Three Emery County citizens had the opportunity to carry the torch in Central Utah on Feb. 5. Sam Rawson of Castle Dale, Darrell Gardner of Cleveland and Rodney Ewell of Huntington.
The torch entered Utah the morning of Feb. 4 when it arrived at Delicate Arch in Moab. Ceremonies and large crowds followed the torch as it made its way through Southern Utah. The torch was accompanied by a large entourage of promoters. People along the routes were given flags to wave as the torch was carried on its way.
Gardner was a support runner in Richfield. "It was a rush, it's indescribable. I was just one of 11,000 people a lot of which were rich or famous and overcame great obstacles, but I'm just a normal person. I was humbled by the experience. Two of my students nominated me for this honor and I don't know who they were but I would like to thank them and I appreciate them.
"The Olympics were started in Ancient Greece and to be a part of something so big, even just a small part and carrying the torch was unbelievable.
"I didn't really expect to carry the torch because I was a support runner, but I went on three legs of the run and was able to carry the torch part of the way. I think the biggest thrill for me and when I realized the magnitude of the whole thing was when I went up to Ephraim to see Rodney carry the torch. He's overcome so many obstacles. The neatest part was watching him. I was his teacher and he ran cross country and wrestled and was a good student. After his accident he struggled with his equilibrium and had lost his athletic ability. Now, to see what he has overcome and to be lucky enough to carry the torch meant everything to me.
"Down at Richfield there weren't that many people, but when we got up to Ephraim and I was looking all over for Rodney and people were stopping me and getting their picture taken with me and asking for my autograph. It wasn't about me, but they wanted to be a part of the torch celebration and what it represented. It was quite an experience. Running alongside Rodney was as neat as can be," said Gardner.
Rawson carried the torch in the town of Centerfield. Many family members and three bus loads of senior citizens from Emery County were on hand to witness Rawson's moment in the spotlight. Rawson said, "Before the run we met for a discussion on what we should and shouldn't do. We got together with all of the other runners. It was pretty nice. On the bus we watched a video tape of highlights of the torch run. We all shared our stories of how we came to be nominated. It was all very emotional. It really pumped us all up. A four time gold medalist in table tennis ran the torch before me. It was neat to run with somebody who had won gold medals in the Olympics.
"It struck me that I was the only one carrying the flame at that time and it symbolized peace in the world. The people on the side of the road made you really feel a part of the Olympics and I was part of that process, it was a one time shot. To be able to show that I believed in peace in the world and that it could happen. I was really lucky. I got to carry the torch it was very emotional and the people along the way were emotional. After I was finished running a lady came up who wanted her picture taken with me and I let her hold the torch and she was crying. I thought, wow, this is how it effects the people and it effected me even more so. It was a once in a lifetime feeling. My family was really excited. My wife and daughter were at the beginning of my run and the rest of the family was half a block down and they all cheered very loudly. My daughter made a sign that said, 'Go Daddy, you make us proud.' I was on cloud nine. It was wonderful. Just one big feeling, before, the run, and after; just one great feeling. Everybody was caught up in the spirit of the thing," said Rawson.
Ewell was the third bearer of the day from Emery County and he took the last leg of the run through Ephraim. The streets were lined with county people who had made the trip over the mountain to watch Ewell carry the torch. Although the air was chilly the hearts of onlookers were warmed as they watched this once in a lifetime event.
Ewell said, "It was very outstanding and awesome. It was a positive experience. It was great. There's nothing to compare it with. It was magnificent, I can't explain the feeling. Running the torch was just awesome. I really wished it could of come through Emery County, it would of been even better.
"I was nominated by my wife's great aunt Dawnette Tuttle. She asked for my permission and I said sure, but I didn't think I'd get it. I was surprised that I did and very lucky. Dawnette is volunteering up at the Olympics so she couldn't be there that day when I ran but I wish she could of been there. It was neat and awesome to be part of the celebration. I am still trying to get tickets to go to an event.
"I've always been a fan of the Olympics and dreamed of running as an athlete. I did it. I ran in the Olympics and showed my speed. I could of gone faster," Ewell joked.
"I would love to do it again. Coach Gardner and I were invited to the Olympic program for Cleveland Elementary and it was really neat and we told the audience how we felt about our Olympic experience. The whole thing has just been unbelievable," said Ewell.
The governor and the Olympic committee have done a lot of work promoting the Olympics around the state. Each elementary school in the state was encouraged to perform the Olympic program. "Light the Fire Within." Inspiring words and music accompanied each program and although they were basically the same, each performance took on its own personality. The coming of the flame into various parts of Utah has brought the games home to the people as Utah welcomes the world.