Thrill of the Hill This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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      “Drivers, are you ready? Three, two, one, ... good luck, champs.” The paddles drop and the cars are off. We race down the hill, some reaching 35 miles per hour. The crowd roars as I race to the finish line.

“And the winner is lane one from North Platte, Nebraska,” cries the announcer. All I hear is my brake pad against the asphalt track. I get out and am escorted to a vehicle to be taken back up for my next race.

After two years of practicing and improving my car, I had made the 1,102 mile journey to Akron, Ohio for the second time as a local champion. It took months of hard work to win the top spot at the North Platte race and be eligible for nationals. My dad and I built my car in our garage over the winter months, making adjustments as we practiced at different tracks.

As the week of nationals approached I began to get nervous. I had been to Akron two years before as the local super-stock champion but this time I would be going as the local master champion. When the day finally arrived to travel to Ohio, I was so excited.

The week began with opening ceremonies at a minor league baseball field, where I threw out trinkets and candy to the screaming crowd. That night was the baseball game for the Soapbox Derby Champions and their families. As a special treat, the champions were allowed to walk onto the field before the game and I couldn’t believe how soft the grass felt.

Over the next two days there were lots of activities to prepare for the big Saturday race. I passed inspection with flying colors and my dad and I made sure my car was ready. I was given one practice run on Wednesday in the lane I would race in. As the rain splattered on my car I sped to the bottom and drove exactly on the path my regional director had suggested was the best to win. I screeched to a halt 100 yards beyond the finish line to volunteers waiting to load my car on the trailer. My dad gave me a hug, telling me that I drove exactly where I was supposed to. After that, all I could do was get plenty of rest and wait for Saturday.

I woke up at 5 a.m. on the big day. We arrived early but there was still a line to board the buses. I felt as if I were in a herd of cattle waiting to be shipped to some unknown destination. We were dropped at the top of the hill to be welcomed by our cheering family and friends. I got in line to weigh in and was told to wait by my car.

As the day wore on and the cars disappeared down the hill, the butterflies started to flutter. When they called my heat number, I was glad that I would finally have my chance to go down the hill. The last thing I remember my dad telling me before I loaded into my car was to have fun and race hard. I did just that.

I closed the hatch and took a deep breath before I began my 27-second thrill ride. As the announcer spoke my name, the paddles dropped and my car began rolling. I drove my line perfectly and took both the first and second heats. After my second win, I went to the top and waited for the remaining cars to race. I won my third race and as I got out of my car at the bottom, one of the volunteers gave me a hug, congratulating me on being in the top nine. I stared at her in total disbelief. How could I, a 15-year-old from Nebraska, make it to the top nine in the world? A flood of emotion overwhelmed me as I waited for transport to the top of the hill for my final heats.

When the day finally ended, I had placed ninth against very tough competition. I had beaten kids who also had spent every weekend from August to June improving their driving. At the awards ceremony I sat on the stage and looked out at my new friends and realized that I would remember this day forever.

I have returned to Akron for nationals but without similar success. Still, nationals have had a great impact on my life and is something I will always remember. I have made friends from around the country with whom I stay in touch. Even though I am no longer racing, I still remember the thrill I got when I raced to the bottom of the hill.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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