By PAUL WHEATLEY
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Girls reigned over this year's Greater Youngstown Area SoapBox Derby.
Jamie Berndt, 11, of Canfield, became the first girl to win a Youngstown derby by taking first in the suburban stock division.
Then, first-year racer Lindsay Kuebler, 14, of Berlin Center beat out Jeffrey Davis, 14, of Youngstown -- in the most dramatic finish of the event -- by one one-thousandth of a second in the super-stock division.
Finally, derby veteran Jennifer Rodway, 12, of Boardman took first in the metro stock division to round out the group.
All three girls will represent Youngstown in their divisions at the world finals July 28 in Akron.
Race factors: Drivers race in divisions based on two factors -- the sophistication of the car's design and geography.
Each racer faces the opponent twice, once in each lane. Their times are added and the faster of the two advances to the winners bracket for the next race.
Winners received a police-escorted victory lap before being presented with trophies and their new numbers for the Akron race.
"It was tough," Lindsay said. "I was, like, nervous the whole time."
Her uncle, Dan Medvec, the 1971 Youngstown derby champion, presented her trophy.
Her parents, Bill and Linda Kuebler, and grandparents were ecstatic.
"This was her first time racing," Linda Kuebler said. "We just thought it would be good practice for next year."
The girls beat out 84 racers in all, 40 of whom made it to Sunday's finals.
Director's take: Derby director Bob Neapolitan called the finals fantastic and said it's a challenge to boys everywhere to train and enter next year's race.
"We might be the first local [race] that's ever had three female champions going to Akron," he said.
This will, however, be the trio's final race in Youngstown. Derby rules prohibit race champions from participating in a race once they've won it.
But they will go out in style.
Neapolitan said the champs will attend a derby camp in Akron beginning July 23, where they'll ride a blimp, meet NASCAR drivers and meet 400 other finalists from around the globe.
An awards banquet honoring the winners is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the ITAM Club in Austintown.
A couple of crashes: Fans baking under the hot sun also saw some jaw-clenching races early on, including two crashes that knocked out two $1,000 electronic timing devices within a half-hour of each other.
Suburban stock racer Justin Saban, 12, of Niles and super-stock racer Mark D'Apolito, 13, of Boardman both smacked hay bales protecting sensors at the finish line.
"I lost steering and I hit a few cones on the outside and it threw me into a hay bale," said Mark, who was allowed a half-hour to fix his car for another race since he was competing for a trophy position.
Justin, who was in the challenger's bracket, was disqualified for his accident.
The timers were repaired; otherwise, parents would have been responsible for the cost.
This is the second year in a row for the race after a 28-year break. It was dedicated in memory of Ryan Bretschneider, who raced last year before dying of leukemia at 13.