Four local soap box racers are seeking to claim another trophy this week in Akron, Ohio. Camden Tatarian, Avery Rochon, Bella Siddle and Ronan Johnson are competing in the 83rd annual All-American Soap Box Derby Race Week, where racers compete for the title of world champion and more than $36,000 in college scholarships.
Tatarian and Rochon earned the trip to Ohio by winning their divisions in the 14th annual Windermere Stanwood-Camano Soap Box Derby in June at Arrowhead Ranch on Camano Island. Tatarian, 7, won the stock division title, and Rochon, 16, took the super stock division trophy. Tatarian said he was “surprised, shocked, excited” to have won the Camano race and earn a ticket to Ohio. “It was more fun than I thought it’d be,” the Twin City Elementary student said about how he was reluctant at first to participate in the race. “But I just got real low and went straight.” For Rochon, the win comes on the heels of a razor-thin second-place finish last year. “I knew it was close again this year,” the Stanwood High student said. “But when I saw my dad at the finish line cheering, I knew I had won. It took a while for the realization of going to Ohio to sink in, but I’m excited.” She said she plans to take it one race at a time this week and focus on the details. “Everything has to be perfect — washers, nuts, bolts — everything has to be aligned perfectly,” said Rochon, a Camano Island resident. “But when you start to go down the track, you can feel the intensity of it. It’s just fun.”
Siddle and Johnson punched their tickets to the All-American Soap Box Derby Race Week by earning points in rally competitions throughout the U.S. and Canada since last fall. Both had advanced to Akron in past years by winning the Stanwood-Camano race. The racing in Akron takes place on the historic 989-foot-long Derby Downs, first built in the 1930s as a Works Progress Administration project. It is located on a wooded hillside next to the Goodyear Blimp hangar and includes grandstands, a museum of champion cars, pit areas, and two large storage buildings for the 300-plus cars that arrive from throughout the world to race in eight classes. The drivers assemble and tune their own cars, beginning with kits and help from parents or mentors.
Soap box derby racing is seeing a resurgence, in part because the sport incorporates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills while encouraging active mentorship and family collaboration throughout the car-building process. Most racers and family members spend weeks or months attending driving and building clinics in addition to working on their cars, many of which are paid for by local businesses. In the stock division, the combined weight of the stock car, wheels and driver cannot exceed 200 pounds. For the super stock division, the combined weight cannot exceed 240 pounds. Stock division drivers must be ages 7-13; super stock drivers must be ages 9-17. Each local racer will have family and friends along for the trip, creating a Stanwood-Camano cheering section, family members said.
For more information, visit soapboxderby.org.
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