An Akron adventure

Sunday, August 8, 2004

Heather Halter will be a sixth-grader when she returns to school this fall at Immaculate Conception in Jackson. And when the teacher asks her how she spent her summer vacation, she'll have plenty to tell.

Halter represented Southeast Missouri in the 67th annual All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio, last weekend. She was one of 144 youngsters from all over the nation to participate in the stock division.

Heather's dad, Doug, was asked by his employer, Saint Francis Medical Center, to provide a driver for the soap box car they were sponsoring. Of course, like any father would, Doug asked his son to do it, but he was too tall for the car. So Heather accepted the task, despite having no prior interest in cars or racing.

"I just wanted to try something new," she said.

She didn't fare well last year in her first competition, when she lost in the local race in Cape Girardeau.

But this year, she won the Cape Girardeau competition on May 8 to qualify for the national competition.

Before she raced in the local event this year she made a deal with her dad. If she won, Doug had to get her a ride in a limousine. He said it seemed like a safe bet at the time, and nearly three months later Heather still hasn't seen the inside of a limo, until now. Doug has a limo reserved for this week.

As for her race in Akron, she actually led most of the way, according to her mother, Lynette, but Heather was edged at the end of the run by only a few inches and lost in the first heat. The winner of her heat, Anthony Hunt, won two more races and went on to finish ninth overall.

The loss eliminated Halter from the competition, but it didn't send her home early.

During the trip, the Halters found time to see a local minor league baseball game, a car show and visit the zoo.

She can't participate in the stock division next year, but Lynette says Heather plans to move on to the super stock division, which is an older division with bigger cars.

After a second year of derby racing under her belt, Heather is becoming a veteran in the world of soap box cars. She still claims the title of Cape Girardeau champion, and she was one of only 144 others to compete this year in the national competition. Not bad for someone that doesn't even have an interest in cars.

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