When Valley City High School Junior Annie Hart, 16, volunteered to drive an unused soap box car in the local competition earlier this summer, she never dreamed she would win a chance to compete in the international competition in Akron, Ohio, let alone place third in the world. Before that first race in Valley City, she had never raced in a soap box derby.
Annie placed third in the super stock division at the All American Soap Box Derby at Derby Downs in Akron Ohio last week competing against 121 racers from all over the world.
Annie's first time behind the wheel was at the Sheyenne Valley Soap Box Derby held in Valley City in early June. She didn't plan to race, but a friend called her up the night before to tell her a car, sponsored by Dutton's Valley Gallery, was available. Annie had always wanted to try racing, so she agreed and won in the super stock division with another Valley City youth, Jaustin Opatz, winning the stock division.
"When I called my dad to sign up for the race here, he said 'OK, but if you win, you are not going to Akron,'" said Annie. "Dad, don't worry about it," is what Annie told him.
"But all of a sudden, it just kind of happened, and he said 'OK, I guess we're going to have to go now.'"
Both youth made the trip to Akron for a week of racing and fun, said Annie.
During the Akron race, the weather was bad, it rained off and on all day, said Annie. Unlike the race in Valley City, the Akron race was a single elimination race with an assigned lane. Annie believes she might have won first place had she been in a different lane. Hers still had puddles in it from an earlier shower.
But winning third still felt really good, she said. Just winning a heat – she won all of hers till the end and Jaustin won his first – was a huge deal, said Annie.
While Annie and Jaustin were in Akron, they did more than race, though, they had the opportunity to meet kids from all over the world. According to Annie, she met kids from New Zealand, Japan, and Canada as well as from all over the United States. In fact, she made friends with the girl who won second place and will probably continue to keep in touch.
Currently, Annie's enormous trophy is in her bedroom, but she may take it to Dutton's since they sponsored her car.
Soapbox Derby racing in Valley City is a long-standing tradition. The Valley City Chamber of Commerce sponsored the sport until this year, when a group of local parents formed the Sheyenne Valley Soap Box Derby Club, according to president Scott Crump.
"It was out first year, we sent two cars to Akron, and one placed third in the world. And it was our first year! It's awesome," said Crump.
Soap box racing is divided into three categories depending on the driver's age and weight. The smaller, younger kids drive in the stock division while older, larger kids race in the super stock division. The biggest, oldest youngsters drive in the master's division.
Annie would like to try driving in the master's next year, but no other local masters are available to race. She hopes to find some. Jaustin plans to move into the super stock division.
Annie is the daughter of Tory and Lori Hart. Jaustin is the son of George and the late Jodi Opatz and grandson of Mickey and Peggy Kvien.