Kelsey Van Waart may have earned herself a few extra trinkets in the old Christmas stocking this year.

Particularly from the part of the family two generations ahead of her. The 11-year-old from Omaha, Nebraska, became the first member of her family in 65 years of racing to win a national championship Saturday at the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby.

Van Waart captured the Local Masters Division — the final race of a long, hot day — at Derby Downs and sparked a big family celebration at the finish line.

It was her first win in Akron and third time to make it. She said she finished sixth three years ago in the stock division.

"I think I had more focus, now that I'm older," she said of Saturday's race. "It means a lot. A lot to my family and a lot to Region 4."

Since Kelsey's great uncle, Jerry, started competing in 1954, many other Van Waarts have followed. None had left Akron as champion before.

Jerry's younger brother, Roger, is Kelsey's grandfather. He won the Sioux City Derby in 1966 and was the first in the family to make it to Akron.

"We've been at this a long time, all the kids, helping the grandkids," Jerry Van Waart said, choking up with emotion. "This is unbelievable."

Peter Van Waart, Kelsey's father, also made it to the All-American Derby, and estimates that at least 20 family members have earned their way to Akron.

"I raced in '88 and my dad raced in '66," Peter Van Waart said. "And Jerry helped build this car in '66. I grew up coming to Akron, watching this race. It's been a family tradition for us."

And Kelsey plans to continue that tradition.

"Of course," she said. "Why not?"

Van Waart was one of seven champions Saturday. The others were Cash Driggers (Rally Stock Division), Erin Donovan (Rally Super Stock), Abigail Mills (Rally Masters), Cassidy Martin (Local Stock), Saleta Nichols (Local Super Stock) and Cliffton Marshall (Super Kids).

Michael Conway of Akron and Paige Tiffany of Greater Chicago were second and third behind Van Waart.

 

Sibling symmetry

Cash Driggers, 11, of Tarrytown, Georgia, won the Rally Stock Division. Alexa Garron of Villa Rica, Georgia, was second and Cayson Hayes of Summville, South Carolina, was third.

Hayes won the same race last year after also winning the Local Stock Division two years ago.

"I really wanted to because my sister [Aidyn] won two years," Driggers said. "My dad and mom encouraged me and so did my sister."

 

Highly qualified

Erin Donovan, 15, of Eagleville, Pennsylvania, finished first in the Rally Super Stock Division. Hunter Volkmar of Dittmer, Missouri, and Megan Plum of Basehor, Kansas, were second and third.

Donovan also won the Rally Stock Division in 2013 and has qualified for Akron eight years in a row.

"Family and you've just got to trust the process," Donovan attributed to his success. "A lot of family was here today. All my friends and family."

In an oddity, four of the last six championship races Saturday were won by the car in Lane No. 3, including Donovan's.

 

First on last try

Abigail Mills, 20, of West Lafayette, Indiana, placed first in the Rally Masters Division, ahead of second-place Charles Nigon of Altoona, Iowa. Morgan Van Keuren of Liberty, New York, was third.

This was her fifth try, and because of her age, it will be her final race. And she made the best of it.

"I'm going to miss it," Mills said. "I'm really going to miss all the people. I had a good time with my family. I had a good time with my friends."

The intense heat, she said, was "definitely not fun — but it's better than rain."

 

Gave it her all

Cassidy Martin, 13, of Lyons, Georgia, won the Local Stock Division. Mathew Tomczak of Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, was second and Ella Geertson of Erie, Pennsylvania, was third.

"I kept my head, I stayed focused," Martin said. "I knew I really wanted to win and this was last year in stock, so I gave it all I got and it paid off."

 

The lowdown

Saleta Nichols, 14, of Federalsburg, Maryland, placed first in the Local Super Stock Division. Alexis Lowe of Salem, Oregon, finished second and Ian Jameson of Washington, D.C., was third.

"I think it's because I had an awesome dad [Todd] and a good team," Nichols said of what helped her win.

This is her fourth time competing in Akron. And she said she followed a simple approach to the title.

"Stay low," Nichols said. "Just get to a spot and stay with it."