When Kallie Myers stepped into her racing car Saturday morning for her first heat at Akron’s Derby Downs, she couldn’t imagine what was in store for her.
The 18-year-old from St. Clairsville crashed when another car bumped into her after crossing the finish line.
Her car spun around and ended up traveling backward about 400 feet. The axle was bent and the wheels had to be replaced.
“I screamed,” Myers said. “I was more scared than anything.”
Undeterred, she came back to win the final heat in the local super stock race and become a champion at the 75th FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby. It also was her final year of racing at the event.
“What a way for her to go out,” her mother, Kathy Myers, said. “St. Clairsville has never had a champ.”
Her father, Matt Myers, wiped tears from his eyes, overwhelmed with pride in his daughter’s win.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” Kallie Myers said. “There is nothing better than to win in your last year and go out with a bang. It’s bittersweet and sad that it is all over.”
Nearly 12,000 people attended the derby this year, beating last year’s attendance of 10,000.
The weather cooperated. There was no rain. And more people sat in the stands rather than hiding from the sun under the tents.
The race also set a record for the earliest finish, ending at 3:25 p.m. It usually ends after 5 p.m.
The Goodyear blimp hovered in the sky. Twenty-five of the older champs returned to watch the derby. The oldest returning champ was Freddy Mohler of Muncie, Ind., who has been to 50 out of 59 races. He won in 1953.
Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic was there, as well as actor-director Corbin Bernsen, who has paid a portion of the proceeds from the movie 25 Hill to the derby.
St. Clairsville wasn’t the only town with a first-time winner. It was a good day for Cuyahoga Falls, too.
Freddy Atchison, 14, is the first person from Cuyahoga Falls to win a world championship. He won the rally masters division.
“It feels pretty good,” Atchison said.
Logan Maves, 10, of Madison Wis., won the rally stock race.
As soon as he crossed the finish line, he asked, “Second, first, what did I get?”
He said he couldn’t tell.
“It just feels so cool,” Maves said of his win.
The winner of the local stock race, Alexander Khachigian, 12, of Tuolumne, Calif., was only the second boy in the last six years to win in that division.
Nick Zimmerman, 14, of Cloverdale, Ind., won the rally super stock division. Racers from Indiana have placed six times in the history of that race.
Winner from Strongsville
Masters winner Maddie Minch, 12, of Strongsville, has been racing since she was 7. It was her third time in the All-American Soap Box Derby.
“She’s a real good listener and it’s a real pleasure to work with her,” said her father, Greg Minch, who also raced from 1977 to 1984 at Brookside Park in Cleveland. The one year he raced at the All-American, he lost in the first heat.
He said he had so much fun racing and shared stories with his four children that he hopes to get them all involved.
Emerson, 11, raced in 2010. This was the first race for Logan, 7. Garrett, 3, has to wait four more years.
In the Ultimate Speed Challenge, Laura Overmyer, 22, of Oregon, Ill., won by two-tenths of a second. In that competition, people build fast cars to race.
Her team, CSSN, Clean Sheet/Sigma Nu, has won the race three times. She and her brother, Jim, were the only racers this year for the team.
Her brother was involved in one of three crashes on the track. He said he ran into some bad luck and hit a guardrail because his glasses fogged up. It was too late to stop by the time he could see what was going on.
Laura and Jim Overmyer used prism glasses while lying flat in the car. The glasses are similar to using a periscope.
Their father, Mark Overmyer, is the mastermind of the team, focusing on new technology and the car. Duane Delaney is the rubber master, and crew chief is Mark Estes.
“It’s a pretty nice win, but it’s always tough because you know the people you are racing against put a lot of time in it as well,” Laura Overmyer said. “But we all push each other to be better and faster.”
Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or email@example.com.