Nov. 15, 2012
STANFORD, Calif. -
Miles Unterreiner will seek a unique double Saturday. The Stanford senior will try and help the second-ranked Cardinal cross country team win an NCAA title, then earn a Rhodes scholarship.
Talk about a full day! A native of Gig Harbor, Wash., the 22-year-old Unterreiner is one of about 15 finalists in the Seattle district hoping to study next year at famed Oxford University in England. He will interview with Rhodes Trust officials on Friday in Seattle, then board a four-hour flight at about 4 p.m. to Louisville, Ky., where he will compete in the NCAA Championships at 10:15 a.m. PST Saturday with his Stanford teammates.
Following the 10,000-meter (6.2-mile) race, he will fly straight back to Seattle for a second round of interviews starting at 4:30 p.m.
“This is a great testament to all that Miles has accomplished both academically and athletically, when on the same day that he will be competing at a national championship level in athletics he also is a finalist for the most prestigious academic award there is,” said Cardinal cross country coach Chris Miltenberg. “That a testament to how hard he’s worked and also the great support he’s gotten at Stanford to reach this high level.”
An anonymous Stanford donor will provide Unterreiner with a private jet for this once-in-a-lifetime odyssey. The latter was approved by the NCAA and the University.
“There are a lot of people at Stanford and connected to the university that value the full ‘scholar-athlete,’ ’’ said Scott Alexander, associate director of development for major gifts at Stanford. “To me, it’s not that surprising to have that type of support, and there’s no way this gets done without it.”
Unterreiner’s parents, John and Allison, will take him to and from the airport in Seattle, and are also exploring other airfields in the Seattle and Louisville areas to expedite the approximately 4,000-mile roundtrip.
A Phi Beta Kappa member, Unterreiner has a bachelor’s degree in history, finishing with a 4.045 GPA. He was one of the top 25 students in his graduating class in the School of Humanities and Sciences, and received Stanford’s Kennedy Thesis Prize for the best senior thesis in Humanities.
Next month, Unterreiner will finish his requirements for a master’s. He is a two-time winner of the Elite 89 award, given to the athlete with the highest GPA at an NCAA championship. If he is one of the two Rhodes Scholars chosen on Saturday, Unterreiner hopes to study philosophy, politics, and economics.
A three-time Washington state high school champion in cross country and track and field, Unterreiner is a two-time Division I All-America on the track. His time of 13:48.13 in the 5,000 meters is the seventh-fastest in Stanford history.
Unterreiner helped the Cardinal win the NCAA West Regional last week, and has run anywhere from Nos. 2-6 on a tightly-packed team. Stanford, which shares the No. 2 ranking with Iona, will be looking to beat top-ranked Oklahoma State on Saturday.
“Miles is an incredible team player in every regard,” said Miltenberg. “Through this whole process, the one thing he was most committed to was his team and really seeing through this journey all the way through the NCAA Championships. He provides great leadership, maturity and commitment to what we’re trying to accomplish as a team.”
* * *
The No. 14 Stanford football team has a big challenge Saturday night when it meets top-ranked Oregon at Autzen Stadium in Eugene. Since head coach Chip Kelly arrived in 2007, the Ducks are 36-4 at home and their raucous fans never let up. However, one of those losses was a 51-42 defeat to the Cardinal in 2009.
Capacity is 54,000, but a standing-room only crowd of 57,521 jammed Autzen for Oregon’s last home game against Colorado. Think the joint will be jumping for Stanford in the nationally-televised game? Hearing yourself think – even in the rain -- will be a chore.
This game is a number-crunchers delight. Oregon averages a national-best 54.8 points per game and has scored at least 40 in an NCAA-record 13 consecutive games, the length of its national-best longest active winning streak. Oh, and the Ducks average 325.10 yards rushing (No. 3 nationally) and rank second in passing efficiency.
Conversely, the Cardinal defense has allowed only 17.2 points per game (No. 12 nationally/1st in Pac-12) and leads the NCAA in rushing defense (58.60), tackles for loss (9.10) and sacks (4.30). Stanford has held its past four opponents under 100 yards rushing.
It’s enough to make you dizzy, sort of like Oregon’s no-huddle offense. The Ducks are a track team in football cleats and operate at warp speed to wear down defenses and catch them off guard. Plus, they sport new uniforms every game.
Oregon has inflicted the Cardinal its only conference loss each of the past two years, outscoring it 155-61. If you’re looking for a ray of hope, Stanford has outscored Oregon 73-59 in the combined first halves of the past two meetings, but has been outscored 87-34 in the second halves.
Oregon has so many offensive weapons, it’s almost frightening, starting with freshman quarterback Marcus Mariota and running back Kenjon Barner. Both have been nearly impossible to contain, but have not faced a front seven as stout as Stanford’s.
Cal kept things close for a half last week, then got boat-raced, 59-17. It can happen that quickly.
The Cardinal is a three-touchdown underdog, which sounds strange for the 14th-ranked team in America. Apparently, few outside the Stanford family think the Cardinal can keep it close. For that to happen, Stanford must control the ball on offense and score touchdowns, play nearly error-free, and produce big plays on defense and special teams.
The stakes are high. Oregon is gunning for a berth in the BCS title game, while the Cardinal is shooting for the Rose Bowl. The pressure is on the Ducks, and Stanford players should approach the contest as a wonderful opportunity, not punishment. Don’t forget: the two Cardinal losses this year have come by a combined 11 points, the latter a difficult overtime setback to then-No. 7 Notre Dame.
No matter how things turn Saturday night, Stanford has already proven itself to be a tough, composed and resilient group. That is evidenced by tight victories over San Jose State, USC, Arizona, Washington State and Oregon State. The Cardinal will come to play.
- By Mark Soltau, Stanford Athletics
Palo Alto native Mark Soltau has spent his whole life and much of his career around Stanford sports. A sportswriter for 35 years, Soltau spent 16 (1981-97) at the San Francisco Examiner, where he covered not only the Cardinal, but all five 49ers Super Bowl-championship teams. Golf always has been his passion and Soltau served as the golf beat writer for the Examiner, as well as national golf writer for CBS Sportsline, and contributing editor to Golf Digest. He has been the editor of tigerwoods.com since 1997.