By Tim Eberly
Each morning before daybreak, cousins Jennifer Small and Cory Sangrey go for a brisk 35-minute walk around the Highland Park area of Havre. At lunch, they meet at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation for a weightlifting session.
All of this to prepare for a two-tenths -of-a-mile walk.
Of course, Small will be striding with the responsibility of a nation on her shoulders, as one of 11,500 human links connecting the 13,500-mile chain of torchbearers during the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Torch Relay before the upcoming Winter Games. The relay, which will begin on Dec. 4 in Atlanta and end Feb. 8 in Salt Lake City, will last 65 days.
Randy Beaudette of Big Sandy and Lane Boucher, a Rudyard resident, were also chosen from more than 210,000 candidates to walk in the relay.
A third of the torchbearers were chosen by the Salt Lake Olympic Committee, while two Olympic sponsors, Coca-Cola and Chevrolet, selected the rest.
"I'm scared I'm going to drop it and fall on the ice," Small, 28, joked. "That's one of my fears, that I drop it and the torch goes out."
Hence the training. "We call each other every morning and say, Are you ready?' " said the 26-year-old Sangrey, who lives just a few blocks from Small in Havre.
Not only her partner in training, Sangrey is responsible for Small's selection as one of the carriers of the torch. Early in 2001, Sangrey saw a television advertisement by the SLOC that addressed the choosing of torchbearers. The ad directed viewers to an Internet Web site, where individuals wishing to nominate someone were instructed to write a 50- to 100-word essay explaining how the potential nominee embodied the Olympic spirit and how he or she inspired an individual or community.
Sangrey submitted the essay without telling Small. And when Sangrey was notified early in the summer that Small had been chosen, she was instructed not to tell her cousin until the selections were completed.
"It was hard," said Sangrey, a 1993 graduate of Rocky Boy High School who earned a degree in computer information systems from Montana State University-Northern. "I wanted to tell her, but I didn't. I actually told her little sister (11-year-old Ashley Small) and she told her."
On Jan. 27 or 28 the exact date has not been determined and will not be known until two or three weeks prior to the torch relay Small will carry the flame through one of the following areas: Big Sky, Big Timber, Bozeman, Livingston, West Yellowstone or Yellowstone National Park. Ashley and Small's mother, Cindy Small, will accompany her to her destination.
Small, a registered nurse, says it was an honor just being nominated.
"I felt like I actually inspired somebody," said Small. "I felt really special. I didn't know I had influenced (Sangrey's) life as much as I do."
Sangrey and Small, also a Rocky Boy High alumna, graduated from MSU-Northern at the same time, in 1997. Sangrey described Small as a positive influence on her academically and personally.
"She always did well in school and I wanted to do well in school," Sangrey said. "She's always been a very important person in my life. At times, she's like my sister. Other times, she's like my mother. She showed me how to be responsible and how to be independent.
"I always wanted to be like that. I've always looked up to her and she's always been there supporting me. She's like my big sister," Sangrey said.
Weather permitting, the cousins plan to continue their morning walks as long as possible. And the unseasonably good weather may add a few extra weeks to their regimen.
"We said we could do it until the snow flies and it hasn't yet, so we're still out there," Small said.