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Elliott teen brings Soapbox Derby crown back to Pittsburgh

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Macaila Ziolkowski

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Monday, July 29, 2013, 3:31 a.m.

When she won the Greater Pittsburgh Soapbox Derby Stock Division title on June 16, Macaila Ziolkowski said the All-American Soapbox Derby in Akron, Ohio, might be difficult, but she would have fun.

On Saturday, Macaila, 13, of Pittsburgh's Elliott neighborhood became the first winner of the Pittsburgh race, held each Father's Day in McKeesport, to win a national title as well, topping a field of 111 Stock Division racers with five winning heats at the 76th All-American Derby.

“It's pretty amazing,” Macaila said Sunday night. “It was crazy at first but it pulled together rather nicely. I wasn't really expecting to win my first race but I did and I kept racing.”

In her first heat Saturday, Macaila's 29.68-second run topped Ryan Trapnell of Hopkinsville, Ky. and Kaya Mullen of Waynesboro, Va.

She rolled past Matthew Adkins of Portage County, Ohio, in 29.84 seconds and Isaac Parker of Morganton, N.C., in 29.80 seconds in the second and third rounds.

In the fourth round, her time of 29.71 seconds defeated fifth-place finisher Diamond Merced of Cleveland and seventh-place finisher Jacob Poggi of Silverdale, Wash. In her fifth and final heat, her time of 29.62 seconds defeated runner-up Heagan Holmes of Beaumont, Texas, and third-place finisher Lauren Zimmerman of Indianapolis.

“It was unbelievable,” Macaila's mother Heather Ziolkowski said. “You don't expect this at all. It is a very tough, tough race. It is almost like the luck of the draw.”

“It was just a magical weekend,” Macaila's father Donald Ziolkowski said. “It is so hard to win that race.”

Rounding out the top nine in the Stock Division were Kimberly Brown of Dunwoody, Ga., in fourth place, Julian Scheer of St. Louis in fifth, Aspen Tomasello of Greater Washington, D.C., in eighth and Gavin Brown of Pottstown in ninth.

Macaila won a $3,000 college scholarship, a gold ring, a trophy and championship jacket. She will receive a hand-carved replica of her car.

This is the second year she has raced with Chuck's Auto Service of White Oak as a sponsor. She was entered in the Superstock Division in her first year, and said she probably will return there next year.

Her car will remain on display in Akron, Greater Pittsburgh Soapbox Derby Association director Bryan Brain said.

“I'm so excited about what that does for our area, too,” Brain said. “It will help us promote this derby to so many more people.”

Macaila will be an eighth grader at St. Philip's School in Crafton. She said her hobbies include dirt bike riding and camping with her family.

Other winners from the McKeesport Derby who raced in Akron were Emilie Gniewkowski, 13, of North Huntingdon Township, sponsored by All Occasion Disc Jockeys, in the Super Stock Division; and Keith Morris, 10, of Monongahela, sponsored by Haunted Hills Hayride of North Versailles Township, in the Masters Division.

Four hundred and 40 racers from the United States, Canada, Japan and New Zealand raced at Akron's famed Derby Downs on Saturday, in seven divisions.

In the Stock divisions, youths ages 7-13 compete in cars built from kits with step-by-step assembly of a basic style car.

In the Super Stock divisions, youths ages 9-17 can expand their knowledge and build larger, heavier cars from kits.

In the Masters divisions, youths ages 10-17 can build a more sophisticated car.

Other winners were Bryce Volpe, 14, of Mentor, Ohio, in Super Stock; Jay Warnick, 16, of Drayden, Md., in Masters; Erin Donovan, 9, of Eagleville, Pa., in Rally Stock; Ricky Desens, 14, of Webster, N.Y., in Rally Super Stock; Melanie Kohout, 16, of Geneva, Ill., in Rally Masters; and Anne Taylor, 20, of Neligh, Neb., in Ultimate Speed, in which teams of drivers age 16-20 compete.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or

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