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Scholarship tossup

Mizzou biochemistry student throws a football for national scholarship

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  • Story by Randy Mertens
  • Photos by Keith Montgomery and Alison Schwartz
  • Published: Nov. 27, 2010
Alison Schwartz

Alison Schwartz, a Mizzou biochemistry student, has the chance to win a $123,000 scholarship in Dr Pepper’s Throw for Scholarship Dough football-throwing competition.

One good throw of a football and a University of Missouri biochemistry student could have her medical school tuition paid for.

During the Dec. 4 Big 12 Championship Game in Dallas, Alison Schwartz, a Mizzou junior from Lee’s Summit, Mo., will compete in Dr Pepper’s Throw for Scholarship Dough contest for a $123,000 scholarship.

Schwartz is one of five semi-finalists. If her throwing ability advances her to the final competition held during halftime, she will compete against one other student for the grand prize. Each participant will throw 10 footballs into a 2-foot hole cut into an 8-foot-tall soda can during a 30-second period. The winner receives $123,000, the runner-up gets $23,000, and each of the other three finalists wins a $5,000 scholarship.

As a finalist, Schwartz is provided with airfare, lodging, game tickets and meal accommodations for three days in Dallas.

“Only good can come from this,” Schwartz says. “If I blow it on national television — which I do not intend to do — at least I will leave knowing I tried and had fun.”

Future in medicine

Schwartz intends to go to medical school after earning her bachelor's degree. Having studied piano, her initial undergraduate coursework at MU combined the creative disciplines of biochemistry and music. She later switched to biochemistry and English, with a minor in women's and gender studies.

Schwartz is getting a jump on her medical training by working in the lab of Thomas Mawhinney, a professor of biochemistry and the director of the Agricultural Experiment Station Chemical Laboratories. As a lab assistant, she helps study microorganisms associated with cystic fibrosis airway infection.

“This is an awesome opportunity,” she says of her lab work. “This is the best chance I have had to get experience in an important medical experiment. I’m even able to pursue a related research project of my own.”

Lucky break

Schwartz might be getting experience in the lab, but she hasn't had much on the football field.

“Throwing a football — well, my experience with that is exactly zero,” says Schwartz, who has played soccer since she was 6 years old. “Kicking it — that I can do much better.”

It was a serendipitous series of events that got her into the competition. She attended the ESPN College GameDay broadcast during Homecoming weekend, arriving at 2:30 a.m. with her face painted like a tiger's and accompanied by cape-clad, megaphone-using friends. 

"I guess we were a little crazy looking," Schwartz recalls. A Dr Pepper representative approached her and asked her to submit a 30-second video for the contest. Out of more than 10,000 submissions, hers was among the top five.

The next step is to perfect her throw.

"I’m practicing every day,” she says.

Watch videos featuring Schwartz and the other finalists.

Read more in:  Health & MedicineBeyond CampusEducationOn CampusSportsFamily & Community

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Last updated: June 6, 2013