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Soap Box Derby held in Mantua

By Matthew Merchant | staff writer Published: June 19, 2016 4:00 AM
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At 35 miles per hour, the Soap Box Derby cars racing down Mantua's hill on Saturday were breaking the road's regular speed limit.

For the 15th year, the Portage County Soap Box Derby hosted its annual race on East High Street in the village.

More than 30 racers lined the street, competing in three divisions -- stock, super stock and master class.

Winners of this year's races were Stock Champion Jillian Moore, 12, Super Stock Champion Angelina Philipps, 14, and Master Class Champion Keven Addis Jr., 13.

In her first year racing, Madison Najeway, 11, of Randolph, took third place in the super stock division.

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Her father, John Najeway, a partner with Akron's Thirsty Dog Brewing Co., helped sponsor his daughter's custom car and worked with the pit crew during the event.

"It's fun when you're going down the hill, and it's a great way to make friends," Madison said.

She built the car °-- custom painted by the VanDevere dealership -- by herself after learning about the physics of the vehicles in a Science Technology Engineering and Math class at St. Sebastian's in Akron.

Each race, the wheels of the cars were swapped with their opponents, a 0-4-0 style, which meant each racer only used their own set of tires the first race. After that, they used the wheels of their rivals.

"This kind of racing is all about fairness and integrity," said Dean Olsen, a board member of PCSBD. "And it's just fun. The challenge bracket gives a racer a chance to come back."

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In 2003, Olsen and the other board members worked with the village to arrange for the event to be held near Buchert Memorial Park, blocking off the road for two days. Portage County is the only county-only race in the state.

Losing racers were pitted against other losing racers until they faced off against the winner of the winner's bracket.

A regular race season runs August through June, ending with the All-American race in Akron at the Derby Downs. If desired, a racer could speed down hills almost every weekend during the year somewhere across the country.

"This is a hometown race. You've got kids with lemonade stands, little brothers and sisters, and townsfolk all here watching," said Jeff Iula, a longstanding figure in the Soap Box world. "That's the true spirit of the derby. It makes everything more enthusiastic."

Kevin Addis Jr., from Hiram, was racing for the third time this year. His father, Kevin Addis Sr., said they are active throughout the year in other sports, but when it comes to the derby, they're focused on the races.

"The best part is watching them have fun," Addis Sr. said.

Contact this reporter at 330-298-1127 or mmerchant@recordpub.com

Twitter: @MattMerchantRC


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