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Family time takes first in  local Soap Box Derby event

At Saturday's All-American Soap Box Derby Rally Mike DianOstrander Rantoul Illinois said their sons Joshu9 Mark 17 benefit from quality

At Saturday's All-American Soap Box Derby Rally, Mike and Diana Ostrander of Rantoul, Illinois said their sons Joshua, 9, and Mark, 17, benefit from the quality time they spend together for the sport. | Romi Herron~For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: February 22, 2013 6:18AM

ST. CHARLES — Growing up in Bowling Green, Ky., Stan Iglehart of Geneva was a Soap Box Derby racer with his dad, Gene. Now, he’s continuing the family tradition with his own kids as race director of the Greater Chicago Soap Box Derby Association.

On Saturday and Sunday, the nonprofit group drew more than 40 children to its annual All-American Soap Box Derby Rally at Charlestowne Mall in St. Charles.

“The great thing about this is kids have to be here with a parent, and they also have to physically put the car together,” said Iglehart of the family-oriented benefits of Soap Box racing. To be eligible to race in the two-day event, children had to be between ages 7 and 17, and race with an official All-American Soap Box Derby car.

Competitors, who sought fastest time on the 200-foot track inside the mall’s center aisle, represented Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska and Wisconsin. Dozens of spectators lined up along the mall’s second floor railing, and at trackside.

Iglehart, whose wife Carol also took part coordinating the event, said a few kids took advantage of the chance to race a loaner car to experience the sport.

Bill Lindsley of Green Bay arrived in St. Charles Friday with his family, including his grand-niece, Brooklyn Van Gruensven, 8, and foster grandson, Aris, 8, who both took part. Lindsley, who was joined by Brooklyn’s father, Dennis Van Gruensven, said the quality time that the sport facilitates for families is the best part about it.

Lindsley also said he likes the way the kids get a taste of competition and have to work to improve outcomes. Soap Box Derby cars have no motors and are propelled from the downward incline of a ramp at the start of the race. One driver sits inside the car during the race.

“She’s doing real well today,” Lindsley said on Saturday. “But it’s not always like that.”

Lindsley hoped Brooklyn might get better finishing times the second day because he planned to make some adjustments to her Soap Box Derby car, which is sponsored by a friend and promotes his business, Hydrant Pizza in Green Bay.

“If I tweak it a bit, we might do better tomorrow,” he said. Tweaking entails checking the steering cables, axles and weights.

The base of a typical soap box derby car is about 75 pounds, and then the center is 50 pounds, with the rest of the weight distributed in the front and back, Lindsley explained. The total weight of the car and driver can be no more than 200 pounds, he noted.

‘World’ travelers

The Ostrander family of Rantoul, Ill., also enjoys the togetherness of the sport and participated Saturday.

Mike and Diana Ostrander said their son Mark, 17, came out of Soap Box Derby retirement at age 16 so he could race with his brother Joshua, 9, in the Soap Box Derby World Championship last summer in Akron, Ohio.

After Joshua came away with trophies Saturday, the brothers were arm in arm. Mike Ostrander said Mark has hundreds of trophies from the sport and that the family is fond of a tradition at World in which competitors share team photo buttons. Since the Ostranders love “Star Wars” films, Mike said, their buttons — which he brought to the Charlestowne Mall event — reflect that.

Cleo Wells Sr. of Indianapolis said the nearly four-hour drive to the event gave him invaluable family time with his sons Cleo, Jr., 15; Marlon Wells, 14, and Geordan Wells, 12. All three boys fared well in the event, garnering trophies. Wells’ twins Matthew and Marcus, 7, also compete in Soap Box Derby but were unable to attend Saturday. Also traveling with the Wells family was Stajah McGhee, 11, who came in fourth and eighth place Saturday.

More information, including an official list of race results and schedule of upcoming events, is available at the organization’s website,

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