Derby returns to Cortland

BY Jordan Cohen


Lia Brammer of Poland is a veteran Soap Box Derby competitor and a returning local champion. She’s only 12 years old.

“I still get pretty nervous at times, but I know what to do,” she said just before the start of competition at the Greater Youngstown Area Soap Box Derby on Saturday. Her track record proves it. She won the Stock Division in Cortland last year and took three heats in the All American Soap Box Derby championships in Akron before failing to place.

No matter the outcome, she will be returning to Akron in the Super Stock Division. She already has amassed enough points to be declared a “Rally Champion” after indoor winter competitive racing as far east as Rochester, N.Y., and as far south as Maryland. “I still want to win here,” she said.

For the second-consecutive year, the GYASBD had the races on a 1,000-foot downhill grade on West Main Street. The racers, age 8 to 17, competed in three divisions: Stock, Super Stock and Masters.

One winner in each division earns the right to compete at the national championships in Akron on July 21. Weight limits are strictly monitored for each division.

Capturing Saturday’s honors were:

Stock: Eythan Evans, 8, of Niles;

Super Stock: Brandon Krohn, 12, of Austintown;

Masters: Melody Castner, 11, of Hubbard.

The colorful racing cars, which prominently display names of sponsors, run at speeds of from 25 to 30 miles per hour,

according to Mike Shook of North Jackson, derby director. Shook said he and derby board members lend their expertise to anyone who asks for help. “We think of everyone in the derby as family,” Shook said.

One contestant he helped, Josh Walker, 16, of Warren, raced in the Super Stock Division and discussed his car in ways one might expect to hear in the pits at Daytona.

“We had to make an adjustment in the axles, and [Shook] helped me set it up,” Walker said.

Warren residents Lexie Hernandez, 14, and her father, David, built her new car after Lexie, who has raced for the last seven years, decided to move up to the Masters Division.

“I’m not sure how fast this can go,” she said, eyeing her sleek red racer reminiscent of early Formula One models. She was one of only six contestants in the division.

Derby volunteers situated cones and hay bales at the end of the course in case any of the drivers had braking problems. The track was bordered on both sides by PVC pipe that would keep cars from veering off the street.

Families set up tents at the side of the street to watch the competition as a digital electronic timer verified winners. They cheered loudly with each heat.

Shook, the derby director, said all board members and staff are volunteers who love the sport because of its family involvement.

“The biggest reward I get is to see the kids smiling,” he said.

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