WASHINGTON (AP) _ Two paratroopers from the U.S. Military Academy, AIDS researchers from William and Mary in Virginia and Kentucky's Centre College and the University of South Carolina's marathon-running homecoming queen were among 32 American students named Sunday as Rhodes scholars for 2000.

West Point and Yale, with three selections each, led 26 colleges and universities with students chosen to receive Rhodes scholarships for two or three years' study at Oxford University in England. William and Mary and Harvard had two Rhodes scholars each.

The Rhodes program provides the oldest of international study awards available to American scholars, created in 1902 by the will of British philanthropist and colonialist Cecil Rhodes. With the 2000 class, 2,886 Americans have won Rhodes scholarships. This year's entries were judged from 935 applicants representing 323 colleges and universities.

The West Point paratroopers are Craig Mullaney of North Kingstown, R.I., who also ranks third in the nation in competitive skydiving, and Melissa Sturm of Chatsworth, Calif., who also is a member of the army judo team and an accomplished violinist.

The academy's third winner is Elizabeth Young of Branford, Conn. She is West Point's brigade adjutant, responsible for discipline in the cadet corps.

One of the AIDS researchers, William and Mary's Eileen Robin Cardillo of Fairfax, Va., soon is to take her research to Ghana for more study.

The second, Michael Lanham of Gravel Switch, Ky., an 18-year-old senior at Centre College, does work on the mathematical modeling of diseases. He plans to study for a doctorate in mathematics at Oxford.

``Everybody is very accomplished and there's definitely an element of luck in there,'' Cardillo said.

She eventually would like to teach at a university and do research on the brain while maintaining her interest in AIDS education and prevention.

``We're at the beginning of the epidemic and not the end. It will still be an issue in 20 years,'' she said.

The South Carolina homecoming queen is Caroline Parler of Irmo, S.C. She has won prizes in engineering and is a chemistry researcher, a dancer and a marathon runner.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham had its first winner this year, Neelakash Varshney of Madison, Ala., an electrical engineering major.

Elliot Gerson, American secretary of the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, said that with Harvard's two selections this year, the school has 295 winners, the most Rhodes scholars of any U.S. institution.

Yale is second with 197. Princeton, which was not represented this year, is third with 181 and West Point is fourth with 73. Yale's last year with as many as three Rhodes scholars was 1992, when it had four; West Point's last three-winner year was 1961.

At West Point, spokesman Maj. David Astin welcomed the news in behalf of the academy. ``We're always thrilled to hear such news, because it speaks well of the academy and of our academic tradition,'' Astin said.