Gallegos fastest in history
By LARRY PHILLIPS
• Daily Leader
As a dozen international race contestants and several honorary entrants stretched and limbered their muscles behind the starting line Shrove Tuesday, a bright, sunlit sky had moved the thermometer towards 68 degrees – one of the warmest International Pancake Day Races in Liberal in recent memory. A detail that certainly was a relief to organizers of the 60th anniversary of the race between the women of Liberal and the ladies of Olney England.
The ideal weather – aligned with a former Liberal High School track star also combined to see a world record set in Liberal, as Tasha Gallegos, 22, ran away from the field to win the International title in 57.5 seconds.
That time gave Liberal bragging rights for another year, as Olney’s Jane Hughes set a personal best of 62.0 seconds when she won her race earlier in the day in England. It also moved Liberal’s record against Olney to 34 to 25 and one no contest due to a media truck parked on the track in England some years ago.
Prior to the race, 2007 second-place winner Michelle McNabb, 20, was one of the favorites, but she said she wasn’t training any differently for this year after finishing runnerup in ’07.
“No – just trying to run some and get in shape,” she said. “I’ve been running some miles and stuff. This is my last chance because I won’t be here next year.”
McNabb will be going to school at Wichita State University, ironically, the same school Gallegos attended on a track scholarship.
Though McNabb had to be considered as a strong competitor, Gallegos was the odds-on bet due to her numerous victories in a slew of different events during high school and college. When asked prior to the race if she thought she had a chance of breaking Lisa Spillman’s
2001 world record of 58.1 seconds, Galleogos said that wasn’t her goal.
“I’m actually looking just to go out and run, and whatever happens is the way it turns out,” Gallegos said. “I haven’t ran anything since I graduated form college in ’07. I have been working out, but nothing competitively.
“It’ll be interesting for me,” she added, with a smile.
When Liberal’s Mayor Joe Denoyer raised his starting pistol, the ladies leaned forward at the line – their frames taunt with anticipation.
Once they leaped at the gun, several ladies surged ahead immediately – Mikayla Knudsen, 19, McNabb, Gallegos and Jeanette Contreras, 18.
As they approached Turn No. 1, Gallegos had moved from the outside of the starting line to take the lead with McNabb and Contreras shoulder- to-shoulder going into the turn. Knudsen was right on their heels as they went around Turn No. 1. As they came out of the turn, Contreras seemed to briefly take a slight lead of second-place McNabb.
Meanwhile, Gallegos was stretching her lead approaching Turn No. 2.
Behind her McNabb and Contreras went into Turn No. 2, again, neck- and-neck with Knudsen following five or six yards.
By the time Gallegos turned the corner onto the straightaway, she had at least a 20-yard lead on those battling behind her.
As the women headed down the long straightaway toward the finish of the 415-yard course, Gallegos just kept pumping and extending her lead. Contreras settled in behind McNabb and that is the way they finished – Gallegos by 30-plus yards, McNabb, Contreras and Knudsen coming in fourth.
Out of breath, McNabb didn’t seem to surprised by Gallegos pulling away after turning the last corner.
“I ran track with her in high school, so I knew how fast she was,”
McNabb said. “I was just concentrating and trying to stay up with her the best I could.”
Throughout the years, most of the racers admit the last straightaway, the lengthiest part of the track, seems a great distance. But Gallegos said she felt pretty good – most of the way that is.
“I felt good until we got right up here,” she said, pointing toward the last 50 yards. “My legs then started tightening up.”
When asked what it meant to be not only the Liberal winner, the international winner, but also the world record holder, Gallegos smiled and thought for a second.
“It means a lot,” she said, with a huge grin. “I love Liberal – it’s my hometown. It’s just fun to come out here and be a part of something that seems so small to everybody else – but it’s so big to us.”
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