September 11, 2011 in Region

Peshastin native completes 645-mile, 10-day horse race


Peshastin, Wash., native Sophia Mangalee came in 10th in the Mongol Derby, and she couldn’t be happier.

Completing the Mongolian horse race was a feat in itself, she said, considering that only 13 of the original 23 competitors made it to the finish line. Most riders fell out of competition because of injuries – including a lost thumb, broken ribs, a broken arm and torn shoulder ligaments – and others were disqualified for losing their horses and taking a ride in a vehicle.

Mangalee said she knows her parents were worried about her, but they had confidence that she would be OK. “My dad, the whole time, kept telling my mother, ‘I know she’s got the grit and determination to finish. I know she can do it.’ I think he had more confidence in me than I did.”

Her parents are Mary Ann and Charles McKee, who own and operate Wedge Mountain Winery near Peshastin, on land where Mangalee grew up.

“I didn’t know that my body could be so tense for nine days,” Mary Ann McKee said this week.

Mangalee, 27, is a marketing manager for Monmouth Park Racetrack in Oceanport, N.J.

The derby began Aug. 6 and finished Aug. 15. Finishing riders covered about 645 miles.

Among the lowlights for Mangalee:

• Riding through a thunderstorm and almost getting struck by lightning in a desolate location where “there’s no shelter to seek.”

• Having to walk five miles on Day 6 when “my horse took off into the hills without me.”

Among the highlights:

• Galloping 21 miles straight on Day 1.

• Galloping for 25 miles “at a dead run” on the final day.

“Here I was, in the middle of Mongolia, going across beautiful, rolling hills and valleys and I had a chocolate bar in one hand and I’m going hellbent for election. I was so happy I almost started to cry.”

Would she do the race again? “Hell, no,” she said. “I made it through in one piece and survived; I would not tempt fate again.”

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