Most Interesting People: Michelle Sikes

Track star
Age • 22

Why she’s interesting • She’s very fast (she can run 3.1 miles in just more than 15 minutes) and very smart (her major at Wake Forest University was mathematical economics). Still, not every smart athlete gets to be a Rhodes Scholar. Sikes was one of only 32 Americans awarded the honor last year. Now she’s looking forward to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing (hopefully).

Closing in • The American record for her event is 14:44, set by 26-year-old Shalane Flanagan. Sikes’ fastest time in the 5,000-meter is 15:09, but female runners typically peak between ages 26 and 30, so her best times may be ahead of her.

Loafing around • Sikes describes last fall, which she spent in Washington, D.C., as “nice and relaxed.” Here was her schedule: She woke up early every day and ran around 10 miles. She then went to work as a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute.

Her research • Organ donation reform. Sikes is working to increase the supply of transplantable kidneys by allowing a regulated market whereby donors would receive some sort of financial incentive. How organs are allocated would remain unchanged.

Beating big bro • Sikes grew up battling her younger brother Roger. “Trying to surpass him in any sport was a challenge. He’s an incredible athlete, and the hours we spent playing basketball one on one in our driveway or engaged in ferocious games of pingpong really helped to develop my interest in and passion for sports.”

Best moment • Winning the national champ-ionship in the 5,000-meter last summer — and winning it big. Her time of 15:16 set a new meet record for the NCAA outdoor track and field championship.
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