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Kansas town of Liberal defeats English rival Olney in yearly pancake race

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LIBERAL, Kansas — Without a three-time champion competing, a yearly pancake race between women from England's Olney and a Kansas town was a griddle riddle until Hannah Belton put that to rest for the Americans.

A year after finishing the spectacle fourth, the 24-year-old second-grade teacher and middle-school cross country coach from Liberal won Shrove Tuesday's International Pancake Day Race in her southwestern Kansas hometown's 415-yard leg of the event. Olney's Emma Maitland finished six seconds slower during that town's running of the event.

Shrove Tuesday — widely known in Britain as Pancake Day — traditionally is the last day for merrymaking before the start of Lent, and pancakes were thought to be a good way for Christians to consume the fat they were supposed to give up during the 40 days before Easter.

PHOTO: Devon Byrne, of Olney, England, leads the Liberal women in the International Pancake Race as an honorary runner Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 in Liberal, Kan. Byrne set the world record in Olney last year for her third consecutive victory. Race rules require retirement after three wins. Byrne was invited to become the first runners ever to race on both courses, though as honorary runners in Liberal. Devon’s unofficial time of 57 seconds on the Kansas version of the course. Her world record time was 55.6 seconds on the 415-yard course in Olney last year. (AP Photo/Southwest Leader & Times, Earl Watt)
Devon Byrne, of Olney, England, leads the Liberal women in the International Pancake Race as an honorary runner Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015 in Liberal, Kan. Byrne set the world record in Olney last year for her third consecutive victory. Race rules require retirement after three wins. Byrne was invited to become the first runners ever to race on both courses, though as honorary runners in Liberal. Devon’s unofficial time of 57 seconds on the Kansas version of the course. Her world record time was 55.6 seconds on the 415-yard course in Olney last year. (AP Photo/Southwest Leader & Times, Earl Watt)

The run's competitors wear aprons and scarves and run the course with a pancake in their pan, flipping it at the beginning and end of the race.

According to legend, the Olney race started in 1445, and Liberal challenged Olney in 1950 after seeing photos of the race in a magazine. Liberal holds a nine-victory lead over Olney in the series.

Olney's Devon Byrne, 21, holds the world record of 55.6 seconds but couldn't compete in this year's 66th running of the event because she's won it the previous three years.

But she ran the Liberal leg on Tuesday as an honorary participant and showed her formidable prowess in pancake flipping.

"She was w-a-y -y ahead," said JoAnn Combs, executive secretary of Liberal's race, told the Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/1zMfdmi). "Of course, her time wasn't counted."

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