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Aaron Hill

Aaron takes 5th place in his first soap box derby race

Aaron Hill recently took 5 th place in his first Soap Box Derby. Joyous over his experience, he says, "I'm the luckiest guy around."

The story really starts about a year ago when Aaron and his friend Mike Desparte went to see the Soap Box Derby in Marietta , Georgia . On the ride back to Blairsville that evening, it was evident that Aaron really wanted to become involved in the Soap Box Derby scene.

By the time the two arrived home, an agreement had been made. Mike would try to find out more about Soap Box Racing, how to get a car, and how to participate in future races. Aaron would begin studying some of the basics about soap box derby racing. Simple enough right?

Mike was in for a shocker. Racecar kits cost $400 to $500. The cars are close to seven feet long and weigh about 130 pounds so a trailer or a long bed pick up is needed for hauling. Then there's the rising price of gasoline. That meant getting sponsors. Busy Bee, the Hair Shoppe, Phil's Garage, North Georgia News, Ace Hardware, and Northern Tool and Equipment all donated to the cause.

In the meantime, Aaron stayed busy learning about downhill gravity driven cars, potential and kinetic energy, weights, and balance. He learned that bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, while bodies at rest tend to stay at rest. He studied up on aerodynamics, drag, and friction (while also keeping up with his school work).

Things started coming together during February and March of 2008. Aaron and Mike made plans to attend a Soap Box Derby being held in Ocala , Florida . A car was found and shipped to Georgia from Arizona . It was an older car and needed improvements to meet current regulations, to improve safety, and to improve aerodynamics.

Safety is very important in Soap Box Derby racing. Cars are designed with sponge cushioning around the cockpit, fail proof braking systems, and a limited range steering system. (The cars run close to thirty miles per hour on some of the downhill courses.)

Since Aaron had never raced before, the race director, Rev. Alan Cummings, gave him one practice run on a gentle downhill slope about 1,000 feet long. Aaron reached a speed of about 22 miles per hour during the practice run. Soon it was time for the real race.

Mike waited at the finish line with camera in hand. The other cars in the race looked really sophisticated and well manicured. The other drivers were experienced and most were older than Aaron. Mike says, "They looked ready to chew Aaron up."

The director gave the signal and the barricade dropped. The race was on! It was an exciting moment as Aaron crossed the finish line. He didn't win, but did really good for a beginner.

Each race has a number of heats. Each heat has two runnings. After each race the drivers switch wheels and lanes and go at it again. The winning driver beat Aaron by only 0.377 of a second.

Aaron had some great finishes and ended up taking fifth place in the overall race. Not bad for his first time racing. He received a trophy that now sits in his bookcase. Aaron is currently awaiting the next race series which will take place on April 26 th and 27 th in South Charleston , West Virginia . Aaron is in the 4 th grade that Union County Elementary School . Congratulations Aaron! Good luck in the next race.