Olympic Torch Relay Heads Through Indiana
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ With the Olympic flame proudly held aloft, Mary Zeldenrust jogged along a rural Indiana highway and returned, for a moment, to her native Greece.
Zeldenrust was one of the Indiana carriers as the torch relay continued its 42-state, 15,000-mile journey from Los Angeles to Atlanta for the start of the Olympic Games next month.
``I was born in Greece, so the torch and I have something in common,″ said Zeldenrust, who came to the United States at age 8.
``We always were proud the Olympics originated in Greece and that other countries picked up on the spirit and shared it with us,″ she said. ``You look at the crowd and see people all over, and it’s a thrilling experience.″
Zeldenrust, 39, who lives in Demotte in northern Indiana, carried a torch about three-tenths of a mile along U.S. 231 as the relay headed south toward Indianapolis. The flame will leave the state capital Wednesday morning and continue south to Louisville, Ky., on Wednesday night.
``Everybody was screaming and yelling. It’s probably one of the most exciting days of everybody’s life,″ said Pat Grevenstuk, a manager at the McDonald’s restaurant that served as one of the relay points along the route through Demotte.
About 8,000 people packed both sides of the road from one end of town to the other. About 100 children dressed in red, white and blue held similarly colored balloons. The Kankakee Valley High School band performed at the Demotte celebration, and cheerleaders, clowns and townspeople carrying signs, flags and banners greeted the Olympic torch.
``They were so fired up. It was such an honor to be chosen to do this,″ said Charlene Groet, another runner and a teacher at Kankakee Valley Middle School who saw many of her students in the crowd.
``It was awesome. I’ve never seen so many people in Demotte. I don’t know where they all came from,″ Groet said. ``The adrenaline, the goose bumps, it was great.″
Groet, 48, also was one of 12 Indiana runners who carried a torch to Indianapolis for the National Sports Festival in 1982.
Among the other runners on Tuesday was Valparaiso University football coach Tom Horne, who passed the flame in Crown Point to former major league baseball player Ron Kittle, the American League Rookie of the Year with the Chicago White Sox in 1983.
``The whole time is like the thrill of victory,″ Horne said. ``That’s the thrill you get when you carry the torch.″
And as thrilling as that was, he said, it was even better to see the flame coming toward him and then handing it off to Kittle after his .6-mile run.
``It was like a parade. People were three and four deep on either side of the road. People were cheering, wanting pictures of all the torch-bearers. Kids wanted our autographs,″ Horne said.
Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz was to carry the flame Tuesday night in Indianapolis.
Nationwide, 10,000 torchbearers are taking part in the relay, which began April 27 in Los Angeles and ends July 19 in Atlanta.