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June 13, 2007
Shanley wins second-straight Billy the Kid Tombstone Race
|Frank Shanley strains while carrying an 80 lb. tombstone during the 27th annual Billy the Kid Tombstone Race in Fort Sumner, NM. Shanley finished first ini the unique event, taking home a $2,500 cash prize.|
|Scot Stinnett photo|
FORT SUMNER, New Mexico (STPNS) -- FORT SUMNER, NM ?Frank Shanley had the two fastest times of the day and won his second-straight Billy the Kid Tombstone Race title Saturday at the Fort Sumner High School football field.
A full house watched as the Stanley, NM native made two, solid, error-free runs and claimed the $2,500 top prize in the 27th running of the world?s richest tombstone race.
The race evolved from the theft of the footstone from Billy the Kids' grave, located at Old Fort Sumner, three miles east and three south of Fort Sumner. the grave is within a quarter mile of the place where Lincoln County Sheriff Pat Garrett shot Billy the Kid.
The footstone has been stolen three times, and was missing for more than 25 years at one point. But each time, the stone has found its way back.
Fort Sumner native Buddy Cortese came up with the idea for the Tombstone Race as an attraction for the village's annual Old Fort Days celebration each June. Because thieves were forced to jump two fences to steal the stone, Cortese created a course with two barriers, one four feet high and one five feet high. Contestants must clear the two barriers, pick up the 80 lb. granite stone, then return to the start live, again clearing both barriers. Then, its back over both barriers to return the stone to its original site, and another return trip to the start/finish line.
The event is extremely demanding and requires speed, agility strength and stamina - as well as a little luck. If the stone rolls out of the lane, the contestant is disqualified.
Shanley put together a 37.57 in the preliminaries to qualify with the fastest time. He bettered it with a 36.68 in the finals for a margin of almost a second over Fort Sumner native Glenn Russ, who now makes his home in Portales.
Russ qualified fifth, but knocked two seconds off his preliminary time with a 37.63 in the finals. And he averted a disaster when he scooped up his tombstone near the side boundary line on the third leg as it teetered on its edge. Had it fallen, it would have been outside his lane and disqualified him. Russ, who finished third in 2006, took home $350 for his efforts.
Third and $200 went to Preston Howard of Lake Dallas, TX, who ran a 39.03 in the finals. He had qualified fourth in 39.31.
The second- and third-fastest qualifiers fell victim to the unpredictable bounding of the tombstone. Dathan Culpepper of Portales, in his first Tombstone Race, qualified second, just eight-tenths of a second behind Shanley (37.63). But his tombstone bounded out of the lane in the finals and he was disqualified.
A smiliar fate met Landon Morton of Portales, who had qualified third in 38.01. At almost the same time Culpepper?s stone ended his race, Morton?s stone took him out as well.
Two of the pre-race contenders were eliminated in the preliminaries. Devin Sweet of Clovis, the 2006 runner-up, and his cousin, Coby Greenwalt of Clovis, the 2005 champion, were both disqualified by errant tombstones. It was the second-straight year Greenwalt had been DQ?ed.
One of the best head-to-head races of the day came in the women?s division, where two-time champion Haily Lee of McAlister took on Cisti Greenwalt of Clovis. Lee is a University of New Mexico 400-meter hurdler, while the 6-5 Greenwalt has spent time in the WNBA and in professional leagues overseas after starring at Clovis High and Texas Tech.
Running in the second heat, Lee and Greenwalt were neck and neck all the way. On the final hurdle of the third leg, Lee?s tombstone bounded into the end box and scooted toward the lane boundary. She seemed to hit another gear, vaulting and lunging to save the tombstone literally less than an inch from going out of bounds.
In the meantime, Greenwalt had forged a slight lead and headed for the finish line. But as she vaulted the final hurdle, she hung a toe. The bobble threw her off balance for a split second and Lee managed to get by for the win, her third since 2001.
Lee?s time was 37.88; third-fastest in race history, while Greenwalt came in at 38.74. Lee has the course record for women at 36.56 and has three of the fastest four times in race history.
Lee got back into the race after being banned since 2004. The ?Bridges Rule,? had prohited two-time winners from participating since 2000; The rule was removed for 2007.
Third in the women?s division went to Caitlyn Saulsburg of Durango, CO, who finished in 48.53.
A contender who was disqualified during what appeared to be a fast run was Lee?s sister, Lindsy Foust of Albuquerque. Foust?s chances were lost when her tombstone left the lane with her in the lead by wide margin in her heat.
Another beneificiary of the suspension of the Bridges Rule was Rached Hindi of Duran, who won his third-straight title in the over-35 division. Second went to division record holder Clifford Kenyon of Fort Sumner, who was a late entry. Wayne Gilbert of Lone Tree, CO finished third.
Entries in the race remained consistent with the past few years. There were 26 in the Open, 11 in the women?s race and 10 in the Over 35 division.
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