- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 26, 2002

LEXINGTON, Va. (AP) Michael Lokale grew up on a small, family farm in Kenya, running 2 miles to school each day, then running back home for lunch and returning to classes in the afternoon.
"Running teaches you lessons of life," said Mr. Lokale, the senior captain of Virginia Military Institute's cross-country team and a middle-distance runner on the indoor and outdoor teams. He is also the school's first Rhodes scholar in 35 years.
"When you run, there's a lot of suffering," he said. "It is painful. If you endure that pain in running there's so many things you can endure in life. Life is a painful experience."
For his scholastic and athletic achievements, Mr. Lokale has earned a scholarship to study abroad at the University of Oxford.
One of six children, Mr. Lokale, 24, grew up in a three-bedroom home on his family's 5-acre farm outside the city of Eldoret. His parents grew corn mainly to feed the family."I usually think about it every day and say how lucky I am," Mr. Lokale said. "It has been a long journey."
Eldoret has been home to many great runners, including Mr. Lokale's cousin, Paul Ereng, and Kip Keino, both former Olympic gold medalists.
"So many kids were fast in my village," said Mr. Lokale, who was better known for his intellect.
Mr. Lokale, who is fluent in several languages, took a test after eighth grade to see whether he was eligible for more schooling.
He did so well that he was sent to Nairobi, about 200 miles from Eldoret, to attend the Starehe Boys Center, one of the nation's best high schools.
Kenyan students take a two-year break between high school and entering college, so Mr. Lokale returned home and taught at his former school.
He was offered a scholarship from VMI coach Mike Bozeman, who was trying to improve the school's running program by recruiting a Kenyan.
Mr. Lokale accepted the offer when he learned that he could major in biology, a major step toward fulfilling his dream of becoming a doctor.
As a sophomore, Mr. Lokale won the 800 meters at the 2001 Southern Conference indoor track championship and ran the anchor leg of the 4x400 meter relay. A hamstring injury hampered his junior year.
With a 3.78 grade-point average, Mr. Lokale ranks 15th in his class of 276 students. One of six regimental cadet captains this year, he also has the highest military rank among VMI athletes.
Maj. Gen. Josiah Bunting, former superintendent of VMI and a Rhodes scholar in the 1960s, encouraged Mr. Lokale to apply.
"He's the kind of kid that comes down the pike only about once every 10 years, and you sort of know it when you first meet him," Gen. Bunting said. "He struck me as what you might call a natural candidate for the scholarship. He is a natural leader."
Mr. Lokale finally applied last summer in Kenya, which selects only two scholars every year. The United States selects 32. He returned to Kenya last month for his interview and was named a Rhodes scholar two weeks later.
Rhodes scholars get to study at Oxford for two or three years without having to pay educational and travel expenses. Students also receive allowances.
After earning a master's degree at Oxford, Mr. Lokale plans to return to the United States to attend medical school. He wants to make enough money as a doctor to return home to open his own practice.

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