Wind, rain can’t derail day at the races

Riley Flock closes his eyes and braces for impact. - Photo by Jesse Beals
Riley Flock closes his eyes and braces for impact.
— image credit: Photo by Jesse Beals

For one Silverdale Soap Box Derby racer, it was the missing piece of an outstanding career.

For another, it was just the beginning.

Malia Barber, 11, and Lucas Hernandez, 11, are both headed to Akron, Ohio for the All-American Soap Box Derby on July 22.

For Barber, it’s her second trip, with Sunday’s overall win capping a perfect day in super stock racing, gaining the elusive “Queen of the Hill” title that was the last remaining accolade she wanted — except for the return trip, of course.

“It feels so good to finally get it,” Barber said. “I’m just so excited.”

For Hernandez, it was only his fourth race ever. But he drove perfectly, earning the “King of the Hill” crown in the stock races.

“It’s great,” Hernandez said. “I feel like I’m in the royal family.”

Hernandez and Barber were among 37 8-to-17-year-olds that braved early drizzle, a lot of wind, and some early slippery road conditions in the fourth annual Silverdale Soap Box Derby Sunday on Ridgetop Boulevard.

And while some moments were painful, some wet and some just downright hilarious, the Soap Box Derby left memories for all.

“The two tents that were tied together totally flipped over,” Cruzin’ Chics racer Megan Johnson said. “It was bad. But of course it got sunny after we set our rain covers up.”

Melissa Tippets, Johnson’s mom and part of the Tippets family who were elected Washington state’s Family of the Year, said she was just glad the rain burnt off.

“It was only drizzle,” she said. “It was never really severe anyway.”

David Tippets said he was just glad it got dry after a last weekend’s rally race was eventually canceled due to rain.

“I’m just glad it’s not another day of racing in the rain,” he said.

Rain-slicked Ridgetop Boulevard kept some cars from being able to stop at the end of the run. One racer dislocated his pinky finger after colliding with the sidewalk.

But aside from the early inconvenience, the day was warm, windy and chock full of smiles.

“It’s the most exciting thing that’s ever happened to me in my life,” said Greg Dyrness, who in the past helped his daughters race. This year he helped Hernandez and his brothers Levi, 9, and Simon, 13. “I’m a race fan. It’s my living through somebody else.”

Lucas Hernandez admits going for the win was his goal, although he had ulterior motives.

“My goal was to get first,” he said. “They said if I get ‘King of the Hill’ then I’d get a new Xbox 360 game.”

In terms of heading to the finals, Hernandez said he’s just looking forward to the trip.

“Just having fun,” Hernandez said. “I don’t really care if I lose. It’s just all the stuff you get to do. I can’t wait.”

Hernandez’s brothers were also proud of his accomplishment. Simon Hernandez said he too has had a blast racing.

“All the people,” Simon Hernandez said. “They’re just really, really nice.”

Little brother Levi agreed.

“I just like getting trophies and having fun,” he said.

Barber, who has made the Akron trip before, said she couldn’t believe she was getting another shot.

“Oy my gosh!” she said after winning. “It feels like I got a heart attack!”

After building the car with her grandfather, Barber said she tried to find him first to celebrate.

“I wanted to come up and give him a hug,” she said. “I got back up and I couldn’t breathe. Running up that hill is a pain with a capital ‘P!’”

The “Queen of the Hill” title was the last Barber needed to sweep the Silverdale Soap Box Derby honors over her racing career.

“That was my goal,” she said. “But the other was to go back to Akron. That’s what I need. I won’t fit in my car too much longer.”

After winning, the first- and second-place finishers raced on foot back up the hill.

Olympic High School football players were on hand to help keep cars moving from the bottom of the hill back to the top, something assistant coach Tim Allbee said was great for his players.

“They did good,” Allbee said. “They had a lot of fun.”

Allbee said his team was only required to help out at the event for a couple of hours. But when it came time to depart, anyone that could stay voluntarily did.

“This is just a great idea,” Allbee said of the team’s involvement. “We get a chance to get our kids out in the community, helping out with a public event. And they get squat lifts all day.”

Race director Bill Court, who organizes the annual event, said he keeps coming back for the same reason each year — the kids.

“It’s my 37 kids,” he said, referring to this year’s turnout. “Just standing around with ’em. It’s the kids.”

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