Vah takes the checkered flag

MARTINS FERRY – Megan Vah jumped from her car and raced down the hill to embrace her mother, Rikki, as she realized she had won the 21st running of the Martins Ferry Soap Box Derby Sunday.

The 9-year-old fifth grade student from St. Clairsville, sporting Leopard face paint, won first-place in the finals by edging Collin Briggs.

Briggs, who had finished in second place the past two years, stopped and congratulated his opponent who declared, “that was awesome!”

Briggs won the checkered flag in the first of the two championship runs by just .010, but Vah, who was eliminated in the first round last year, steered a near perfect groove in lane two to cross the electronic traps .120 ahead of Briggs to claim the top spot.

“I think it was good luck,” Vah declared when asked about her unique facial decorations. “It gave me confidence plus my family was right here to support me.”

Scott Vah, dad and pit crew chief for the self-sponsored No. 18 car, raced down the course to embrace his daughter who was all smiles as family and race staff congratulated her at the finish line.

Megan was excited about winning a family four pack of one-day passes to Kings Island amusement park and $250 in cash. She said she was taking her family and a fellow racer, Alana Warren of Shadyside with her to share in the fun.

Runner-up Briggs is the son of Briget Briggs and Justin Johnson, Joey and Tiffany Danehart. As second place winner driving the Griffiths Pharmacy number 99 car, he received a family four pack of one-day passes to “The Wilds” wildlife conservation center and $125 cash.

In the consolation round, it was Emily Braden taking third-place honors. The daughter of Joseph and Kim Braden, the 9-year-old attends Woodsdale Elementary. Driving the Economy Auto Sales No. 30 car, she received a trophy and a $75 cash prize.

Skyler Wells rounded out the trophy winners in his Times Leader-sponsored No. 31 racer. The son of Jay Wells and the Times Leader’s own Amy Dunn is an 11-year-old student at Bellaire Middle School and won fourth-place honors receiving a trophy and a $50 cash prize.

The top four finishers received their trophies in a ceremony following the finals with the overall champions name to be added to the trophy that is on display at the Martins Ferry Chamber of Commerce office.

In addition to the final four winners, Kelsi Weaver, age 11, daughter of Tami and Stefon Ray, a student at Ayers Elementary, successfully defended her crown to three-peat as champion and proud winner of the 2013 Super Kids Classic and received a trophy and a $150 cash prize. Noah Brown, the 2011 champion and winner of fourth place last year, was driver for her winning run.

Vah will have the opportunity to come back to defend her title next year in the 2014 edition of the Great Race.

Palmer can be reached at