Williamsport Soap Box Derby winners to depart for FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship

Two youngsters who were champions in the stock and superstock divisions of the Williamsport Soap Box Derby were filled with anxious anticipation as they prepared to depart to the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship in Akron, Ohio.

Deegan Bragg, 9, son of Erica Roan, and Bella Mertes, 13, daughter of Chuck and Marie Mertes, shared the joy of driving in the world championship and posed Thursday night for photos in their cars at the derby workshop in South Williamsport.

Bragg, the stock division champion, went undefeated in the Williamsport Soap Box Derby held on June 12.

Mertes drove in the superstock division, capturing first place after trying to reach this pinnacle of local driver success for the past four years.

“I am happy to be in it,” Bragg said, before sitting in the glistening car that was wrapped in a bright green color, his favorite color, which coincidently matched his driver gear.

“The winning drivers got to pick their car design,” said Jim Campbell, organizer of the Williamsport Soap Box Derby.

Bragg’s grandfather, Clyde Roan, said his grandson practiced on a slope in Trout Run. As for grandfatherly advise, Roan told Deegan to not steer too much and don’t hit the brake.

His brother, Dayvon Boyd, also was in attendance at the send-off.

Nicholas Catino, of Master Contractors, is Bragg’s sponsor in the stock car.

Mertes family members said they are taking the five-hour trip in campers — all 20-plus of them.

Her car is blue and orange — her favorite colors, despite being a Phillies fan.

In the race in Akron, there are two main divisions, a stock division, for drivers ages 7 to 13 and superstock division, for drivers ages 9 to 18.

“There are a lot of activities planned for the competitors and their families,” Campbell said.

According to the official All-American Soap Box Derby, upon their arrival, each of the young champions receive their official racing clothing and sign the official champions banner that will hang permanently in the Derby’s Hall of Fame and Museum.

The young champions are reunited with their race cars, which will be shipped from home. The cars are weighed and thoroughly inspected to ensure they meet safety regulations.

The champs get their first look at Derby Downs, a 989-foot racing track designed specifically for the race.

Each of the contestants gets a trial run to become familiar with the track.

Each day and night are planned special entertainment programs for champions, families, and friends, while Derby officials attend meetings.

Leading up to the world championships are challenge races.

Race Day activities kick-off with a spectacular opening ceremony.

It’s competitive and fun from, with each of the participants considered champions in their own right, but with top finishers earning trophies and recognition by the All-American officials and their hometowns.

“We’re hoping for nice weather,” Campbell said.

The local derby could not happen without the generosity of the sponsors and volunteers.

The families depart Monday for the activities that run from Tuesday through championship race day.


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