I see where the mayor of Parowan is upset about the Olympic torch relay route. I would like to just add this: He should be.

What? No torch relay route through Parowan?

No torch relay route through the home town of Utah's first Olympic gold medalist, namely Alma Wilford Richards?

Indignation is too soft a word for what Parowan must be feeling.

If it weren't for Alma Richards' triumph in the high jump in the 1912 Olympic Games in Stockholm, Sweden, Utah would have gone 0 for the 20th century in gold medals.

In the entire history of the state, there have only been two native-born gold medalists — and just barely at that. Natalie Williams of Taylorsville joined Alma on the list when she won her basketball gold medal in Sydney last September.

Apparently, the 2002 Olympic torch relay will go through the West Valley-Taylorsville area of the Salt Lake Valley, thereby honoring Natalie.

But unless somebody changes the route it will not go through the southern Utah farming community of Parowan.

Glen L. Halterman is leading the charge to get the route changed.

Make that Mayor Glen L. Halterman.

So far, the mayor hasn't heard back from the Salt Lake organizers. But no matter.

"I have a feeling that the Olympic people are hoping we go away," he says, "but we're not going away."

Alma Richards had similar tenacity.


The Alma Richards story was never made into a movie, but it should be.

The ninth of 10 kids born to Morgan and Margaret Richards, Alma dropped out of school in the eighth grade so he could ride the prairie on his favorite horse . . . then a fortuitous meeting with a traveling professor steered him back to school, where he discovered the track team, and vice versa . . . he was a natural high-jumper but so totally unknown that when he qualified for the 1912 Olympics the officials first left him off the U.S. team and he was only added at the last minute as a "supplemental" member . . . as an unsung loner in Stockholm he nonetheless outlasted all his American teammates, including a man named Jim Thorpe, and wound up winning the gold medal over a heavily favored German named Hans Leische . . . Alma came back from Stockholm full of confidence, graduated from high school at B.Y. High in Provo, then got degrees from Cornell, Stanford and a law degree from USC.

If he isn't what the Olympics are all about, who is?


There is an intriguing historic parallel to Parowan's quest.

When the Olympic torch relay route was set prior to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Prague, Okla., was not on the route.

Jim Thorpe's hometown.

The citizens of Prague (say it "Preg") were outraged. How could the torch not go through the birthplace of the greatest Olympian in history? (You may have heard that after Thorpe failed to medal in the high jump he went on to win both the pentathlon and decathlon in Stockholm, earning universal distinction as "world's greatest athlete" even if he did lose to the guy from Utah.)

A petition signed by virtually everybody in Prague (pop. 2,308) was sent to Atlanta, followed by intense lobbying.

After four months, the route was changed.

"They even detoured so they could run past the very house where he (Thorpe) was born," Sharon Maggard of the Prague Times-Herald told me.

Parowan (pop. 2,008) is hoping for similar consideration.

"They won't be sorry they came," says Mayor Halterman. "When we put on a party, we put on a party."

All they need is a flame to get it started.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to benson@desnews.com and faxes to 801-237-2527.