How did they end up at the top of Derby Downs? The stories vary by racer.
For some, the All-American Soap Box Derby is in their blood. They are following the footsteps of their parents or siblings who participated in Akron’s famous race.
For others, it was the thrill of zooming down the hill. And for a few, it started as a lark.
But all of the 18 Akron-area kids competing in today’s FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby share a common goal — to finish first.
Emily Harmon has trouble keeping track of all her cousins who race derby cars. Somewhere between 10 and 20, she figures.
“It’s a big thing in our family,” Emily said.
The family has been racing since the 1960s.
Her sister had an unsuccessful run in the All-American in 2007. Her cousin Ashley Wilp finished in third place in 2005. But no one from the family has ever won it all.
That’s something Emily, 16, who attends Cuyahoga Falls High School, hopes to change today as she lines up as a rally masters champion from Silver Lake.
This year, she’s racing for her grandfather, one of the pioneer racers in the family.
Her masters car is blue with clouds and one distinct figure: Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh is her “thing,” Emily says.
Cuyahoga Falls High School student and rally master champion Freddy Atchison, 14, is no stranger to the All-American race. Today is his third run at the title in as many years.
“Fast Freddy” is following in his older sister Osta’s footsteps. She raced five times in the All-American, placing second in her last race.
An eight-year veteran of rally races, Freddy grew up playing under the bleachers between derby heats.
“When I first started, it was kind of exciting to be at the starting gate,” Freddy said. “Now I kind of just want to get down the hill and see who wins.”
The first time Trinity Kubick let gravity take her to the bottom of Derby Downs, she got a little nervous looking at the finish line from atop the 954-foot track.
“I loved it,” she said.
Two years later, Trinity, 10, of Cuyahoga Falls, will take her place at the top of the hill during the rally stock championship today.
Next to her at the starting gate will be her car handler, known to Trinity as “Pop-Pop.” For Soap Box Derby enthusiasts, he is better known as Jeff Iula, the former general manager of the derby.
Trinity earned her right to race in the All-American by winning the metro race stock division for racers ages 7 to 13. Besides her grandfather, her mother, Carrie Kubick, and her aunt competed in the big race. Her great-grandfather, Ralph Iula, ran the Akron race for 20 years.
When she climbs in the car, Trinity said: “I just focus on the yellow line.”
A student at Summit Christian Academy, Trinity said she once crashed into the guardrail.
“I thought something bad was going to happen to the car, and now I know it’s not that bad,” she said.
For entire list of Akron-area racers, click here.