Hannah McLeod

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For students in the nursing program at Western Carolina University, the Coronavirus Pandemic sauntered into their world during spring break 2020. On Wednesday of that week, the university informed students that the break would be extended by one week. By Friday, the news was more dire, students wouldn’t be returning to campus at all. 

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North Carolina State legislators have voted to send more students back to in-person learning with the passage of Senate Bill 220. Titled “The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021,” the bill will require districts to offer full-time, in-person learning for K-5 students, where previously school districts could choose what plans to offer K-5. It also gives districts the option to offer Plan A, fully in-person learning, or Plan B, a hybrid plan with remote and in-person learning, to students in grades 6-12. 

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Lisa Leatherwood, Administrator at Silver Bluff Village, has had a unique perspective of the mayhem that is the COVID-19 pandemic — health care worker, nursing home administrator, mother. 

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Maggie Valley will soon decide whether or not to develop a waterfall park on a property it has had in its possession for over 17 years. 

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Jackson County Schools Board of Education has selected Dr. Dana Ayers as its new superintendent. 

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Waynesville Art School will celebrate its second anniversary this April 27, and as anyone with young children now understands, turning one, and then two, in the midst of a global pandemic is less than ideal. 

The American Association of University Women was founded by a group of female college graduates in 1881 to advocate for women and help open the doors of higher education. One of the group’s first research endeavors involved an 1885 study disproving the prevailing myth that college impairs a woman’s fertility. One of its more recent studies? The economic impact of workplace sexual harassment. 

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Maggie Valley town officials are cautiously optimistic about the coming budget year after preliminary reports show the pandemic did not have the devastating financial effect many had originally feared.

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The American Association of University Women was founded by a group of female college graduates in 1881 to advocate for women and help open the doors of higher education. One of the group’s first research endeavors involved an 1885 study disproving the prevailing myth that college impairs a woman’s fertility. One of its more recent studies? The economic impact of workplace sexual harassment. 

On the first day of Women’s History Month, North Carolina legislators filed the RBG Act, or the Removing Barriers to Gain Access to Abortion Act. The bill is named for the late, great Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg who believed a woman’s right to bodily autonomy is paramount equality. The bill is intended to reduce barriers to abortion in North Carolina, by repealing prohibitive legislation. 

Eating, whether you’re food obsessed like me or not, is a huge part of our lives. At least three times per day, every day we are alive, we get to decide what we put into our bodies. Influencing that decision are taste buds, hormones, cravings, nutrient needs, cooking and baking impulses, culture, friends, family, location, money and more. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, Foxfire has been collecting stories, memories, photographs and artifacts related to the experiences of people in Appalachia during the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, Blue Ridge Public Radio is partnering with the project to help expand its reach and focus on collecting stories from Western North Carolina.

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The Town of Maggie Valley recently decided on several upgrades and changes to the Maggie Valley Festival Grounds this month. The town purchased property that will be used for additional parking, purchased a gate to be installed along the western side of the grounds and changed the amplified music noise ordinance. 

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“Giovedì gnocchi, Venerdì pesce, Sabato trippa”

NAACP chapters in Jackson and Haywood counties have created a joint task force to help mentor public school teachers who want to learn about racial equity work. The project is possible thanks to a $25,000 grant awarded to the Jackson County branch of the NAACP. 

The Smoky Mountain District of the First United Methodist Church has created a Justice and Reconciliation Team to take on the work of understanding and healing discrimination in Western North Carolina. 

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Today, Wednesday, Feb. 10, is one of those unseasonably warm winter days. The days that invoke a yearning for spring, a yearning for the feeling of walking outside without tension gripping your entire body. These unseasonably warm days will increase in frequency as we move toward the end of March, into the new season. 

Last week, North Carolina officials recommended that all schools return to in-person learning as soon as possible. 

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Cullowhee Valley School will no longer be represented by the Rebel mascot, which is personified by an old, white, confederate general.

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Concentration and productivity have always been important for work and creativity. But now more than ever, with people working from home, (aka in the same environment as family, roommates, babies, toddlers, children, pets, your refrigerator, etc.) concentrating on work and being productive can seem like a far fetched goal. 

Last Wednesday was a day women have been waiting for, working for, speaking out of turn for, making trouble for — for hundreds of years now. 

On Jan. 20, 2021, Kamala Harris was sworn in as Vice President of the United States of America. She was given the oath of office by Justice Sonya Sotomayor, the first Hispanic, Latinx member of the Supreme Court. Later in the ceremony Jennifer Lopez performed “America the Beautiful” and the youngest ever inaugural poet, Amanda Gorman, recited her inaugural poem. 

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Wednesday was a day women have been waiting for, working for, speaking out of turn for, making trouble for — for hundreds of years now. 

Like any organization that brings people together, Folkmoot USA had a difficult 2020. Without the ability for travel or gathering, there was no chance for the annual international festival or any of the other in-person programming planned throughout the year. During that time of cutbacks, former Executive Director Angie Schwab resigned to begin other work. 

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For many, the issues of race, injustice and reconciliation of our violent history seem insurmountable. How do we solve problems of such complexity, such depth, problems that have pervaded our nation since before its founding? 

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The Haywood County School Board and central office administration will undergo unconscious bias training on Tuesday, Jan. 26. The training has been scheduled as part of the plan, created by Superintendent Dr. Bill Nolte in response to the situation created by a Facebook post of Nolte’s last year. 

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At a Maggie Valley Board of Aldermen meeting Tuesday, Jan. 12, The Swag was voluntarily annexed into Maggie Valley. 

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When the world gets crazy, I often turn to food for comfort. Cooking is one of those spaces where my inner dialogue switches off and the worries and stresses of the outside world melt away. There is something truly cathartic about chopping vegetables, stirring risotto until it slowly soaks up all its liquid, or coaxing bread ingredients into one, live mixture of warm, rising dough. 

But it’s two fold. Once you’re done with the part that relaxes the mind and carries you off somewhere, you get to sit down with the people you love and enjoy good food — one of the finest parts of life. 

So far, 2021 has given us a run for our money. It’s not like we weren’t prepared. Despite the importance we place on New Year’s Eve, there is no invisible barrier that will allow us into the new year and keep out our trials from the year past. There is no filter to protect us from everything we have caused, and everything that has happened to us the year before. We have started 2021 full to the brim with challenges presented to us throughout 2020. 

It is disheartening. The time of year that we normally get to unwind — recover from a bustling holiday season, and figure out what it is we want out of the coming year — has been ripped from under our feet. Instead, Covid-19 continues to worsen with each passing day. The transfer of power in our democracy was put in serious danger, and it seems like everywhere you turn, people rely on conflicting sets of truths to uphold their beliefs. Their identity. Hatred seems abundant. 

All the while the world is still burning down around us and world leaders are far too distracted, rightly so, with the present threat to think about long-term solutions to that absolute threat. 

Nothing pasta and red wine can’t fix, right? Wrong. But it may be the greatest form of medicine right now. The ultimate comfort food to share with the people we love. Those we are able to be with and hold close during this tumultuous hour. 

I’m usually a fan of making homemade pasta. It’s incredibly simple and the noodles are silkier and more flavorful than those out of a box. This, however, is just a recipe for sauce. Creamy butternut squash pasta sauce is simple and comes together quickly. It’s comforting, delicious and completely plant based. Any substitutions and additions can be made as this is an easy recipe to get creative with. 

 

Recipe: 

½ small butternut squash (about 400g), roasted with olive oil salt and pepper

4-5 garlic cloves (more or less depending on  your garlic preference)

1 cup Almond milk (or other milk, plant or dairy. Add more or less milk for a thicker or thinner sauce)

½  broth (or water)

¼ cup pasta water

1 tbsp. nutritional yeast (optional)

1 tsp. Salt

2 tsp. Pepper

2 tsp. Sage  

2 tbsp. Lemon juice 

1 tbs. Apple cider vinegar

 

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roast butternut squash and garlic together (drizzled with olive oil, seasoned with salt, pepper and sage) until very tender, 30-45 minutes. 
  2. Boil pasta, reserving ¼ cup of pasta water.
  3. Combine roasted squash, garlic, almond milk, broth, pasta water, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, Apple Cider Vinegar and additional salt, pepper and sage in a food processor or blender. Blend until creamy. Add more milk for preferred consistency. 
  4. Reheat in a saucepan prior to serving.
  5. Top with any array of ingredients. I topped this batch with pepitas and fresh arugula. Try with your favorite toasted nuts or seeds, sausage or other spicy or salty meat/ meat alternative, or any fresh greens. 

The holidays are over and we are one week into our new year. This is the exciting “honeymoon” phase of our year during which we set goals and relish in possibility. Savor this time. 

At a school board meeting Monday, Dec. 14, Haywood County School Board members were split on how to pay for renovations to the new central office building. 

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During the holiday season we seek out certain types of food. Those that are based in tradition, or that we only have on special occasions. Roasted meat, rich sauces, fancy sides, an array of food in one meal. This Pomegranate Apple and Mint Salad is a decadent addition to any holiday meal. Combining just these few ingredients will leave you with a unique, sweet and tangy salad that will bring another dimension to a holiday feast. Serve it on its own, or atop a leafy green salad. 

 

Ingredients:

1 Pomegranate

1 Granny smith apple

1 Bunch of fresh mint

1 tsp. Cinnamon

1 Tbsp. Honey

1 Tbsp. Lemon juice 

½ Tbsp. Balsamic Vinegar

 

Directions

  1. Seed the entire pomegranate into a bowl.
  2. Chop apple into small pieces and add to the bowl
  3. Mince mint and add to the bowl
  4. Add cinnamon, honey, lemon juice and balsamic vinegar to the bowl and stir
  5. Serve as a side and enjoy!

Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of us had a notion of what “frontline” or “essential” workers meant. Who they were, what their jobs looked like. But, for many around the world, this pandemic has clarified, and majorly expanded the definition and understanding of these roles in our society. 

North Carolina is regularly ranked as one of the 10 hungriest states in the nation. According to Feeding America data from 2018, North Carolina had a child food insecurity rate of 19.3 percent, with Haywood County at a rate of 21 percent. During the pandemic, Feeding America found that a majority of food banks report seeing a record increase in the number of people needing help, with an average increase of 60 percent across the country. 

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As the holiday season progresses, Western North Carolina has seen a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases. This rising spread has made its way into long-term care and assisted living facilities, where the elderly are at a higher risk for contraction and death. 

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Haywood County Schools Central Office began the process of relocating to Central Elementary last week. 

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It’s cookie season. And with all that 2020 has thrown at us, I am so glad we have finally arrived here. 

If you’re like me, and have inherited a culture of decadent eating from the women in your family, you may not be too keen on waiting for Christmas to roll around before you start making plates of holiday cookies. 

My mother, aunts and grandmother are nothing if not experts in the art of celebration. There really doesn’t even need to be an occasion. Or rather, they will make an occasion out of the seemingly mundane. Me and all my cousins have benefitted from growing up surrounded by this gusto for life.

Every year, as soon as the weather gets cold or the first day of fall comes around, whichever happens first, mom (Loretta) makes pounds of pumpkin cookie dough and stores it in the fridge for fresh, warm pumpkin cookies throughout the season. 

As late November approaches we switch back to the familiar world of chocolate chip cookies. After all, there will be pumpkin or sweet potato pie with the Thanksgiving meal. This year Loretta blew us all out of the water with the simple addition of espresso chocolate chips to her chocolate chip cookies. My favorite breakfast is a chocolate chip cookie and black coffee, but throw in some espresso chocolate chips? Wow. 

As December opens its doors, so do the floodgates of holiday goodies. Just this weekend, celebrating Thanksgiving with our family, Loretta was already prepared with jars of homemade  Irish Cream for everyone. 

Soon too there will be the famed sugar cookies. A recipe from Loretta’s great aunt Ginny. Ginny was the sister of my grandfather’s brother in-law. So she came to us through marriage and I’m ever so grateful she did. Her sugar cookies are crisp yet chewy, thin and not overly sweet. I’m not sure if a sugar cookie can be refined, but if one exists, it is Great Aunt Ginny’s. Every year we spend time cutting them out into different shapes and adding decorative sprinkles, a task that hasn’t lost its appeal as we grow older. 

My sister’s favorite holiday cookie has always been walnut balls. These are saved for closer to actual Christmas Eve. More decadent than sweet, the dough is filled with chopped walnuts and butter, and once rolled in powdered sugar they are simply irresistible. 

But if I know anything as a cook and a member of a big family, I know that those recipes should be reserved for Loretta — for all of us to make when the family is together. Hers will always turn out better, and there is no need to add my sub-par offering to an already abundant mix. 

So this year I have been playing around with my own cookie recipes. Not pumpkin, sugar, walnut or chocolate chip — but mint and dark chocolate. I am guilty of craving a piece of chocolate every night, and I almost always give in to that craving without a fight. Hence, I decided to make these small, rich, dark chocolate, thin mint cookies. They are not as heavy and filling as other holiday cookies, so they serve as the perfect slice of holiday goodness for otherwise “average” December days. Each of which can, and should, be celebrated in little ways.

There is no  need to wait for specific days or events to start your holiday celebration, especially not this year. My mother, grandmother and aunts have all shown me that celebration is important. Even the small instances. It is this attitude that brings zeal, energy, excitement and compassion to everyday life. 

 

Ingredients:

For the cookies:

2 C. flour

½ C. cocoa powder

½ tsp. salt

1 tsp. baking powder

1 C. butter

1 large egg

¾ C. sugar

1tsp. vanilla extract 

1 tsp. peppermint extract

 

For the coating:

2 x 4 oz. package baking chocolate (I use one 56% cacao and one sweet german’s 48% cacao)

1 tsp. vegetable oil

1tsp. peppermint extract

1 tsp. vanilla extract

 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder
  3. In a separate bowl, beat together butter and sugar until creamy. Add in egg, vanilla extract and peppermint extract until well combined
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, bits at a time until well combined. The dough should be thick
  5. Chill the dough until hard
  6. Roll dough out to ½ or ¼ inch sheets and cut into desired shape
  7. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes. *Don’t walk away from the kitchen during this step! The cookies may take less time depending on cookie thickness and oven temp. These cook very fast!
  8. Let cookies cool completely before coating

For the coating, melt baking chocolate, extracts and oil in a saucepan, over low heat, until well combined. Dip cooled cookies into chocolate mixture with a fork.

The name of Leah Hampton’s new book will likely grab your attention. If it does, let it pull you in. This is one book you will be glad to have judged by its cover. 

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When the COVID-19 pandemic began spreading in North Carolina in March of 2020, public schools were forced to close their doors. First for two weeks, then for the rest of the school year. During that time teachers and administration worked hard to develop best practices on the spot for virtual learning. 

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Jane Pickett is originally from Atlanta, Georgia. She has lived the last 15 years of her life in Los Angeles, California, but when things began to shut down as the Coronavirus Pandemic spread across the United States, she headed east. 

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The Waynesville Parks and Recreation Department recently earned national accreditation through the Commission for Accreditation of Parks and Recreation Agencies. 

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We all know that what we eat is directly linked to our health. Filling our bodies with a plant based, whole food diet is one of the easiest ways to guard against all sorts of ailments, diseases and the strains of time. Seed cycling is no exception. 

Seed cycling is the practice of eating certain types of seeds during certain phases of the menstrual cycle. The seeds for each phase are packed with nutrients that assist the female body in hormone regualtion. But the benefits of seed cycling do end with the onset of menopause. Continuing to incorporate this into a post-menopausal diet can help alleviate symptoms associated with lower levels of estrogen and progesterone that are common during and after menopause. 

Eating nuts and seeds has always been an important part of a healthy diet. This trendy, relatively new idea of seed cycling isn’t actually new at all. The system does, however, target the specific needs of the female body as it cycles through hormone production. 

The menstrual cycle is split into two main phases, the Follicular phase and the Luteal phase. For a 28 day cycle (cycle durations vary, and each person should adjust seed cycling to fit their own cycle), each phase lasts about 14 days. During the first 14 days, it is recommended to consume a tablespoon each of pumpkin seeds and flax seeds. During the 14 days, a tablespoon each of sesame and sunflower seeds. 

 

Follicular Phase: this is the time between the first day of the period and ovulation. It is called the Follicular phase because the pituitary gland releases a hormone that stimulates the follicle, and each follicle holds an immature egg. The follicles are also responsible for thickening the uterus lining in preparation for pregnancy.

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Flax seeds 

 

Luteal Phase: time between ovulation and the start of the next period. This phase is considered the second half of a cycle. Progesterone levels are going through fluctuations, and there may also be unwanted PMS symptoms like bloating, mood swings, and difficulty sleeping. If you tend to experience these symptoms during this phase, consider using both sunflower seeds and sesame seeds.

  • Sesame seeds
  • Sunflower seeds

 

Flax seeds are incredibly rich in lignans which can help alleviate period related breast pain and detoxify the body of excess hormone production. They are also a great source of Magnesium, Zinc and Vitamin B1. 

Pumpkin seeds are providers of Magnesium and Zinc. 

Supplementation of Magnesium is linked to a statistically significant decrease in the severity and duration of PMS symptoms. Zinc, in addition to helping alleviate symptoms of PMS, also supports progesterone production in the body and helps with cell growth and turnover, which is essential for women’s bodies while moving through their cycles.

Sesame seeds, like flax, are also high in lignans which, in addition to their other benefits, help maintain regular, healthy bleeding. They also contain Magnesium, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6 and Zinc. 

Sunflower seeds provide us with Magnesium, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B6, Vitamin E and Zinc. 

Zinc levels drop significantly during the Luteal Phase in women suffering from PMS, making replenishing Zinc an important step in managing PMS symptoms. Vitamin B6 has been shown to help reduce breast pain associated with menstruation, as well as the severity of psychiatric PMS symptoms such as depression, tiredness and irritability. Vitamin E serves as an anti-inflammatory agent and fights the painful effects of prostaglandin lipid compounds. Vitamin B1(Thiamine) has been shown to help reduce cramping during the menstrual cycle. 

 

There are a ton of easy ways to include flax, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds into your diet. Here are a few of our favorites: 

 

  • Salads are one of the easiest ways to include nuts, seeds and herbs into your diet. You can quickly sprinkle your daily tablespoon onto a salad as a yummy garnish, or get creative and blend them into a salad dressing. The possibilities don’t end with leafy green salads either. Pumpkin, flax, sesame and sunflower seeds are a great addition to pasta salad, potato salad, tuna salad, or chicken/chickpea salad. 
  • Breads. There are few things better than a nutty, seedy whole grain loaf. If you are making your own breads, don’t skimp on nuts and seeds, they add big flavor and texture to each loaf. One easy way to incorporate them is to knead them into the dough after it has risen, just before you shape it to go in the oven. You can also add flaxseed meal to your flour mixture. Don’t forget to sprinkle some seeds on top for an aesthetically pleasing final product. 
  • Roasted Veggies are an easy, healthy side dish that goes with just about any meal. Adding seeds will not only give more texture, it will also build heartiness. If you are making a stir fry with veggies, try adding in fresh or toasted seeds to figure out what you like best.  
  • Smoothies. Everyone loves a good smoothie. Whether you’re making a fruit smoothie or packing in your greens, adding your seeds to the mix is an easy way to get them in without much effort. If you’re making a smoothie bowl, just sprinkle them on top. 
  • Butters. Nut and seed butters are incredibly easy to make. It’s as simple as putting them in the food processor and blending until you have your desired consistency. Making your own seed butter from sunflower, pumpkin or sesame is an easy way to have quick, snackable access to your seeds. Remember, after you’ve made a puree of your seeds you can add a scoop into sauces, soups, or bases for sautees. 

We hope you enjoy your seed cycling journey, and reep the benefits mother nature has to offer. Check out this recipe for seed cycling energy bites!

Canton native Eric Hill was 18 when he decided to join the military. It was a quick decision. He wanted to get married and needed a way to provide support. What sprang forth from that decision was more than he could have envisioned.

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Five seats were up for grabs on the Haywood County Board of Education this election — two in the Waynesville district, two in the Beaverdam district and one for school board chairman. Of the five available seats, incumbents won four.

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Two women presented a petition to the Jackson County School Board during an Oct. 27 meeting asking the board to consider retiring the Rebel mascot at Cullowhee Valley School. 

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Banana cake with chocolate icing was a staple during childhood. Banana bread is a staple of the comfort food genre. 

Cheri Beasley has served as Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court since she was appointed by Gov. Roy Cooper in February 2019. 

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The drive to The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center in Highlands sets the stage for its seclusion from the outside world.

Tourists crowd the winding two lanes that thread through the red, yellow and orange hues of fall. All of this makes the trip slow going, giving a person ample time to take in the beauty of the season.

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The drive to The Mountain Retreat & Learning Center in Highlands sets the stage for its seclusion from the outside world. 

Project Closet Door was started out of necessity. It is an organization focused on bringing the LGBTQ+ community closer together, raising awareness and understanding. That’s something that few people had previously found a space for in Western North Carolina. 

Haywood County Schools Administration announced the creation of the COVID-19 dashboard, intended to keep the public up to date on COVID cases within the Haywood County School system. 

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This year’s race for the Haywood County School Board has had a lot of interest with 12 candidates running for five open seats, including the seat for chairman. Current Chairman Chuck Francis originally had a competitor, but he later dropped out of the race.

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