Stew McGillivray breathed a huge sigh of relief after he took down the Sunday greasy pole flag last year.
"I didn't think I was going to get a chance," McGillivray said. "I was walking seventh, and with the talent of the walkers in front of me, I figured somebody would take it down before me."
The 2008 Sunday champion, who also won the Friday and Saturday flags in 2004 and made it to the end of the pole in the courtesy round last year, was almost sure that one of the six walkers ahead of him would take down the flag before he even got the opportunity to walk in the second round.
"It's pretty stacked at the top on Sunday," McGillivray said. "I think I have a good shot, but it's not getting past 10 walkers in the second round. It's great for the sport having so many good walkers up there on Sunday, but it makes it that much tougher to win."
The field will once again be stacked on Sunday for the final greasy pole of Fiesta, but the event kicks off tonight with the Friday Pole at 4:45 p.m.
The 2005 Friday and 2006 Saturday champion Vinny Parisi echoed that sentiment. Parisi, who is walking seventh this year, does not expect to get the opportunity to win, just as McGillivray thought last year.
"Basically if you don't take it down in the second round you probably aren't going to win," Parisi said. "I'm walking seventh this year and with Stew and Jake Wood ahead of me I don't think I will be getting a chance to win."
Good walkers also seem to feed off of one another on the pole. When one walker comes close, the next guy is that much more focused to take the flag down.
"Good walks seem to follow each other," said Sandy Pallazolo, the 2002 Friday and 2003 Saturday champ. "If a walker comes close the next few guys have that much more focus because they know the flag can come down at any time."
This year, McGillivray has the luxury of walking second, and with a murderers row of walkers behind him such as seven-time champ Jake Wood, Pallazolo, Dean DeCoste and Joe "Sans" Sanfillippo, he is feeling the pressure of taking the flag down in the second round.
"It gives me extra incentive knowing there are so many good walkers behind me," McGillivray said. "If I fall, I may have just blown my chance to win."
The feeling amongst Sunday walkers is that McGillivray is the favorite because he is walking second, behind Saturday's winner. All the other walkers can hope for is that he happens to fall.
"The goal is to win so you can walk second the next year," Parisi said. "The only disadvantage Stew has walking second is that there won't be a lot of grease taken off the pole, but he proved last year twice that he can walk through the grease."