myself from her,” Baxter said. “It made me mad that some people would discredit what I was accomplishing simply because they knew I was her little brother. Like, yeah, maybe we did win the genetic lottery, but what I was accomplishing had nothing to do with my sister.”

By no means is Baxter resentful toward his sister for her athletic successes. He stands by his coaches and teammates as the main reason for his triumphs and accomplishments but acknowledged his sister had a hand in helping him become the runner he is today.

“I’ll never be mad at my sister for being a great runner, she was just doing her. However, I (attribute) everything that I do to my coaching and my caring deeply about what I do,” Baxter said. “But I do have to give a little credit to my sister, striving to separate myself from her name definitely gave me the boost to work a little harder.”

Often times athletes looking to make a name for themselves do so without regard for their teammates, but Baxter is the exact opposite; it was always team first, “we win as a team, we lose as a team.”

It’s this awareness and dedication to his teammates that make him such a great fit for the Wildcats. In his own words, Baxter describes being a member of the team here at Chico as, “the chance to be a part of something bigger.” And while he admits that it’s a little cliché, he whole-heartedly buys into the culture his coaches have created.

“I knew immediately that I could trust Gary [Towne],” Baxter said. “It’s rare in a coach that they can take guys who weren’t winning championships and develop them into champions. I knew I wanted to run for him and be apart of the excellence the program has become synonymous with.”

With two more years of eligibility remaining under his belt, it’s exciting to think about just how far Wyatt Baxter can take his game. He’ll be somebody to keep an eye on over the next few years. “Sarah Baxter’s little brother” has a name, it’s Wyatt, and he’s not done yet.

Noah Andrews can be reached at [email protected] or @SPORTSFROMNOAH on Twitter.

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