By LARRY PHILLIPS
• Leader & Times
OLNEY, England — The crowd grew steadily during the morning hours Shrove Tuesday in the Market Place in Olney England. Bright sunshine in a cloudless sky and temperatures in the mid-40s didn’t hamper the enthusiasm of those waiting for the traditional Pancake Day Race.
The children’s races had finished, and everyone was lining High Street and Church Street in anticipation of seeing who would win the race. And, would the time be good enough to take the international title away from Olney’s sister city, Liberal, Kan., in America.
Church bells rang from the 185-feet bell tower and steeple of St. Peter and St. Paul Church telling the crowd it was just minutes from the start of the 62nd year of the friendly competition between the women of Olney and Liberal.
Within a few moments, the PA announcer declared, “Here they come!”
Several of the 16 women entered in the race had made their way around the last curve on the narrow Church Street toward the finish line marked on the church’s stone wall.
While five or six girls seemed in a close race, it was Nicky Stallis who broke the tape first, thus winning Olney’s leg in the 415-yard race. Her time was one minute, 12 seconds.
While breathing heavily and posing for photos with the international press, Nicky flipped her pancake several times for the cameras. She then started answering questions from the mob of reporters around her.
Nicky said this was her second time running the race, and that she had finished second before.
“There was only one way to improve it, and that was to come in first,” she said while smiling.
She said she had started seriously training about two-and-a-half weeks ago with a friend.
When asked if she had led from the beginning, she said she wasn’t sure.
“I was just running and telling my legs to keep going,” she said. “I wasn’t sure I had it until the finish line.”
Her interest in running the race comes from the fact she is from Olney, and she loves the history of the race.
“it’s such a great tradition,” she said.
Nicky may run again next year.
“Definitely, I’d do it again,” Nicky said. “It was really good fun. I still can’t believe it.”
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