A mix of "disbelief and excitement and joy" ran through Juneau-Douglas High School senior Chad Culbreath's mind Tuesday when he learned he was a last-minute selection to carry the Olympic torch Thursday in Juneau.
High school administrators were notified Tuesday afternoon that the school was being offered four spots for students to participate in the torch relay. City Parks and Recreation Director Kim Kiefer, a member of the local Olympic Torch Relay committee, said several spots remained unfilled following the initial torchbearer selections. The four JDHS students selected will fill some of those spots.
The relay will visit Alaska for the first time Thursday. About 50 runners, joggers, walkers and others will carry the torch through the Mendenhall Valley, Lemon Creek and downtown. The event begins at 8:30 a.m. at the Juneau Airport and ends with a celebration at Centennial Hall running until about noon.
High school officials chose the four student torchbearers to represent four different aspects of the school.
Culbreath, son of Nadine and Allan Culbreath, was picked by the administration for his great academic improvement over the past semester. He said the honor was "still sinking in" this morning.
Senior Kaycie Paddock was selected from the Early Scholars program, which serves Native students at JDHS. She is also a member of the school's dance/drill team.
"I feel honored to be picked," she said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime (opportunity)."
Paddock, daughter of Sheri and Joe Paddock, said she was surprised when she was pulled from class to be told of her selection.
"I thought I did something wrong," she said, before learning of the honor she had received.
Travis Dallas, a sophomore, was selected to represent the school's CHOICE program, which targets students at risk of dropping out, providing instruction in an atmosphere that better suits their learning style.
Dallas, son of Lori and Dan Dallas, said his selection was an honor for the program, which received national recognition recently from USA TODAY.
Senior Courtney Wetzstein, daughter of Andrea and Arnie Wetzstein, was selected for her participation in school activities. Wetzstein, who is active as a member of the soccer team and as manager for the wrestling team, said she was "shocked" when she found out but was pleased to be selected.
As of this morning, the students did not know where they would be carrying the torch Thursday. No matter what segment he gets, Culbreath said he's going to keep his jog at a relaxed pace.
"I'm going to savor the moment," he said.
Andrew Krueger can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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