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W.Va. family receives honor at soap box derby championships

August 01, 2005|by MARLO BARNHART

marlob@herald-mail.com

INWOOD, W.Va. - While the Petry family returned from this weekend's All American Soap Box Derby Championships in Akron, Ohio, with no racing trophies, they were honored as one of five finalists for the Levi Strauss Signature Family of the Year.

For the honor, Bob and Angela Petry and their sons, Cody, 13, and Nathan, 11, all on Inwood, received a $250 gift certificate from the clothing manufacturer.

Jess Hunter, spokeswoman for Alan Taylor Communications, said the Ringold family from Fredericksburg, Va., was named family of the year.

Hunter said by telephone Sunday night that candidates were nominated from the 170 chapters nationwide and five finalists were chosen.

Nominated by Ray Miller, director of the Jefferson County Soap Box Derby, the Petry family attended the Akron event, where Cody was a competitor.

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"I was a car handler when Cody was racing in his heat," Bob Petry said. After that, he joined the rest of the family as spectators for the competition.

It was the family's first trip to Akron for the event and Bob Petry said they had a great time even though Cody didn't win his first heat. They returned Sunday evening.

Miller said the Petry family embodies the sport's founding principles.

The entire family is involved in the local soap box derby chapter, with the parents serving as benefactors for all areas of the program, including donating four cars to Berkeley County schools.

They took two of those cars to Akron.

Ryan Springer, of Orchard View Intermediate School in Berkeley County, placed in the top 27 drivers out of 182, Miller said after returning to his Hedgesville, W.Va., home.

"He went into the third heat, and that's about the best we've ever done from here," Miller said.

Ryan's father, Jim, said it was a very rewarding experience for the whole family.

"We met a lot of parents just like us, who were in this for the first time," he said. Ryan, 11, will be entering South Middle School in Martinsburg, W.Va., in the fall.

Miller was honored at this weekend's events, receiving a plaque for establishing a New Race City. He said the first soap box derby in Shepherdstown, W.Va., was June 25 and attracted 42 competitors.

Headquartered in Akron, the All American Soap Box Derby was founded in 1933 and is an established grass roots youth and family organization. An official initiative of NASCAR, the derby sanctions more than 450 races in 170 cities in the U.S. and overseas.

Boys and girls ages 8 to 17 build their own gravity-powered cars from kits, with assistance from a parent or other adult.

The annual championship is at Derby Downs in Akron. In the past 10 years, participation has doubled with girls making up nearly half of the participants.

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