Clovis kid competes in All-American Soap Box Derby

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

In less than 29 seconds, Kelsie Schwartz’s hopes were dashed, but she said she’s not going to let it keep her down. Losing at the 69th All-American Soap Box Derby on Saturday taught the enthusiastic 12-year-old a lesson — she wants to do it again, she said.

In an elimination heat, Schwartz raced two other cars to determine the fastest time and did not place high enough to go on in the races, her father, Doug Schwartz, said.

The loss was hard but she learned firsthand about sportsmanship, the young racer said. Her disappointment made her want to leave the racetrack after losing but her parents encouraged her to stay, telling her she needed to be there for the awards presentation.

She is returning to Clovis, not in defeat but instead on a mission to find a way to keep racing Soap Box Derby cars.

“I’m OK with not being the Ohio champ because hopefully I’ll get another chance to go next year,” she said.

Racing under her skin now, she plans to turn her loss into something positive, she said.

She hopes to start a new division in Clovis so former soap box racers and older kids can continue to compete, she said. As a prior competitor in the national race, Schwartz is no longer eligible to compete unless she enters in the master’s division.

Her father said he isn’t surprised she has caught the racing bug and wants to keep going.

“She’s headstrong and determined. She can be a Pistol Pete sometimes. Once she gets involved with something, she wants to go all the way with it,” he said.

Larry Erwin, who directs the racing program locally for the Kiwanis Rotary Club, said adding the upper division has been a matter of discussion in the club for some time and one its members would like to bring to fruition.

There are a lot of kids who would like to race again if given the opportunity, Erwin said.

At the last minute, a racer was needed for the car when the original driver couldn’t race, according to Greg Southard of the Rotary Club.

Kelsie Schwartz, who had never raced before, raised her hand when Southard asked his Sunday school class if there was a volunteer for the local Derby.

“She immediately raised her hand. She was very enthusiastic, she took it very seriously,” he said.

Francis Schwartz watched her granddaughter race from Clovis Saturday on ESPN, and she’s proud of the girl’s tenacity, recounting how the seventh grader worked tirelessly to raise the money for the trip to Ohio.

“She was very excited. This was the first time she had ever done anything like that,” she said.

“She’s all-girl but she’s an athlete too. She’ll try anything. She doesn’t always win but she excels in everything she tries,” she said.