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Alumna Is England’s Reigning Cheese-Rolling Champion

Abby Lampe, a fourth-generation Wolfpack alum, tumbles her way to fame in the 2022 Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake near Gloucester, England.

Abby Lampe holding a wheel of cheese over her head.
Alumna Abby Lampe stands alone after her viral victory.

Abby Lampe went through her entire college career without garnering too much attention while working on a degree in industrial and systems engineering, even though she’s practically Wolfpack royalty, with a family legacy that goes back four generations.

Like most of the other spring 2022 graduates, she took a few pictures at the Memorial Tower in her cap and gown, attended commencement exercises in PNC Arena and went about planning her professional life as a technology consultant associate with PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLC in Charlotte.

Then, on Monday she woke up an international NC State celebrity, a viral sensation on Instagram, Twitter and Reddit wearing a black school sweatshirt and holding up an 8-pound Double Gloucester cheese wheel after winning the women’s division of the 2022 Cooper’s Hill Cheese-Rolling and Wake near Gloucester, England.

Scratched and bruised from the 15-second (somewhat) controlled tumble down the 200-yard hill, the renown cheese-chasing champ did interviews with British media after the event, which draws spectators from around the world, then left for a local pub, cheese wheel in hand.

Pack Journalism

By the time she got back to her hotel, there were requests from newspapers across the state, local television stations, NC State’s reporter for Sports Illustrated, the NC State alumni magazine and several fan sites that instantly seized upon her newfound celebrity, perhaps the most outlandish and oddball victory for an NC State product since student Draven Sneed won a national cornhole championship.

“It’s been kind of wild,” she admitted after getting up at 4:30 a.m. the day after her bruising race to send some pictures and answer all the media inquiries (including this one). “Some of the names on the list were pretty mindboggling.

“I didn’t expect to be doing any of that this morning.”

By midday, however, her list of followers had doubled and she had updated her Instagram biography to read “2022 women’s cheese rolling world champion.” She even accepted online congratulations from North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper.

It didn’t hurt that the photos of Lampe’s ebullient smile, even with dirt and grass in her teeth and mud smeared on her face and clothes, were filled with unfettered joy from winning an event that is purported to date back more than six centuries.

“I’m still not sure if I chipped a tooth or I still have a mouth full of stuff from the race,” said the 21-year-old native of Smithfield.

Her branding instincts, however, were perfect. She immediately held up the Wolf Hands sign and let the media on hand know she was a visitor from North Carolina who had wanted to participate in the 2020 event while she was on an international study trip at the University of Surrey.

That year’s race and last year’s event were canceled by COVID. When Lampe learned that it returned this year and it coincided with her personal summer travel-abroad plans, she decided to sign up for the race. On Friday, she flew from Barcelona, Spain, to the UK to scout the famous grade and get her bearings at what is billed as “Gloucestershire’s steepest hill.”

On Sunday, in front of hundreds of spectators, she bolted from the start line, took a bit of a diagonal route and out-tumbled more than a dozen competitors to win the women’s division. And her first thought was school pride.

“I bleed Wolfpack red,” she said.

Of course, she meant that figuratively and literally, as she began her recovery from minor scratches.

Family Ties

What few of interested interviewers knew is that Lampe is part of a Wolfpack family that includes four generations of affiliations with the university. Her great-grandfather was J. Harold Lampe, the longest serving dean of the School of Engineering in the institution’s history (1945-1962).

Archival photo of J. Harold Lampe.
Archival photo of J. Harold Lampe.

Dean Lampe took over an engineering program that helped fuel the U.S. Army and Navy during World War II through its diesel and ceramics engineering programs and turned it into a worldwide leader, especially with the opening of the world’s first nuclear reactor on a college campus. Burlington Laboratories is located at the intersection of Lampe and Stinson drives. Lampe was also an instrumental leader in the founding of the Research Triangle Park, who often worked with two of Cooper’s predecessors, governors J. Melville Broughton and Terry Sanford.

“I knew I had to represent NC State well during the race,” Abby Lampe said.
Her grandparents attended NC State and her parents, John and Nancy Lampe, met as students studying history and computer science at the school. Lampe, her parents and siblings lived in Smithfield until moving to Clayton shortly after she enrolled at State.

Now, Lampe will go back to her once-in-a-lifetime travel opportunity that will take her to Portugal, Sweden, Greece and other parts of the European mainland before she begins her job in October.