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British Woman Wins Pancake Race

February 25, 1998

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) _ The Union Jack flies once again over another flap jack victory.

Nathalie Thomas, 28, bolted across the Olney, England, finish line in record-tying time Tuesday to beat her American counterpart in the annual bi-continental Shrove Tuesday pancake race.

In western Kansas, 24-year-old high school teacher Christy Riffel easily won her parallel race, but still fell more than five seconds shy of the British woman’s winning sprint.

``Olney ran a really fast time this year,″ said Riffel, who has spent the last year training for the race with Liberal’s high school football and track coach. ``I gave it my all, but it wasn’t enough.″

The victory for Olney now ties the annual 415-yard dash at 24 wins apiece.

Thomas beat 23 other runners in England, including a panting 68-year-old Rena Partridge, and nearly collapsed into her boyfriend’s arms after crossing the finish line.

Her 58.5 seconds from the starting pancake flip at The Bull pub in Olney market square to the final flip at the ancient Church of St. Peter and St. Paul matched both last year’s winning time and the 1975 record time by Liberal’s Sheila Turner.

The two towns’ best racers can prepare for a tie-breaker next year on the 50th anniversary of Liberal joining Olney’s centuries-old competition.

Shrove Tuesday, known in Britain as Pancake Day, was traditionally the last day for unbridled merrymaking before the start of Lent.

Pancakes were thought to be a good way to consume the fat and eggs the faithful were supposed to do without during the period of self-denial.

According to legend, the Olney race started in 1445 when a harassed housewife, rushing to be on time for church, arrived at the service still clutching her frying pan with a pancake in it. Runners must flip a pancake in their griddle at the start and end of each race.

After a lapse during World War II, the race was revived in 1948. And Liberal joined the friendly rivalry in 1950 after seeing a picture of the race in Time magazine.

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