Thursday, August 17, 2017
Monticello, NY – Fifteen-year-old Brianna Roth might not be as big a fan of soap box derby racing as 17-year-old family friend Morgan Van Keuren, but his passion for the sport and her drive to win landed Brianna in the top spot at the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships last month.
And the car in which she sped through the rain for 986 feet in 29 seconds – the one Morgan built with best friend Cascio Fonseca in the Liberty school bus garage – now sits in the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame Museum in Akron, Ohio, where Brianna became the World Champion on July 22.
“I couldn’t believe it!” she acknowledged at her White Sulphur Springs home a few weeks afterwards. “It was a lot of waiting at the top to go down, and then I just went as straight as I can and got as aerodynamic as I can.”
Her lightweight vehicle was built by Morgan to zip down a track as fast as possible, though the fact that it got so much farther than the hill where it first earned a win – North Main Street in Liberty – still astounds Morgan.
“I jumped into [Brianna’s stepdad] Mike Diehl’s arms, and he held me like a child,” laughed Morgan. “It was pretty surreal!”
Brianna did have a powerful incentive beyond her natural competitiveness: Mike had promised her a cellphone – with an unlimited data plan! – if she won.
“So she’s waiting for the new iPhone to come out,” nodded her smiling mom, Melissa.
In the meantime, the Sullivan County Legislature honored Brianna and Morgan today with the Distinguished Citizen Award.
“These two teens are both champions in my eyes,” Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez noted. “They applied dedication and skill to a difficult task, and they succeeded beyond their wildest hopes. We proudly join them in celebrating this incredible milestone in their lives and in County history!”
“I speak for the entire district when I say we couldn’t be prouder of Brianna,” said Legislator Terri Ward, in whose district Brianna lives. “She overcame a 2014 loss with fierce determination and proved successful with an amazing WORLD Championship! Brianna, her family, and her team should be extremely proud of their accomplishments, as we are extremely proud they call Sullivan County home.”
“I can only imagine the exhilarating thrill Brianna, Morgan and their supporters felt when she crossed that finish line just a hair ahead of her competitor,” Sullivan County Manager Josh Potosek stated. “We, too, are thrilled to be able to recognize this historic achievement, and we look forward to the next challenges these two will boldly take on.”
So what is next for the duo? Brianna – for the second time in as many years – is retiring from soap box derby racing, focusing instead on helping her Barn Buddies Racing teammates (which includes twin sister Brooke) and playing volleyball, indoor track and outdoor track at Liberty High School.
“I’ve got a jacket, a ring and a trophy,” she pointed out.
“And a $3,000 scholarship!” added her mom.
Morgan, on the other hand, is already planning a new track with dad Joe, and they’re headed to a soap box rally in Virginia tomorrow.
“I’ll probably do this till I can’t fit [in the car] anymore!” he laughed.
White Sulphur Springs native Brianna Roth hunches down into an aerodynamic shape inside her MOJO Racer (named after car creator Morgan Van Keuren and his dad Joe). Her July 22 triumph as the All-American Soap Box Derby World Champion means this car is on permanent display at the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame Museum in Akron, Ohio.
Brianna Roth, left, and Morgan Van Keuren listen to Morgan’s dad Joe proudly talk about their hard work which led to a Soap Box Derby World Championship in July. Listening with them is District 5 Legislator Terri Ward, who with Legislature Chairman Luis Alvarez and County Manager Josh Potosek today presented Distinguished Citizen Awards to Brianna and Morgan.
Brianna Roth raced in a small car but earned an enormous trophy as World Champion!
Only a few inches separated Brianna Roth and her MOJO Racer from fellow World Championship competitors in July.