His big day turned out to be a disappointing one for Miles Unterreiner.
The Stanford senior and his teammates did not come close to the NCAA cross country championship they felt they had a shot at winning Saturday in Louisville, Ky., with Unterreiner hampered by a hamstring injury for nearly the entire race. Then six hours and a 1,946-mile plane ride later, he learned in Seattle that he will not be studying in Oxford, England, next year as a Rhodes scholar.
Still, a grateful Unterreiner considered it an exciting experience to be able to take part in both the academic and athletic competitions thanks to a private jet provided by an anonymous donor.
"It was a rough day, but I just feel lucky that I was able to make it to both and have a chance to do that," said Unterreiner, a Rhodes finalist who learned only early last week that the NCAA ruled that his use of a private jet would not violate any of its regulations.
Stanford, whose men's cross country teamed entered the NCAA nationals tied for second place in the rankings, finished 16th overall. Unterreiner said his own performance was hampered by a hamstring problem that had been a concern all week.
"I thought it was going to be OK, but about 150 meters into the race I could feel it pop or tear a little bit, and it was pretty painful," Unterreiner said. "Finishing the rest of the race was hard."
He covered the 6.2-mile course in 31:03, winding up fifth among the Stanford
"I'm happy I was able to be there with my teammates," said Unterreiner, who had to be whisked to a Louisville airport before finding out exactly where Stanford finished. "I wish I could have represented my school a little better."
Unterreiner had spent Friday afternoon in Seattle for the first part of the Rhodes interview process, then had to return Saturday in case a second interview was necessary.
It turned out not to be, but Unterreiner did reach the downtown site in time for the announcement that didn't go his way.
Unterreiner, who grew up in Gig Harbor, Wash., said he enjoyed getting to know the other Rhodes finalists in the Pacific Northwest region.
"We had a great time hanging out and talking," he said. "The two winners are amazing people. The people I was competing against were pretty remarkable."