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A World Champion in The Hallways

Kelsey Van Waart is a Two-Time Soap Box Champion
Submitted by Kelsey Van Wart
Kelsey Van Waart (26) and her dad after winning the Soap Box Derby world championship this past year.

There are district champions, state champions and national champions, but only a select few athletes are talented enough to win a world championship. People from all over the world travel to Akron, Ohio, to compete for the Soap Box Derby world title. While many are unaware of what Soap Box Derby is, many young competitors, like sophomore Kelsey Van Waart, compete in Soap Box Derby, and it plays an important role in their lives.

“In a short way of explaining it, you get a car that comes in a kit. You put it all together and take it to the hill on race day and are given a set of wheels,” Van Waart said. “You put the wheels on your car and race down once against another person, then bring the car back up to the top of the hill and switch wheels and the lane you are in. You race for the second time, and whoever has the faster time wins the race and moves on.”

Starting when she was just seven years old, Van Waart has already won two world championships and credits her success to her family’s help. They have been with her for all of her races, helping out with everything from building the car to helping her set up to go down the hill.

“I would definitely say that this sport has brought me and my family closer together,” Van Waart said. “It’s a really family incorporated event, and you have to be with them every step of the way.”

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With her first world championship in 2019 when she was just 11 years old, Van Waart now has her second title after competing at Derby Downs in Ohio this past July.

“It was just really crazy,” Van Waart said. “I didn’t think I was ever going to win again, because it takes a lot of luck to win on that specific day. The wheels, the lane, the time of day and a ton of little things have to add up. It was just surreal.”

Outside of the Soap Box Derby track, she participates in many other activities at school and is a multi-sport varsity athlete here at GHS. This fall, she is participating in cross country, will play basketball in the winter and then plans to run track in the spring.

“She’s quite impressive because she does a lot of stuff around the school,” cross country coach Mr. Bryce Brunswig said. “She is always the first one to practice for cross country and track and one of the last ones to leave. She is always doing all of the little things right.”

Because she is always so involved with activities, Van Waart does not know what her future with the Soap Box Derby will look like.

“I’m so busy now with all my high school stuff. Being involved in so many things makes it hard to find times to race, so this may or may not be my last year,” Van Waart said.
Whether the two-time world champion continues with the sport or not, Van Waart is very likely to stay busy throughout high school.

This story was originally published on Gretna Media on August 23, 2023.