Family and friends of Kristina Damond Townsend gathered at the John S. Sinatra Memorial Track - the site of Jamestown Area Soap Box Derby races since 1998 - on Saturday afternoon, posed for photographs in front of the huge sign at the start line and reminisced about a time 19 years ago when Kristina made history.
Then 13, she became the first local champion to win a national title as she finished first in the Stock Car Division at the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.
''I just remember the huge smile that hurt so bad for days,'' Kristina said.
From the left, Denise Williams, Kristina Damond Townsend and Tim Williams display some of the memorabilia from Kristina’s victory in the All-American Soap Box Derby in 1994. The items will be on display at the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame on West Third Street in Jamestown. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
by Scott Kindberg
Kristina Damond Townsend, middle of first row in photo at left, is joined by her family at the John S. Sinatra Memorial Track on Saturday when she donated to the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame her All-American Soap Box Derby car, right, which she rode to a world championship in 1994. Kneeling in first row, from the left, are Renee Williams and Krista Vincent. Standing, from the left, are David Williams, Debbie Williams, Denise Williams, Kristina’s mother; Tim Williams, Kristina’s step-father; John Williams and John Williams Jr. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J?photos by Scott Kindberg
The Virginia Beach, Va., resident is in hopes that the enjoyment she derived from her magical summer - it began with a victory at the Jamestown Area Soap Box Derby in June 1994 when the races were held on Baker Street at Bergman Park and ended with a national title in Akron two months later - will be shared with area residents following her donation of the derby car to the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame.
''This is where it should be and where it all started for me,'' Kristina said. ''It's where I'm hoping people can see it and shoot to get more victories here in Jamestown.''
Other memorabilia that will be on display at the Hall, located on West Third Street, are her championship trophy, a couple photographs and a derby pennant.
For many years, Kristina's derby car was housed at the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame in Akron, but it was returned to the family a couple of years ago and has been stored at the home of Kristina's mother and step-father, Denise and Tim Williams, who live in Cornelius, N.C., ever since.
''Winning really brought her out of her shell,'' said Tim, who works for Michael Waltrip Racing. ''She was a real quiet little girl, who was in the corner reading her books. We got her involved in that and it opened her up and (helped) make her a wonderful young lady.''
Racing is apparently in the family DNA.
In fact, 5-year-old Cooper Townsend hopped in the derby car his mother made famous in 1994, tugged on a helmet and, with some assistance from his grandpa, took a turn at the wheel. Starting at the track's midway point, Tim released the car and as he followed closely, Cooper - wearing an ear-to-ear grin - let gravity do the rest.
Ultimately, Ian Townsend was waiting at the bottom of the hill to stop the car and pull his son from the cockpit.
Cooper's first words?
''I want,'' he said, ''to ride from all the way up.''
''You can see how bad he wants to do it,'' Tim said. ''He's probably going to be the next racer, because he really loves it. He just wants to get in and drive everything.''
In advance of her appearance at the track, Kristina had given some thought of getting behind the wheel herself, but other than a few photo opportunities, she let her son be the ''designated driver.''
''I've been in it one other time (since 1994) and I'm a lot taller than 20 years ago,'' she said.
She's also nearly five months pregnant.
Here's guessing the new arrival will follow in the footsteps of mom and big brother.