Stanford senior's Rhodes scholarship bid takes back seat to his sport

David Pollack
Mercury News

Stanford senior Miles Unterreiner has enough academic smarts to qualify as a Rhodes scholarship finalist.

But for weeks he has been stumped by a real-life geography problem: How can he be in Seattle on Saturday for the all-important Rhodes selection committee interview on the same day his cross country team is competing for an NCAA championship 1,946 miles away in Louisville, Ky.?

If it came down to running the 6.2-mile course through Kentucky's Tom Sawyer State Park or competing for one of the world's most prestigious scholarships, Unterreiner has decided that the chance to study in Oxford will finish in second place.

"My team and my teammates have given me so much over the last four years that it's really tough for me to let them down at this really important point in the season by not being there," Unterreiner said. "There's no way I can't go to the national meet."

But now it looks as if he may be able to do both after all.

Even with a three-hour time difference, no commercial flight could get him from Louisville to Seattle in time for the 4 p.m. Rhodes session. But a private jet probably could -- and Monday the NCAA is expected to tell Stanford one can be provided for Unterreiner without violating any of its myriad regulations.

On Sunday night, Unterreiner was both grateful to those intervening on his behalf and hard at work trying to pin down the logistics if the NCAA does give its blessing.

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