Troy champs head for the hill

Published 12:00 am Friday, July 19, 2002

Features Editor

When Jake Bohanan, Austin Bennett and Andrew Bentley took the checkered flag at the Troy Soap Box Derby in March, they automatically had their tickets punched for Derby Town.

The Troy "Derby" champs will leave Saturday for Akron, Ohio where they will compete with an elite group of derby champions from all 50 states and several foreign countries in the All-American Soap Box Derby.

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Jake earned the trip to Akron by winning the super stock division of the Troy Soap Box Derby and Andy won the stock division. Austin won the masters division and will also make the trip to Derby Town.

The champs have been getting ready, mentally and physically, for what will be the ride of their young lives.

Thousands of boys and girls competed in local soap box derbies, hoping for a chance to compete in the 2002 All-American Soap Box Derby, but only 400 will sign the "champions’ board" at Derby Town.

Jake and Andy know the trip to Akron could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and they plan to make the best of it.

"I’ve been doing sit-ups and push-ups to get ready," Andy, said with a broad smile, adding it will take his best effort to conquer Derby Hill. "You have to keep the car real straight and steady so it will go fast."

Strong muscles will hold the car in line, but it takes a "good" head to keep it on line.

"I keep my head as low as I can get it," Jake said. "My eyes are right on the wood and if you bump your head goes, ‘Bong!’ but you can’t let your head stick up."

And, to look over at the other lanes would mean disaster.

"If you’re looking around your head will come up and that will slow you down," Jake said.

"And, too, you might go over the yellow line and that would disqualify you," Andy said.

Both champs are determined to keep their eyes on the prize and that’s the finish line at the bottom of Derby Hill.

One loss and the race is over. That’s the way it is at the All-American Soap Box Derby.

"I’ll be disappointed a little if I only get to race one time," Jake said and Andy added, "Me too."

But there are few real disappointments in Derby Town. There is just too much fun to be had, too many new friends to meet and too many new experiences to come home with anything less than the attitude of a champion.

The Troy representatives will spend the week at Derby Town where there are many activities planned for the champions. They will be treated like royalty and everywhere they go they will be applauded and heralded as "champs."

At Derby Town there will be swimming, horseback riding, rock climbing,

zip-lining and a variety of friendly games and contests in which to compete.

The "champs’ will be treated to a luncheon and get to meet a dozen or more celebrities who will stop by to congratulate them on being "All-Americans."

"One night, we’ll get to go to an Akron Aeros baseball game," Jake said. "And, we’ll get to throw out souvenirs from home. We’re taking Troy Bank & Trust piggy key chains and pins from Troy State."

The champs will be awarded Derby shirts and jackets and there will be many chances to buy souvenirs to bring home.

But, perhaps, swapping buttons will be what they enjoy most – other than the race.

The Troy champs have 100-plus picture buttons to swap and they, laughingly, said they don’t plan to just swap with the girl champs.

The champs will draw for lanes on Tuesday and have a practice run on Wednesday. The big race day is Saturday, July 27 and that’s when they’ll race for all the marbles.