Virginia Sanita popped out of her soap box derby car wearing a giant smile.
“I love this. Just love it,” the 9-year-old said. “I’m usually nervous at the top, but I’m exploding with excitement while I’m going down the track.”
Sanita was one of 76 racers to battle two-by-two down the derby track Saturday at Arrowhead Ranch on Camano Island. Though she placed eighth in the stock division, she also earned the derby’s largest trophy: the Harry Brown Sportsmanship Award for demonstrating true sportsmanship throughout the day.
At the end of a long day on the track, Camden Tatarian won the stock division title, and Avery Rochon took the super stock division trophy. Their prize? A trip to the annual All-American Soap Box Derby Race Week, taking place July 24, where racers compete for the title of world champion and more than $36,000 in college scholarships.
“We believe that this was the best year yet,” said Marla Heagle, who with husband Randy owns the local Windermere offices. They are the derby’s lead sponsor.
“The year off gave us time to add a few improvements to the ranch,” she said of the upgrades that included a silo at the base of the track for announcer Ed Bednarczyk and statistician John Swanson. “The Arrowhead Ranch also grew from 20 to 50 acres in 2020, so we were able to have onsite parking, making it easier for spectators, racers and their families to navigate. The food trucks were a new addition to the event also, and all of them sold out.”
But all eyes were on the track, where racers said the key to speed is fairly simple.
“The trick is to look out as far as you can to go as straight as you can,” said Leo Saylor, 10, who was participating in his fifth derby event. “Oh, and never look at the person you’re racing.”
Cyler Granston, 7, traveled to Camano from Solana Beach, California, for his first-ever race.
“The speed! First time down, I went faster than I thought,” he said. “But each time down it gets easier.”
The local soap box derby event incorporates science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, while encouraging active mentorship and family collaboration throughout the derby car-building process. Most racers and family members have spent the past few weeks 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.
Later this summer, Arrowhead Ranch will host the Summer Classic Rally Races, a stop on the soap box rally circuit where racers can advance to Akron by accumulating points in a series of races.
About 200 volunteers helped make the derby possible, led by volunteer coordinator Myra Reinhard from Coastal Community Bank, Heagle said.
The derby’s two largest trophies — the Harry Brown Sportsmanship Award and the Pat Richardson Positive Impact Award — are named after long-time volunteers.
Brown, who died in 2017, volunteered at the local derby since it started, helping with everything from assisting a family build a car to arriving at 4:30 a.m. on race day to put on the event, Heagle said.
Richardson, who died in 2019, was enormously generous to so many causes in the community — especially those that had a positive impact on kids, including giving his time, money, and equipment to help the race, Heagle said.
Derby racer Titus Placzyk won the Pat Richardson Positive Impact Award for encouraging other racers and helping the volunteers without being asked.
1st: Camden Tatarian
2nd: Priscilla Siddle
3rd: Adelaide Holmes
4th: Titus Placzek
5th: Ian Shrock
6th: Ryko Falk
7th: Timmy McCann
8th: Virginia Sanita
Super Stock division
1st: Avery Rochon
2nd: Sydney Jarvis
3rd: Bellita Siddle
4th: Reid Timmerman
5th: Karsten Nichol
6th: Isabelle Placzek
7th: Naomi Placzek
8th: Lil Swanson