Vail athlete brings torch through county
Charlie Wallach officially is a swimmer, but Wednesday morning he strutted his stuff on dry land.The Special Olympics athlete was the lone competitor to carry the Special Olympic torch in Eagle County, representing the other athletes from the area who will compete in the June games in Greeley.The honor didn’t faze him as he completed his stretch – from the Avon Interstate 70 interchange to the Post Boulevard exit.”I’m just going to be walking,” he said. The East Coast native said he prefers his new home in Vail.”Because I can swim!” Wallach said.With a little help from Wallach, the torch made its way successfully through Eagle County Wednesday. Police, ambulance workers, firefighters and state transportation employees walked, ran and rode bikes to bring the torch from Dotsero to Vail Pass.By Wednesday night, the torch should be in the hands of the Breckenridge Police Department, said Eagle County Sheriff’s Deputy Greg Daly.The torch run was created by law enforcement agencies more than 20 years ago to raise money and awareness for Special Olympics athletes, according to event officials. Eagle County officials are selling T-shirts bearing a torch-run logo for $25 a piece. Other events, like the Tip-A-Cop, in which an officer acts as a server in a local restaurant, also have been used to raise money for the Special Olympics.The torch ran began May 15 and will reach the University of Northern Colorado, where the games will be held, by June 5.
Daly ran and biked portions of the trip. As one of the fitness coordinators for the Sheriff’s Office, he said he was prepared for the physical demands of the torch run.”It was beautiful and we have a lot of support,” he said.Tammy Leeper, a state transportation employee, escorted torch participants along the busy interstate in a big, orange Colorado Department of Transportation truck. The escorts are to keep the participants from getting hurt on the highway.”I kind of hug the shoulder so (motorists) will move over,” she said.Organizers estimate there will be more than 7,000 athletes competing in 22 sports this year.Alex Hintz works with Wallach at a Glenwood Springs agency for developmentally disabled adults. He said Wallach and other members of the swim team have been training several times a week at the Avon Recreation Center for the games. Wallach will compete in the backstroke and freestyle events. Hintz also works with athletes on the local Special Olympics soccer team.”A lot of the guys are looking forward to it,” he said.Staff writer Tamara Miller can be reached via e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 949-0555 ext. 607.