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Duke and Oester win soap box derby competition

June 15, 2003|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - Little hands spun the wheels of their miniature cars, making sure everything was in line while they waited for their runs down South Queen Street in Martinsburg, W.Va., on Saturday.

Others rolled up their sleeves and polished their soap box cars to a shine before they scooted down into their motorless vehicles to prepare for the race.

Fifty-seven children and teenagers participated in the Roach Oil/Shell Classic Norwalk Soap Box Derby at the square. The event was organized by the Norwalk Soap Box Derby Association.

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Saturday's top winners Tyler Duke and Jessica Oester will be competing in the national derby in Arkron, Ohio, July 26.

Last year's winners were Josh Allen in the stock division and Zachary Hammett in the super stock division.

The derby has been held in Martinsburg since 2000, when it made its return to the city after a 49-year hiatus, derby director Ron Butts said. It was held for the first time in 1936.

The event was open to boys and girls ages 8 to 17.

They competed in either the stock or super stock divisions. In the stock division, the car and driver could weigh no more than 200 pounds; in the super stock division, the weight limit was 230 pounds.

The competitors in each division rolled off a low ramp side-by-side. Their times were measured when they hit the finish line. The drivers then swapped lanes and competed against each other a second time.

Winners of both runs or those who won by the larger time differential advanced to the next level.

"It's fun," said Brian Cole, 14, of Martinsburg.

Brian raced the number 03 car in the stock division.

His father, Ronald Cole, said Brian practiced for the event during car inspections and on a hill near their home.

"When he's practicing, he's saying, 'Let's do it again,' " Cole said.

Butts said the competitors change lanes to eliminate disadvantages that may occur in lane conditions. He said the second lane is typically faster than the first lane, but the condition could change as the day goes on.

While luck may play a part in winning the competition, Butts, parents and participants said staying low in the car and steering straight are also key in coming in first place.

Butts said he expected a girl to win one of the divisions, because girls have a natural ability to bend and stay lower in the cars than boys.

Megan Rodgers, 10, of Shepherdstown entered the competition for the first time this year. Her parents, Tom and Debbie Rodgers, said their son, Tyler, 7, will compete next year.

The Rodgers said Megan built her own car, which is a rule of the competition.

The cars have plastic bodies and a wooden floorboard.

"We didn't get much practice because of all the rain so we're hoping for the best," Tom Rodgers said.

"This is great for kids," Debbie Rodgers said. "It's nice to have a family thing."

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