By L&T Managing Editor Larry Phillips
This latest trip to cover the International Pancake Day Race in Olney, England, had several firsts – not only for myself, but for the Leader & Times readers.
I’m hoping our readers felt closer to Devon Byrne, Olney’s speedster that broke her own world record and set it at a time that will be hard to beat for years to come.
Her feat was not only a first for us all, but for the tradition of Pancake Day.
She has reached a pinnacle that few of the women have in the 65-year running of the race.
Devon now stands with women like Liberal’s Sheila Turner in 1978, who set a record that lasted a long time; Liberal’s Lisa Spillman, and our own track star, Tasha Gallegos, who 0wned the record Devon first broke in 2013.
We knew these world record holders because they were hometown women, but it’s only now we get to know an Olney woman by having someone who witnessed her feats in 2012 and 2014. We have heard of other record holders from Olney, but we were limited to what other witnesses told us about them and limited to the photographs of them.
Now, thanks to several business leaders in Liberal, we have a closer look and a better understanding of a 20-year-old woman who has accomplished a feat in Pancake Day’s history that is, from this reporter’s view, remarkable. We will be running a few more photos of Devon and her mother, Leslie soon.
One important thing I have learned from covering Olney is it truly is a wonderful connection with the people who live in Olney. Their graciousness and love of their quaint village and it’s historic Pancake Race, is obvious to every stranger that has stepped into the town that day. Their pride is shared with true friendship with offerings of sharing it with the world.
Our ladies who ran Tuesday may not have won the international title, but their names will forever be etched in the history books these two towns share. I am, personally, very proud of their efforts and participation in such an historic event – as I am of all the women on both sides of the Atlantic. And I hope these women look back with the same amount of pride for being a part in the tradition that is truly “One of a Kind” in this world.
Another first was getting to meet and discuss the Pancake Race with Olney’s Florence Callow Mynart, 83, the woman who beat Billy Warden’s Liberal time in 1950 – the very first race between our two towns.
I have now had the privilege of interviewing both winners of that 1950 race.
I was actually born about five months after the first race between us, and I had no idea how attached to Pancake Day I would become – and what it has meant to me as someone who was fortunate enough to be raised in Liberal.
One of my treasured photos is me sitting with my cousin on the old pancake stack that used to sit on the east side of Kansas Avenue at the starting line (see above). The stack is still here in Liberal and is housed at the Pancake Hall of Fame. (PS: My mother, Janice Phillips, ran in the Pancake Day Race when I was 8 or 9 years old, finishing fourth).
Another first was getting to drive about 30 miles north of Olney with friends Tony and Sue Lamming, where they walked me around a 16th century castle. That’s right, a real castle. I did not get to go inside, but the main house, the grounds and its church were breathtaking. It’s featured in today’s edition of the L&T.
For now, I want to heartily thank those who made the trip possible, who allowed me to witness the events that you get to read about: Larry Koochel at Koochel’s Automotive Bumper to Bumper; Jana Jantzen at First National Bank, Bill Hill at Billy’s Mexican Grill and BBQ; Ozzie Ridings at Liberal Gasket; and Lidia Hook-Gray at Heritage Real Estate.
When you see these folks, thank them for helping provide our on-the-ground coverage of our Sister City’s Pancake Day.
One final first: I’m writing this column 2,479 miles from Houston, Texas, over the north Atlantic just as we’re entering air space over Newfoundland at an altitude of 38,016 feet, and the outside temperature is -77 F. Now that’s cold.
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