Girls getting into Soap Box Derby fever

By Eric Butler

Tara DeWitt liked last year’s Clovis Soap Box Derby so much she recruited a couple of friends.
DeWitt, 11, is one of 15 entrants in the 2003 derby being held starting at 10 a.m. Saturday on Sycamore Street near Yucca Junior High.
While she was one of only three girls in the 16-person field last year, DeWitt’s recruitment of friends has partially helped the girls total double this year.
“It’s really fun, because you’re going not-too-fast, but kind-of-fast,” said DeWitt of the soap box derby’s appeal. “And it’s really fun when you win.”
“She had so much fun doing it, so she wanted more girls doing it,” DeWitt’s mom, Diane said. “She absolutely loved it. She’s so competitive too — I think she was pretty excited about winning a couple of races against the boys.”
The overall winner of this weekend,s event qualifies for the National Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, later this summer.
Entrants will start the races, two at a time, atop a flatbed trailer and launched toward 14th street.
When the pair reaches the finish line, their cars are loaded back up for a repeat match — with the drivers switching lanes. The racer with the top overall time from the two runs will then advance into the next round.
DeWitt said she’s been “practicing,” by having friends push her and her gravity-powered car as far as it can go.
“Just by running down our driveway,” says DeWitt of her training technique.
Most of the participants, according to Erwin, are between nine and 12 years old — who adds that half of the drivers are returnees from last year.
The total weight of each car, including the driver, is 230 pounds.
“We’re ready to go,” Erwin says. “We’ll have a concession stand, bleachers for people to sit in. The road will be blocked off from Yucca down to 13th street.”