STANFORD -- Stanford cross country runner Miles Unterreiner will get his chance to compete for an NCAA championship and a Rhodes scholarship on the same day.
The university announced Tuesday that the NCAA has given its approval for a private plane to fly Unterreiner back and forth this weekend between Rhodes selection committee interviews in Seattle and the cross country national competition in Louisville, Ky.
The private plane, a university spokesman said, is being provided by an outside donor who wants to remain anonymous.
"There are a lot of people at Stanford and connected to the university that value the full 'scholar-athlete.' To me, it's not surprising to have that type of support, and there's no way this gets done without it," said Scott Alexander, Stanford's associate director of development for major gifts, in a prepared statement.
For a while it looked as if Unterreiner, a Phi Beta Kappa senior with a bachelor's degree in history who will complete requirements for his master's next month, would have to choose between his academic and athletic pursuits. If that were the case, he said he planned to skip the Rhodes interviews and likely try again next year.
"It's exciting, it's adventurous, it's all good news," John Unterreiner, Miles' father, said of Tuesday's announcement. "It would have been tough to forgo the Rhodes interview simply because it had taken a lot of work to become a finalist."
The family lives in Gig Harbor, Wash., and his son applied for the prestigious Rhodes scholarship to study in Oxford, England, through the Seattle district. He was chosen as one of 10 to 15 finalists for two awards.
Two days of interviews begin Friday, and after a luncheon reception and 2:30 p.m. session in a downtown Seattle location, Unterreiner will be driven by his parents to an airport where a private jet will get him to Louisville in about four hours.
The NCAA nationals are at 10:15 a.m. PST and as soon as Unterreiner completes the 6.2-mile course he will be whisked to the Louisville airport for the flight back to Seattle. Ideally, the jet would land in Seattle by 4 p.m. and he would reach the Rhodes interview 30 minutes later.
The Rhodes committee requires all candidates to be available for interviews on both days, though a second one may not be necessary. The scholarship winners are announced Saturday once the final interviews are complete.
If Unterreiner wins the scholarship, he plans to study philosophy, politics and economics at Oxford.
After winning the NCAA regionals this past weekend, Stanford's cross country team is now tied for second with Iona in the national rankings behind Oklahoma State. While Unterreiner is not the fastest runner on the team, scoring is cumulative and his presence is expected to help the school's chances.