PLYMOUTH, Wash. -- A runner from Vancouver, Wash., carried the Olympic torch into Washington Tuesday, crossing the Umatilla Bridge spanning the Columbia River from Oregon amid the cheers of onlookers and clicking of cameras.
Mike Stepan of Vancouver, Wash., carried the 4 -pound torch for a four-mile segment in the blazing sunshine as the torch runners and their 37-vehicle caravan ended their first trip through Oregon and began a four-day journey across Washington state, including a visit to Seattle.
Stepan crossed the river shortly before 2:30 p.m., a few minutes ahead of schedule, as the runners headed north toward Kennewick, with an overnight stop planned in Mesa, Wash.
Earlier Tuesday, the runners received a warm and emotional welcome from 5,000 people gathered along the streets of Pendleton -- a larger turnout than for many Pendleton Roundup parades in the city.
Merchants displayed flags and others waved the stars and stripes, some with a tear in their eyes, as Pat Alaggio of New Jersey carried the torch through town.
Similar welcomes of flags, cheers and a few tears greeted the runners as they headed northward through Stanfield, Hermiston and Umatilla on their way to Washington. The runners were on time Tuesday, having fallen two hours behind schedule late Monday due to mountainous terrain and temperatures in the 90s.
The torch will travel through Washington state for four days, re-entering Oregon on Saturday evening near Rainier for a trip through Portland and a celebration at the city's Pioneer Courthouse Square.
'We're sad to be leaving Oregon for the first time, but we'll be coming back,' said Steve Cross, relay manager for the sponsoring AT&T. He noted that Oregon is one of the few states on the 8,700-mile cross-country route that the torch will enter twice on its way to Los Angeles.
'Oregon's greeting for us was real warm in more ways than just the temperature,' Cross said of the time spent in Oregon since the torch entered the state at the Idaho border near Ontario Sunday night. The heat and terrain forced a cutback to two-mile running segments on Monday.
There were other minor troubles as well, as the Pendleton elementary school where the people in the caravan spent Monday night did not have showers. The men and women went to separate fire stations to clean up.
Almost 4,000 people lined the streets of Baker when the torch was carried through the city Monday by Peter Ellingson, who lighted a natural gas-fueled torch that will be kept burning throughout the Olympics.