Title Up For Grabs In 67th Annual Pancake Race

KSCB News - February 4, 2016 8:05 am

Eleven women will compete in the International Pancake Day Race in Liberal this year, facing off against 25 runners in Olney, England, at 11:55 a.m. Feb. 9. Last year’s winner, Hannah Belton of Liberal, is hanging up her apron after claiming the 2015 title with a time of 1:09. The Olney winner from last year, Emma Maitland, is also sitting this year out.
Belton’s win last year was Liberal’s first victory after losing three years in a row to Olney’s Devon Byrne, who holds the record time of 55.6 seconds, set in 2014. It was Byrne’s third win, so according to official race rules of both cities, Byrne is retired as an International Pancake Day racer and may not race again. The overall score stands at 37 wins for Liberal and 28 for Olney. In 1980 the score didn’t count, because a media truck blocked the finish line in Olney.

Back this year for Liberal is Summer Parsons, 28,who won the Liberal leg of the race in 2014 with a time of 63.5 seconds, but sat out last year’s race because she was pregnant. Parsons, a P.E. teacher at Garfield Elementary, says she loves the Pancake Day Race tradition. She is training this year by “eating right and being active,” and has some advice for first-time racers: “Don’t sweat it—have fun!” Parsons’ three-year-old daughter, Charli, will be racing for the first time this year. Summer is married to Alex Parsons and they also have a nine-month-old daughter, Emmi.
Other returning racers include Nakiesha Cohens, Leslie Spikes, Johnette Johnson, and Lindsay Claus.
Nakiesha Cohens, 32, is the Human Resources director at Good Samaritan, and she raced in 2008. She is planning to practice more than she did eight years ago and has some added motivation because her 10-year-old, Janyia Sowers, is also racing. Cohens also has a 12-year-old, Kyeron Williams, and she is married to Edward Cohens. Nakiesha suggests that new racers should “be prepared to brave the cold.”
Leslie Spikes, 33, took third place in 2012, and says she “wanted to race one more time, just for fun.” Her nine-year-old son, Breton, will be racing this year, too. Spikes is the district conservationist for USDA-Natural Resources Conservation Service, and she is married to Corey Spikes. They have two other children, Raleigh, five, and Dax, seven months.
Returning racer Johnette Johnson, 26, ran in 2012 along with her three sisters and their mother. She couldn’t convince them to race with her this year, but she does have nieces and nephews in the kids’s races. Johnson is doing Crossfit four times a week and also plans to enter the Oklahoma City Memorial Half Marathon in April. She is a cosmetologist at Edge Hair Studio and is married to Dustin Johnson.
Rounding out the list of returning racers is Lindsay Claus, 36, a teacher at McDermott. Claus raced last year as part of a group supporting cancer victim Levi Foreman, and decided to race again because she enjoyed it so much last year. She is not training, is planning on coming in last, and advises newcomers to “just try to cross the finish line.” She is married to Tony Claus, and they have a two-year-old, Vivian, who will join her mom in the Pancake Day parade Saturday.
Six first-time racers will also compete this year. They are Shawna Quint, Ashley Werkmeister, Kitty Lum, Abbey Hubbard, Sally Yates, and Jaresiah Benoit.
Shawna Quint, 29, is a bank teller at First National Bank, and she is making the race a family affair. Husband Matt is running in the Men’s Pacer Race, and both children, Gentry, three, and Brooklyn, seven, will race.
A life-time Liberal resident, Quint finally decided to race this year “to show Brooklyn it’s okay not to win—just be happy to participate.”
“My daughter Brooklyn asked me to run since she is gong to run. How could I say no?” Quint added.
Ashley Werkmeister, 34, is a stay-at-home mom of two children, Hunter Werkmeister, 10, and Cullen Rodriguez, two, and she is married to Chris Rodriguez.
Entering the race was on her bucket list, she said, adding, I “just thought, why not now!” Werkmeister also plans to run in the Pancake Chase 5K on Saturday.
Kitty Lum, 52, is the pastor of First Presbyterian Church and has lived in Liberal fourteen months. Lum entered the race “to be part of the spirit of Pancake Day,” she said.
Her friends and family have high expectations for her on race day: “They are all excited and expecting me to become Liberal’s next ‘international celebrity’ as I run in my robe and stole,” she said jokingly. As a member of the Kiwanis Club, Lum will also be serving up pancakes at the breakfast Tuesday morning.
Abbey Hubbard, 28, is the property manager for Plaza Group Investment, and says “friends and family have been very supportive.” She entered the race just “to be able to say ‘I’ve done that!’” Hubbard has two daughters, four-year-old Ava and two-year-old Emma, and she is training by “working on my sprinting skills—or lack thereof.”
Sally Yates, 32, is accounting supervisor for the City of Liberal. Yates is also the treasurer for the Pancake Day Board, and said “I’ve been on the board since 2012 and always considered running. I finally signed up.” Daughter Addison, five, is running as well, and is “excited that we are both running,” Yates said. “My two-year-old is unhappy that he isn’t old enough to run.” Two-year-old Ty will be cheering from the sidelines with Sally’s husband, Matt Yates.
Jaresiah Benoit, 36, will also be racing for the first time. She has lived in Liberal for three years and works as a housekeeper. Benoit is preparing for the race with exercise and prayer. She has six children, Alexis, 18; Joshua, 14; Savannah, 10; Aaron, nine; Zechariah, eight; and Elijah, seven; and she is married to John Crosby.
The International Pancake Race will get underway at 11:55 a.m. Tuesday. The race will be followed immediately by a Shriving Service at First Methodist Church. After the Shriving Service, Liberal and Olney will compare race times via a live video chat, and the International winner will be officially declared. The public is invited to all events on Tuesday. A complete schedule of Pancake Day events may be found on the website at www.pancakeday.net <http://www.pancakeday.net> . For more information, call 620-624-6423.


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