Poland teen heads to 6th, final soap box derby championship
By JORDYN GRZELEWSKI
When Lia Brammer races down the Derby Downs Track as a competitor in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby today, it will mark her sixth and final world championship.
The 18-year-old is retiring, so to speak, after 10 years participating in the sport.
Brammer, a 2018 Poland Seminary High School graduate, got into the sport at age 8 after her father, James Brammer, heard about a sponsored car that needed a driver. He did some research and asked Lia if she wanted to do it.
She said yes, a decision that’s brought her to races across the country and earned her so many trophies she’s lost count of them.
“A lot of it was friends at the time,” Lia said of why she decided to race. “I made some great friends. We traveled a lot to different races. And it’s something I could do with my dad.”
The event has now become a family affair.
Lia’s younger sister, Morgan, grew up watching her older sister compete and is now a racer herself.
Asked why she wanted to get involved in racing, the 9-year-old’s answer is simple: “My sister.”
Lia has made it to the world championships, which take place each year in Akron, six times now.
Getting there this year was not without its challenges.
To qualify, Lia raced in the Portage County Soap Box Derby.
“To get in [to the championships], she had to win,” James said. “The first heat of the day, she threw a brake before the finish line because her helmet jiggled and she couldn’t see.”
Because of that, Lia had to win her other races that day and eliminate two other competitors.
She ended up winning the master’s division and qualifying for the championship.
Although she’s had a successful run – she once finished among the top eight in the world, for example – Lia’s favorite aspects of Soap Box Derby have nothing to do with the race itself. The best memories, she said, are of the places she’s traveled and the new friends she’s met.
Lia could keep racing until 21, but she’s heading to college at Ohio State University this fall.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said of ending her derby days. “I’ve paid my dues and put a lot of time into it. I’m ready to be done and hand it over to my sister, but I’ve met so many great people that it’s sad to see it go.”
“It’s been a fun run,” her dad said.