COLUMBIA — Holly Weltha put her head down and closed her eyes as she waited to hear a voice come through her walkie-talkie. As the bracket-keeper, she had been recording race results at the scorer's table next to the starting blocks at Broadway and Seventh Street for the past 10 hours.
This one meant more than the rest.
- Jordan Weltha, 11
- Timothy Smith, 9
- Braeden Morris, 8
- Blake Hees, 8
- Trent Kempker, 10
- Michael Connon, 10
- Haley McKernan, 11
- Amber Futura, 8
- Levi Slate, 14
- Hank Hilderbrand, 11
- Sam Duncan, 11
- Thomas Ferguson, 11
- Garrett Hees, 10
- Maddie Lathrum, 11
- Hunter Montague, 12
- Trent Bishop, 11
Four blocks downhill, Weltha’s 11-year-old son, Jordan Weltha, had just crossed the finish line one last time. His white car, which featured a painted image of a woodchuck on the side, his name in large letters and flames at the front, quickly came to a halt as the brake descended from the bottom of the car.
In order to earn a trip to the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, for the second consecutive year, he needed to edge out his opponent 9-year-old Timothy Smith by at least .086 seconds.
“It was incredibly nerve-wracking,” Holly Weltha said.
After a moment of silence, the voice from the bottom of the hill delivered the news: “Lane 1, .347 seconds.”
That was all Holly Weltha needed to hear to stand up and celebrate. Just one year after winning the Super Stock Division in the 2010 Mid-Missouri Soap Box Derby, Jordan Weltha had won the Stock Division on Sunday and was headed back to Akron.
In doing so, he became the first driver to win two different divisions in consecutive years since Steven Adams did it in 2006 and 2007.
Jordan Weltha, who will enter the sixth grade at Lange Middle School this fall, said his greatest strength as a driver is his understanding of the street.
“It’s the way I run the track,” he said. “There’s certain parts of the track that kind of slow you down and there’s parts of the track that speed you up. So it kind of depends on where you run that.”
Chuck Boots, who served as Jordan Weltha’s crew chief in addition to being the Derby Director, agreed that Jordan Weltha's knowledge of the track was crucial to his success, but also attributed it to his dedication.
“He tries really hard, he cares a lot about it, he works really hard on his wheels to make sure they’re fast,” Boots said. “I think that has a lot to do with it.”
Since the derby rules state that a racer cannot compete in a division that they previously won, Jordan Weltha, who was already forced to switch from Super Stock to Stock, is now limited to the Masters Division if he wishes to compete next year. While the Masters Division hasn’t been a part of the Mid-Missouri event since 2009, board member Rick McKernan said he is optimistic about its chances in 2012.
“We only have one more division for Jordan to win and we’ll probably run that division next year,” McKernan said. “We need community support. It’s an extra thousand bucks to run that, and we’ve already got a ton of money invested in this part of it.”
Holly Weltha, who also sits on the board, said it is important to her and her son that the Masters Division be brought back.
“I will make sure of it,” she said.
Still, Jordan Weltha’s focus remains on the Stock Division, which he will compete in Akron next month. He said he hopes that he will be more successful on the sport’s biggest stage than he was last year.
“I’m gonna try my best in Akron because that’s where you go when you win,” he said. “I didn’t really get a chance to go down and win last time, but I’m planning on going there and getting down at least one time without losing.”