by Matt Fredmonsky
Mantua -- Perfect weather led to a Mantua sweep at the Portage County Soap Box Derby June 23. Three girls are now on their way to the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron.
Masters champion RickiLea Murphy, 15, stock champion Heather Pohoresky, 12, and superstock champion Mallory Lorence, 12, were the winners. None of them lost a race.
Murphy is no stranger to winning. In 2004, she became the world superstock champion by beating racers from around the globe to the bottom of the hill at Derby Downs in Akron.
She is hopeful to win the overall again July 30 as it will be her last Soap Box Derby appearance.
"I just have so many other things going on," she said about leaving the sport.
In Mantua, Murphy cruised across the finish line, tucked tightly into her black and neon-green masters car, as a champion for the last time.
Although her fifth year of racing will be her last, it has spawned a third appearance at the All-American.
But Portage County derby parents and the event's organizers are not worried. Pohoresky, a third-year racer making her first All-American appearance, and Lorence, a fourth-year racer competing in Akron for a second time, don't plan to crawl out of their tiny cars and hang up their helmets yet.
Technically, the two girls can race until they are 17. How long will they carry on after Murphy's final run?
"Until we're too old to race," Pohoresky said.
This year's Portage County derby came to an early end. Event volunteers cleared the hill of hay and removed barriers well before 5 p.m., when typically the final heats are just beginning.
Bob Sovil, the event's organizer, had the girls' winning cars impounded and ready for the trip to Akron early in the afternoon.
The girls and their pit crews cannot have access to their cars until they arrive in Akron at the end of July.
Murphy exuded confidence as she talked about making the trip and how the girls' sweep will provide some momentum heading into the All-American Soap Box Derby.
"We had the fire in our eyes," she said of the sweep.
Editor's note: Fredmonsky is a reporter for the Record-Courier.