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81st 'Thrill on the Hill' races down Broadway

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81st 'Thrill on the Hill' races down Broadway

Competing in the Mid-Missouri Soap Box Derby has become a tradition for some Columbia families.

Melanie Hughes was the winner of the Mid-Missouri derby in 1991, but five of her family members have also competed since the derby began in 1938.

Jackson Fisher settles into the car as the hatch is set down

Jackson Fisher settles into the car as the hatch is set down on Sunday in Columbia. The masters cars are unique in that the racer is lying down on their back like a bobsled, as opposed to hunching over like in the stock cars.

“My son today is the fourth-generation racer,” Hughes said. “It started with my grandfather, then my dad, then my uncle raced, then myself and my brother raced.”

This year, 49 racers competed in the 81st “Thrill on the Hill” Sunday on Broadway.

“It’s still the same as it was when I was a kid,” Dave Harr, Hughes’ father, said. “It’s still a thrill going down this hill.”

Layton Walters stares down the track that normally serves as East Broadway

Layton Walters stares down the track that normally serves as East Broadway on Sunday in Columbia. The Mid-Missouri Soap Box Derbyderby starts on the west edge of downtown and runs downhill on Broadway toward Providence Road.

Race Director Rick McKernan said the Mid-Missouri Soap Box Derby is one of the largest in the area. Racers work for weeks to build their cars and prepare for the daylong event held each summer.

The event is a great way to get kids working together and working toward something rewarding, Hughes said.

“The kids have their own crews to help them build their cars and get them set,” she said. “It’s a team effort to pull it off for sure.”

Zane McMillen patiently waits for his number to be called

Zane McMillen patiently waits for his number to be called Sunday in Columbia. Dozens of racers joined in the derby. All racers aged 7 to 20 years old are allowed to participate.

The event is more than a competition for kids in Columbia; it’s also a learning opportunity, McKernan said. In the months leading up to the race, volunteers and organizers use STEM-based lessons to help racers build their cars.

“They’re not thinking about learning when they’re doing this; they’re thinking about wanting to win,” he said. “But in order to enhance their probability of winning, they have to apply all of those science and math principles to that. They’re learning it in a fun way.”

Elise Marshall uses the brakes in her stock car at the bottom of the hill

Elise Marshall uses the brakes in her stock car at the bottom of the hill after her race on Sunday in Columbia. Elise won the race and was able to advance to the next round.

Emily Crumbliss waits for the go-ahead to start racing her stock box car

Emily Crumbliss* waits for the go-ahead to start racing her stock box car during the 81st** Annual Mid-Missouri Soap Box Derby on Sunday in Columbia. The racers are divided up into three different competitions based on the type of car and age: stock, super stock and masters. Crumbliss participated in the stock competition.

*A previous version of this caption misidentified Emily Crumbliss.

**A previous version of this caption misstated the iteration of the race. This year's race is the 81st, not the 80th.

Gaige Johnson crashes into the safety cones at the end of the track

Gaige Johnson crashes into the safety cones at the end of the track on Sunday in Columbia. Racers were told to brake at the end of their races, but Gaige did not.

Preston Boots celebrates by running circles around his car with his hands in the air

Preston Boots celebrates by running circles around his car with his hands in the air after winning his race Sunday in the 81st annual Mid-Missouri Soap Box Derby in Columbia. Boots participated in the super stock car event.

Marlowe Weis won the super stock division, Clay Sibit won the stock division and Owen Schilling won the masters division, according to a Facebook post by the Downtown Optimist Club of Columbia, the derby’s biggest sponsor.

The champions will move on to compete in the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships in Akron, Ohio, and get the chance to race against people from all over the world during the weeklong event.

Supervising editor is Marcelle Peters.

  • General assignment reporter, summer 2019 Studying magazine editing Reach me at kmeg3c@mail.missouri.edu, or in the newsroom at 882-5700.

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