March 4, 2014

Olney runner wins International Pancake Day race with Liberal

The Brits won.

The Brits won.


Devon Byrne won the Shrove Tuesday pancake race in Olney, England, running the course in 55.61 seconds and besting any Kansas runner by about 8 seconds. She won for the third year in a row, according to the Associated Press.

Summer Parsons, a physical education teacher at a Liberal elementary school, is the Kansas winner of the annual Pancake Day race. She ran the 415-yard S-shaped course through downtown Liberal in 63.5 seconds.

Olney has 28 wins now; Liberal has 36. One year, the score didn’t count when a BBC television van blocked the course in England.

This marks the third time Byrne, 20, has won the pancake race. It also marks the last time she will compete. Rules state that three-time winners cannot race again.

For Byrne, winning was simply in her DNA. In 1988, 1989 and 1993, her mother, Leslie Byrne, won each of those races and also earned the title of fastest international pancake flipper.

Byrne said Tuesday that this race was her most important.

“This is fabulous,” she said after winning. “It’s been such a long tradition.”

Kansas winner Parsons teaches at Garfield Elementary in Liberal and, in a news release issued by the Liberal International Pancake Day board, said she was encouraged to enter the race by her parents, who thought it “would be a good/fun thing to do.”

Parsons, 25, said she was pleased with her win in Kansas.

“It was pretty unbelievable,” Parsons said after crossing the finish line. “I didn’t even think I would place at all.”

Nine women raced in Liberal on Tuesday; 25 women competed in Olney, England – one was 86, said Janice Northerns, publicity chairman of the International Pancake Day board in Liberal.

The race has evolved into one of the quirkiest of Kansas traditions involving women, skillets and pancakes.

In Olney, the race dates back to 1445 when, according to legend, a woman was using up cooking fats as she made pancakes. Fats are forbidden during Lent. The woman supposedly heard the church bells ringing, grabbed a scarf, and ran to the church with skillet and pancakes in hand.

When Time magazine did a feature on Olney’s race in 1950, Liberal challenged Olney to a friendly trans-Atlantic competition. It has been a rivalry since, and the event has turned into a four-day celebration in Liberal.

Contributing: Associated Press

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