Kendrick named Rhodes Scholar Finalist, to miss Cross Country Championships
University of Portland women’s cross country runner Parkes Kendrick was at work in the Math Resource Center when she received the news that she had been named as a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship -- a prestigious award that sends students to the University of Oxford.
Kendrick, in disbelief, stepped outside into the hall to gather herself. She called her dad to break the exciting news: she was on the cusp of having her long-time dream become a reality.
But the realization of the goal has come at a price.
The final interview for the scholarship is this weekend in Seattle, the same weekend as the 2016 NCAA Cross Country Championships in Terra Haute, Indiana.
It is the women’s first-ever appearance at the national championships and Kendrick is one of the team’s top runners. She will miss the meet, as the interview is mandatory for finalists to be considered for the scholarship.
“I’m not missing NCAA’s because of some tragedy in my life,” Kendrick said. “I’m missing NCAA’s because of another awesome opportunity.”
Just 32 college students nationwide are selected for Rhodes scholarships. It’s one of the oldest and most well-regarded fellowships in the world. The winners are selected based on academic achievement, athletic excellence, character and leadership. They are given full financial support to pursue a study of their choosing at Oxford in the United Kingdom.
Kendrick is one of a handful of finalists in District 14 -- which includes students from Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Washington and Oregon. There are 16 districts throughout the nation for finalists. Just two students will be awarded the scholarship from each district.
“It would be almost a cherry-on-top to all the hard work I’ve put in college,” Kendrick said.
At UP, Kendrick is majoring in mathematics and double minoring in French and biology. The senior has maintained a 4.0 GPA in more than three years on the Bluff, despite having juggled two Division I sports.
After three years on the women’s soccer team, Kendrick transitioned into running last spring. She qualified for the Track & Field West Regional Championships by posting the fourth fastest time in the country in the 5,000 meter. And this fall, she helped the No. 14 women’s cross country team to qualify for their first nationals appearance in school history.
Kendrick’s feats in both sports and in the classroom have garnered her several West Coast Conference All-Academic honors, but her extensive volunteer work adds to her diverse resume.
Kendrick organized a feminine product hygiene drive on campus to help women in the homeless communities of Portland. She also spent a summer in Quebec volunteering and living with disabled adults.
Dr. Orr, an English professor at UP, oversees Kendrick as the director of the Honors program. He encouraged Kendrick to apply for the Rhodes scholarship.
There are some students who do service because it’s required or to pad their resume.
Orr feels that she studies hard to get better at helping others.
“How she has time to have a perfect GPA, be in sports and do all of [the volunteering] and make it look easy?” Orr said. “I don’t know how she does it.”
Kendrick will pursue a degree in Bioinformatics, the study of genetic codes and other complex biological data, at Oxford if she gets the scholarship. After school, she wants to pursue a career in studying infectious diseases and how they spread.
She says she’d be in shock if she gets the scholarship. It would be a dream come true.
Kendrick was disappointed that the final interview conflicts with nationals, but at the end of the day, it was a decision over her future. She’ll be supporting her teammates from Seattle.
“If I did the [championships], I think I’d always be like ‘you should should have just done the interview,’” Kendrick said.
She will find out if she’s one of the 32 students awarded Rhodes scholarships Saturday night.