Student-athlete faces Rhodes, NCAA championship dilemma

Nov. 5, 2012, 1:56 a.m.

On Friday, Nov. 16, Miles Unterreiner ’12 M.A. ’13 will fly the 2,300-mile distance from his Rhodes Scholarship interview in Seattle, Wash., to the NCAA Division I Cross Country Championshipsin Louisville, Ky.

Student-athlete faces Rhodes, NCAA championship dilemma
(Courtesy of Miles Unterreiner)

At 1:15 p.m. Eastern time on Nov. 17, Unterreiner will leave the starting line at E.P. “Tom” Sawyer Park. He will cross the finish line about half an hour later. He was informed to be present and waiting for a potential Rhodes follow-up interview in Seattle by 3:30 p.m. Pacific time on Nov. 17. There are no direct flights from Louisville to Seattle.

“It’s going to be really difficult to find a flight back that would get me there remotely close to 4 o’clock, so it’s going to be a tough situation to work out,” Unterreiner, also The Stanford Daily’s managing editor of opinions, said.

Unterreiner is one of 10 to 16 finalists from District 14, which includes Washington as well as Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon and Wyoming. The district’s first interviews are on Nov. 16 and 17.

Unterreiner has said that faced with the choice between running for his team and interviewing for the scholarship, he will without a doubt choose the running. He remains hopeful, however, that the conflict will be resolved.

“Usually interview slots are assigned by a random draw process, so I emailed them to let them know that I had this meet on the Saturday,” Unterreiner said. “I asked if it was possible if I could have an interview Friday, and they were really, really nice and they said, ‘Sure, we can give you that.’”

The Rhodes Scholarship, which funds up to three years of postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, is annually awarded to 80 recipients worldwide. In the U.S., two applicants from each of the country’s 16 districts are selected following interviews held the weekend before Thanksgiving.

However, Unterreiner said that the first interview on Friday is meaningless if he cannot find a way to get back to Seattle in time for the second interview.

“It’s kind of either or neither,” he said. “If I don’t make it to the Saturday one, there’s really no point showing up to the Friday one, I think, because they’re both mandatory.”

While the Rhodes interviews are scheduled on the same weekend annually, 2012 is the first year since World War II that the Division I Cross Country national championships have been held the Saturday before Thanksgiving. The meet is usually held the Monday before Thanksgiving.

Indiana State cross country coach John McNichols, who proposed the permanent schedule change nearly three years ago as a member of the NCAA Track & Field Subcommittee, told the Indiana State athletic department that holding the meet on a Saturday would allow more fans to attend and draw a larger television audience.

When Unterreiner applied for the scholarship, he knew that the meet and the finalist interviews would be held on the same day but was not aware that the time slot between the championship in Louisville and the interview in Seattle would be so narrow.

Student-athlete faces Rhodes, NCAA championship dilemma
(Courtesy of Mike Scott 2012)

“I was hopeful that it would end up working out, but the timing was really strange because usually the meet is earlier in the morning,” he said. “This one is further in the afternoon, so it’s going to be much more difficult to get back.”

Unterreiner is a key member of the men’s cross country team, finishing 23rd overall at the team’s breakout Wisconsin Adidas Invitational, posting the Cardinal’s third best time with a 23:46 finish.

The team is has moved up to the number three ranking nationally going into the NCAA championship after being ranked ninth in preseason.

“We should be on the podium; I know we’re good enough to do that, and if we have a really good day I think we can win the title,” Unterreiner said. “There’s no way I could let my teammates down and not be there when we have that chance.”

In his Rhodes application, Unterreiner has proposed to study philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) at Oxford and said he would like to earn a joint J.D./Ph.D. in history at some point. He majored in history with a concentration in history and law, writing a thesis on the 1885 anti-Chinese ethnic riots that occurred near his hometown of Gig Harbor, Wash., and is currently earning his pursuing his master’s degree in history as a coterminal student.

If Unterreiner cannot find a way to get back to Seattle in time for a potential second-round interview, he will still be eligible to apply in the 2013 cycle.

A previous version of this article incorrectly reported that California is in District 14 for the Rhodes Scholarship. In fact, District 14 only includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. 

Alice Phillips '15 is Managing Editor of News at The Stanford Daily. Previously, she worked as the paper's Deputy Editor, Chief Copy Editor, a News Desk Editor and a News Staff Writer. Alice is a biology major from Los Angeles, California.

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