By Jon Wysochanski
By taking one intelligent person, two supportive parents and equally intelligent and competitive siblings and mixing them together, the results can be phenomenal. A local woman is proof of that winning combination.
Morgan Dyer, a modest 18-year-old and 2011 North Ridgeville High School graduate, became a three-time National Derby Rallies (NDR) Soap Box Derby champion this summer. She participated in Akron at the NDR National Championships July 28 and 29 in the Masters and All-American divisions. The champ was also this year’s graduating class valedictorian.
Dyer is one of only two racers to win two championship titles in the same week of competition, and one of only three to have three championship wins. She won a championship in 2008 in a super stock division; the record for championship wins is four.
“It still has not fully sunk in,” Morgan’s father, Chris, said. “I am very proud of her. This is a huge accomplishment in the sport.”
But winning isn’t the biggest reward for Dyer. She has been racing with her family for a decade and enjoys attending derbies with her parents and her older sisters, Kirsten and Rachael, who are also derby racers. Besides the bonds forged between Dyer and her siblings through the years, she has also made many lasting friendships with other derby families at the hundreds of rallies at which she’s competed.
“I like seeing my friends and traveling while hanging out with my family,” Dyer said. “I have friends from all over … People from North Carolina, Georgia, Texas – all over the United States.”
The Dyers’ home is a testament to soap box derbies. Trophies are displayed in various areas, a derby vehicle sits in a home office and plaques from dozens of races line the basement staircase.
The Dyers’ love for the sport actually started when Rachael, now 20, asked if she could race in the soap box derby after seeing the 1999 Disney movie “Miracle in Lane Two.”
“My husband sat and watched the movie with Rachael, and when it ended, she turned to him and said, ‘Dad I want to do that,’” Morgan’s mother, Anne, recalled. “All he had to hear was that his daughter wanted to race, and it was done deal … end of story.”
“It is very hands on, and the teamwork involves family versus the normal spectator type of sport,” Chris said of soap box racing. “I am sure I would be proud of (Morgan) regardless, but it has been very important to me to be an active team member, coach and strategist. I have had the opportunity to work very closely with my daughters and see them develop their skills, knowledge, maturity and sportsmanship.”
Anne is happy the soap box derby has given her husband something to share with his daughters.
“To have three girls, there is little a dad can do to be involved with his kids, as compared to soap box derby,” she explained. “You can go to a dance recital, watch them play volleyball or soccer, but you’re stuck sitting on the sideline for the most part. This requires somebody to work with her on the car and set her up for each race. There just isn’t a lot out there that could have brought them as close together as this has.”
Kirsten has already reached the 21-year-old cutoff age for participating in the derby, Rachael will hit that mark very soon and Morgan is following close behind. So, what does the future hold for this derby family?
“We are quickly approaching that point and it remains to be seen,” Chris said. “My wife and I have talked about our continuing to volunteer (at derbies), which we will do. We have spent a lot of time supporting our race community and our local derby friends by passing along our experience.”
For Morgan, though, her scholastic accomplishments and competitive spirit will be put to good use.
“I’m going to the University of Toledo to study speech pathology,” she said. “I’m in the honors program, so that’s going to be my main focus. But I plan to race until I age out.”