CAMANO ISLAND — She’s the Queen of the Hill. He’s the King of the Hill.
Avery Rochon and Camden Tatarian are the winners of the 14th Stanwood-Camano Island Soap Box Derby — winning each of their class races by a thousandth of a second.
“As soon as you start rolling, there’s all this adrenaline in you,” Avery said. “You just hear people cheering and the sound of the wheels rolling.”
Avery, 16, of Camano Island, and Camden, 7, of Stanwood, will compete July 24 in the 83rd All-American Soap Box Derby World Championship Race in Akron, Ohio.
The two local champions will represent Stanwood and Camano Island in races against more than 400 drivers for the title of world champion, as well as a spot in the All-American Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame and up to $36,000 in college scholarships.
The All-American Soap Box Derby, founded in Ohio in 1934, is a competition for youth ages 7-20. Each year around 1,000 local and rally races are held in more than half the United States — the Soap Box Derby is most popular in the Midwest and New England. There were estimated to be 3,500 All-American drivers in 2016.
There are two ways to advance to the World Championship Race: Enter a local race and win, or earn enough points through rally races. Go to aasbd.soapboxderby.org for more information.
There will be three racing classes at the Akron race: The Stock division is for ages 7-13, the Super Stock division for ages 10-18 and the Masters division for ages 10-20.
As the winners of the Super Stock and Stock races on Camano Island, Avery and Camden both earned the local championship title and an expenses-paid trip for the driver, their car and their mentor to races in Akron, Ohio. Avery and Camden’s cars have been shipped there.
“It was exciting because I wanted to win,” said Camden, who is the youngest racer in Washington to advance to the world championships.
Since 2008, the Stanwood-Camano Island Soap Box Derby has held a local race on the third Saturday in June for kids 7-17. With upwards of 70 cars, the Arrowhead Ranch event is now the largest Soap Box Derby west of the Mississippi River and the only one in Washington.
“I was nervous going down the hill,” Camden said. “I was scared that I might crash, or my brakes might not work or my steering would fail.”
A total of 76 cars raced at Arrowhead Ranch — with an estimated 3,000 spectators around the 1,000-foot-long track — on June 19. Camden won the Stock race by 0.028 of a second, while Avery won the Super Stock race in by 0.081 of a second. They were both crowned and received trophies.
“That crown gets toted around with us everywhere,” said Lauren Tatarian, Camden’s mom.
Derby racers work with a mentor — such as a parent or grandparent — at weekly clinics to build their car. Then they race, two at a time, on the track with a ramp at Arrowhead Ranch. Soap box cars reach speeds of 30 mph.
The clinics incorporate STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, mathematics) skills for nearly 100 children every year.
“There’s so much technical engineering and precise measurements that go into it,” said Avery, who earned second place in her division when she was 14. “We enjoyed doing it the first year, so why not do it again?”
Avery’s mentor was her grandfather, Doug Allen. Her sponsor was Shipwrecked Coffee in Camano Island. Camden’s mentor was his father, Hovig Tatarian. His sponsors were the Stanwood Boy Scout Troop 86 and the Stanwood Kiwanis Club.
Camden had fun building the car with his dad, even though it took a long time. His favorite tool was the drill. He also liked wearing the safety glasses during the build clinics.
“I signed Camden and his dad up for it,” Lauren Tatarian said. “All of the other sports were shut down this year. I felt like it was a good activity for us to do as a family.”
Avery, an 11th grader at Stanwood High School in Stanwood, celebrated her Soap Box Derby win with a special “Avery’s Thrill of The Hill” raspberry lemonade at Shipwrecked Coffee. Her sponsor topped the treat with glitter, whipped cream, raspberry sauce and a racing flag.
“She’s wanted this since the first time she raced — and coming so close,” said Shannon Rochon, Avery’s mom. “She had that drive to get it next time. I’m just so excited for her.”
Camden, a second grader at Twin City Elementary School in Stanwood, enjoyed a celebratory dinner at the Tatarians’ favorite Chinese restaurant in town, Dragon Palace. The 7-year-old ordered orange chicken, tea and an extra fortune cookie.
Avery might race in the Super Stock division next year — that is, if at 17 she can still fit in the car. Most teenagers outgrow the Stanwood-Camano Island Soap Box Derby before they age out of it.
“Stay low, go straight. But also enjoy it and have fun with it,” said Avery to kids who want to race. “It seems to go by really quickly.”
Camden will race in the Stanwood-Camano Soap Box Derby next year — but he’ll have to race in the Super Stock class because he’s already won in the Stock division.
Maybe next time the hill won’t scare him.
Sara Bruestle: 425-339-3046; email@example.com; @sarabruestle.
Support Avery and Camden
Avery Rochon and Camden Tatarian each have a GoFundMe campaign to go toward their families’ trip to the Soap Box Derby World Championship Race in Ohio. So far the Rochons have raised nearly $2,500; the Tatarians have raised about $750. Their fundraising goal is $5,000 each. Search for “Avery” or “Camden” plus “Soap Box World Championship” to donate at www.gofundme.com.
Sign up for Soap Box Derby
Next year’s Stanwood-Camano Island Soap Box Derby is scheduled for June 18, 2022.
Soap Box Derby build clinics are held April to June at Arrowhead Ranch, 615 Arrowhead Road, Camano Island, from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursdays. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Cost to compete is $75. New kits for both the Stock and Super Stock divisions are around $500; a set of Z-glass wheels adds another $125. Loaner cars are oftentimes available, so drivers don’t need to invest in a new car. Scholarships to cover race registration fees are also available.
Can’t get enough Soap Box Derby? Join the Arrowhead Summer Classic Rally races in mid-August each year.