Ohio girl overcomes crash to win at Soap Box Derby
Kallie Myers let out two ear-piercing screams, hours apart at the 75th All-American Soap Box Derby.
One yell came from fear, the other from absolute delight.
"This is so unbelievable," said Myers, 17, of St. Clairsville, Ohio, tears of joy filling her eyes after overcoming a scary early morning crash to race to victory Saturday in the Super Stock Division.
A few hours earlier, Myers also was in tears after winning her first heat of the day - then getting rammed into after crossing the finish line by a competitor who lost control of his car.
"I was so scared and was screaming so loud they heard me all over," Myers said.
After winning it all, Myers hugged her dad, Matt. She was surrounded by other family members, including brother Matt, who competed in the 2005 finals.
"Did she tell you she cried all the way down the hill her second run," Myers' father said. "She just stayed with it and kept winning. We're all so proud of her."
Myers, in her final year of eligibility, began competing in 2005 when her grandmother encouraged her to give it a try.
"I never thought I'd do this, but here I am," she said.
Actor and director Corbin Bernsen assisted in the presentation of a trophy, jacket, certificate and $5,000 scholarship to each winner.
Bernsen has helped event organizers rebuild popularity in the nonprofit race and boost its shaky finances. In 2010, he filmed "25 Hill," a movie about a derby racer. It premiered in Akron last year and generated $150,000 for the organization.
"The Soap Box Derby is just great," said Bernsen, who spent all day signing autographs and cheering racers - as well as snapping photos with his cellphone like any other fan.
"It's a slice of Americana. I didn't compete when I was a kid growing up in Los Angeles because it was more of a Midwest and East Coast thing back then."
This year's event included competitors from all over America as well as Japan, New Zealand, Germany and Canada.
Two 12-year-olds also were crowned world champions: Maddie Minch, of Strongsville, Ohio, in the Masters Division and Alexander Khachigian of Vallejo, Calif., in Stock.
The youngest winner was 10-year-old Logan Maves, of Madison, Wis., in Rally Stock. Nick Zimmerman, 14, of Cloverdale, Ind., won the Rally Super Stock title and muscular Freddy Atchison, a 14-year-old who enjoys wrestling, was the Rally Masters winner.
Atchison wore a ragged pair of undersized shoes, held together with bright purple tape to match the paint job on his racer.
"I've worn them for good luck for eight years, ever since I started racing," Atchison said.
Minch became the third member of her family to race in the finals, but first champion.
Her dad Greg raced from 1977 to 1985, but reached Derby Downs in Akron just once. Brother Emerson Minch placed eighth overall in 2010.
"I won one heat in 1978, then got beat," Greg Minch said. "Maddie's the champion in the family."
The international field featured more than 500 boys and girls. Drivers enjoyed sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s, a welcome change from the high heat and humidity earlier in the week during trial runs.