Penny Sparks to carry torch

It was Shanna Sparks' nomination that won her mother, Penny, the chance to carry the 2002 Olympic Torch.

"My mom is the most generous, loving person in the whole world," Shanna, 17, said Wednesday. "She's helped everybody out so much in running for so many years. I think she should be recognized for all her hard work."

Penny Sparks, 42, founded the Carson City Striders -- which is now Godspeed Wings -- 10 years ago and developed a running program at Bethlehem Lutheran School seven years ago.

She has also helped coach the track and cross country teams at Carson High School.

Several of her runners also nominated her for the Olympic Torch Relay.

"I feel honored and excited and blessed," she said. "It's a great honor to represent your country and to be loved by the people you love. I couldn't be happier."

Sparks fell in love with running after her first race in elementary school in Bridgeport, Calif. She continued to run in high school in the Amateur Athletic Union and in college ran for the United States Patriots.

She also ran competitively after college and competed in triathalons.

Sparks said she's slowed down -- running about 20 miles per week now -- devoting her energy to her daughter and husband, Raymond, and to coaching.

"It's my turn to give back because I was given so much as a kid," she said. "Of all the people in the world, I love kids most. So why not work with them?"


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