ANDERSON — Maryah Elliot watched the soap box derby world championships last summer from the sidelines.
As she studied the cars going down the 989-foot racing track, specifically designed for the soap box derby in Akron, Ohio, she set a goal for herself to be back in 2019.
Only this time she’d be a part of the competition and so would her sister, La’Rayna.
Fast forward to last month, and both girls won their respective divisions and will represent Anderson at the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby this week. They join a long list of competitors from the Madison County area who have competed in the premier event for soap box derby racing.
“I was in Akron last year and we were down there and I told (La’Rayna) that we would be back there this year,” said Maryah Elliot, who will compete in the super stock class. “We made it a goal.”
The hill in Akron is much different than the one found at Derby Downs Park off Madison Avenue in Anderson. It’s much steeper and runs longer.
Both girls feel pretty good about their chances and are looking forward to taking off down the hill for the first time.
“I’m excited because I don’t know if it’s going to be really far down or if it's going to be a tall hill,” said La’Rayna Elliot Dabney, who is competing in stock. “This one looks really long and I haven’t seen the track in Akron.”
Racing takes place all week, but Saturday, July 20 is when the race for first place begins. Throughout the rest of the week, beginning on Tuesday, drivers will have the opportunity to get used to the track.
Joining the girls at the track on Sunday will be their mother, father and grandmother as well as their grandfather, Alonzo Anthony, who is a major supporter of the soap box derby in Anderson. Anthony has his own racing team with seven participants this year.
Along with Terry Taylor, who has been a key player in reviving the soap box derby in Anderson, they will be volunteering their time to help racers in Akron.
He explained the cars his granddaughters will be using this week had to be in Akron fairly early for inspection. He said he ran into a bit of a hiccup along the way and that one of the cars needed quick repairs before racing begins.
Anthony got the car the fixes it needs and it’ll be ready in time for its first run down the hill. He joked about the stress of driving it across state lines and to a nearby repair shop in Akron, which works on soap box derby cars, just in the nick of time.
If not for Anthony, Maryah and La'Rayna would most likely not being taking part in the derby.
Maryah Elliot jokingly blames her grandfather for being the one who got her into the soap box derby. She said she wasn’t sure about the program at first.
She, in turn, coaxed her sister into joining her.
“She started it and I thought it looked cool,” La’Rayna Elliot Dabney said. “They asked me if I wanted to do it and I said yes. We started in Indianapolis and moved up here.”
Derby is a large part of their busy schedules, which includes softball, volleyball and basketball, but they can’t imagine life without it.
“It just keeps us busy,” Maryah said. “When we don’t have any sports or anything, we just do derby and it keeps us busy.”
There’s a lot of work that goes into building a derby car, but going down the hill is the easy part, according to the girls.
La’Rayna notes all that is necessary is keeping the car straight and she barely has to move the steering wheel — unless, of course, she is veering one way and needs a small correction to stay on course.
Both girls joke that the hardest part of any derby is simply lifting the cars and getting them to the starting line.
According to soapboxderby.org, a stock car weighs approximately 70 pounds and can accommodate a person up to 5-foot-3-inches tall and 125 pounds. Total weight for stock cars is not allowed to exceed 200 pounds, and the division is for racers ages 7 to 13.
Super stock cars are rounded off and weigh about 73 pounds. This classification is for participants ages 9 to 18 and can support riders up to 6-feet tall and 150 pounds. Total weight must not exceed 240 pounds.
A win by either of the girls would put them on a long list of world champions from Anderson.
Anderson last had a world champion in 2002 when Cameron Vannatta won the stock division. Indiana has produced 13 champions since 1934 with six of them hailing from Anderson.
The city last produced two world champions in 2000.
Follow Dylan Trimpe @Trimp3 on Twitter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 765-640-4840.
Timeline of events
Sunday, July 14
8 a.m. to 5 p.m.: Shell Re-attachment/Trial Runs/Photos, etc. for all cars
6 p.m.: Race Week Overview and Orientation meeting at the Whitey Wahl Starting Line Pavilion
Monday, July 15
11:30 a.m.: Staging for the Parade of Champions, Canal Park
12 p.m.: Parade of Champions on Main Street from Canal Park to Lock 3
12:30 to 3:30 p.m.: Opening Ceremony, Lock 3
6 to 9 p.m.: Champions only Rock the Rec and Badge Trading at The University of Akron Health & Wellness Center
Tuesday, July 16
7:30 a.m.: AAA Local Challenge — Local Masters
9 a.m.: AAA Local Challenge — Local Super Stock
10:30 a.m.: AAA Local Challenge — Local Stock
1 p.m.: Legacy Division
Wednesday, July 17
7:30 a.m.: Rally Challenge — Rally Masters
9 a.m.: Rally Challenge — Rally Super Stock
10 a.m.: Rally Challenge — Rally Stock
2 p.m.: All-Star Race
Thursday, July 18
12 to 1:30 p.m.: Parents Race
2 p.m.: Group Photo
3 to 5 p.m.: Open Hill, Whitey Wahl Pavilion Starting Line
3 to 7 p.m.: Topside Show Open House
5 to 8 p.m.: Build and Battle Competition
Friday, July 19
8 a.m. to 3 p.m.: National Super Kids Classic
8 a.m.: Masters (Local and Rally)
9:30 a.m.: Super Stock (Local and Rally)
11:15 a.m.: Stock (Rally)
12 p.m.: Stock (Local)
3 to 4 p.m.: Local and Rally Directors meeting
4:15 to 5:30 p.m.: State of the Derby update
Saturday, July 20
7 to 8 a.m.: Champ and Car Handler Check-In
8:30 a.m.: Opening Ceremonies
9 a.m.: First Heat of the 82nd FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby
1 p.m.: VIP Heats presented by Accenture; final heats immediately following VIP heats
7 p.m.: Awards Ceremony, Akron Civic Theatre
Soap Box Derby World Champions from Anderson
1935: Maurice Bale, Jr.
1957: Terry Townsend
1959: Barney Townsend
2000 Super Stock: Derek Etherington
2000 Masters: Cody Butler
2002 Stock: Cameron Vannatta