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Sports Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, August 19, 2010

Morawski is world-class racer

By Jordan J. Michael

GUILDERLAND –– A Soap Box Derby race lasts anywhere between 28 and 40 seconds, but the memory of winning a world championship lasts forever.

Michael Morawski, 16, of Guilderland, won the Super Stock Rally Division world championship in Akron, Ohio on July 24. It was his fourth trip to Akron and he had never won a single race the three previous times.

“I was really, really happy to just win one race,” said Morawski on Monday. He won three more heats for the title. “I won the next race and started getting really excited. I was jumping for joy at the end because it was unexpected.”

There were 51 drivers in Morawski’s division and he had to win all four heats. Morawski won the championship race by only six inches. “It was extremely close,” he said. “I only had one shot.”

After winning, Morawski leapt from his car before getting barraged by the media. He then had to take apart his car, allowing the officials to inspect it. The officials at Akron check every car for signs of cheating.

“I was nervous, but I didn’t have anything to hide,” Morawski said. “Some people put magnets inside the car for a big boost. That’s usually what they look for.”

The Soap Box Derby took all the winners out to dinner before the awards ceremony. Morawski received a huge trophy, a watch, a jacket, a ring, and a $2,000 scholarship to use towards college.

“The ring ended up breaking,” said Morawski. “I’m still waiting for a new one in the mail.”

Morawski told The Enterprise that the Akron world championships have a family oriented atmosphere. “Everyone is very nice, especially when you win,” he said. “I got a lot of congratulations and people there took me seriously.”

Fresh wheels

Morawski and his younger sister, Christina, began racing in 2006 when the Capital District Soap Box Derby was reinstated in Albany by Ginger Miller after a 20-year hiatus.

Miller was already giving piano lessons to both Michael and Christina at the time and asked them to join in.

“I was asking everyone I knew because I desperately needed drivers,” Miller said. “I showed Michael and Christina a Soap Box car and they were really interested.”

“Ginger told us whoever got the most points in piano lessons gets to drive the car,” Michael Morawski recalled.

Michael and Christina both got to drive a car, and Michael ended up besting his sister in the 2006 Stock Division. Morawski won the Super Stock Division in 2008, and the Master’s Division in 2009. In 2010, he took his Master’s car to different rally races throughout the Northeast.

Morawski earned 180 points and was named Regional Rally Champion by winning four out of 24 races. He competed in six weekend rally meets, including stops in Danbury, Conn. and Rochester.

“When you go to different cities, you meet new people and you see how they build their cars,” Morawski said. “It’s an adventure.”

It took Morawski and his mother, Christine, 300 hours to build the winning Master’s car. It was extensive body work –– using a lot of fiberglass and drilling many holes. The car has airfoils, a wooden piece near the wheel that creates less wind resistance, and a special foot break.

“We had a number of tools and parts sprawled throughout the kitchen,” Christine Morawski said. “I’m looking forward to not building one again. Some of the process was fun, but it was challenging.”

“The car has to fit my body perfectly,” Michael Morawski said. “It’s a lot of preparation for such a short race.”

“But,” Morawski continues, “It’s all worth it in the end when you’re a world champion.”

Morawski has competed in 78 Soap Box races in his career, winning 12. Akron inducted him into the prestigious 200 Point Club in 2009, where Morawski’s name is permanently engraved into a plaque. He is also the only racer to win every division in the Capital Region Soap Box Derby.

“Practice made perfect for him and he got really into the building aspect,” Miller said of Morawski. “He’s a very loveable, good kid. He’s athletic, energetic, and really enjoys racing his car.”

The car with which Morawski won Super Stock was on display in the lobby of the New York State Museum in Albany for two months. He will use that car for his last Soap Box season next summer.

“Things have been pretty crazy since he won in Akron,” Christine Morawski said.

Michael Morawski has many interests besides racing. A rising junior at Guilderland High School, he is interested in earth and environmental sciences. He wrestles on the varsity team and still takes piano lessons. His favorite song is “The Entertainer” by Scott Joplin and George Gershwin.

“I enjoy learning about the earth,” said Morawski. “I recycle as much as possible. I would love to use recycled parts for my Soap Box, but the rules say I can’t.”

Morawski is sad to have only one more eligible year left with Soap Box, but he’s looking into the only other division, called Ultimate Speed. “You build the fastest car you possibly can and bring it to Akron,” he said. “Seems like a fun time.”

Morawski is hoping for a fifth trip to the World Championships next summer, but he’ll have to get past his sister, Chrsitina.

“It’s an interesting little rivalry we have going,” Michael said. “I’ll try as hard as I can.”

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