Girl races away with awards

Soap box derby championships held in Ohio

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Soft-spoken 12-year-old Melissa Campagna was a newcomer to the soap box derby circuit when she entered Steamboat Springs' third annual Youth in Motion derby race in May.

But by the end of the competition, Campagna had secured herself a spot in the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships, which were held recently in Akron, Ohio.

Campagna, a Steamboat Springs Middle School seventh-grader, entered the Steamboat race after watching her older brother compete two years ago.

"I wanted to do it because it looked fun," Campagna said Thursday. "So I tried it and I won."

This year, her brother was one of the 19 local competitors to lose to Campagna in the Youth in Motion race.

"He was actually pretty happy that I won," she said.

And the winning didn't stop in Steamboat. Her unanticipated success continued in Ohio, even though she was eliminated from the field in her first race.

Her hot pink cruiser with mean eyes and sharp teeth caught the eyes of judges, who awarded her the prestigious Originality in Decoration award in the super stock division. She beat 138 competitors to earn the plaque.

Campagna also won an award because her car passed all the pre-race inspections without any adjustments.

More than 400 derby racers from four countries participated in the Ohio championships. Campagna said she was amazed by how serious soap box derby racing is to some people -- but not her.

"My favorite part was going to Six Flags (amusement park)," she said of her trip to Ohio with her mother, sister and Mitch Porter, a family friend who helped Campagna build her car.

Campagna is the first girl to win the local derby, said Ben Northcutt, a Steamboat Rotarian and director of the Youth in Motion soap box derby.

"She represented Steamboat and the Rotary Club really well," Northcutt said of Campagna's run to Akron. "She was thrilled to get the chance to go."

This year's Youth in Motion event featured motorcross and mountain bike events for local children as well as the soap box derby and a street hockey competition.

Youth in Motion, which is a cooperative effort of the Rotary Club and the city of Steamboat Springs, hopes to continue to expand the spring event.

"There's a lot of possibilities for the overall event," he said.

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