Third time may be charm for Burdgick

On the road, again: Ally Burdgick, 14, of Guilderland, holds her Master's Division Champion trophy after winning the Capital District Soap Box Derby. Her car has the word "love" written on it in 18 different languages.

GUILDERLAND — Focused people know what they want and know what they like.

Right now, Ally Burdgick’s only hobby is Soap Box Derby racing. She loves coasting down a hill, and, over the years, has gained a lot of experience as a driver.

Burdgick’s racing skills have earned her a third appearance at the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. She’ll vie for a world championship this Saturday.

“It’s just school and Soap Box for me,” said Burdgick, who will start ninth grade at Guilderland High School in September. She and her family arrived in Akron on Sunday for pre-race festivities. “I like chorus, language arts, and math,” she said. “I can kind of sing, but I don’t really have a favorite song.”

The boxcar that Burdgick drives has the word “love” written on it in 18 different languages –– including Polish, Russian, Chinese, Korean, Spanish, and French. Burdgick has been studying Spanish for a few years, and met other racers from New Zealand, Japan, and China in Akron on Monday.

“I just wanted to have a word on my car that everyone knows,” Burdgick said. “There’s no real meaning behind it, but I love Soap Box. So many people from around the world come to Akron, so they can see what it means.”

Burdgick comes to Akron to race, but also to meet like-minded people. She won a heat in 2008 and lost her first heat in 2009. Then, she stepped away from Soap Box in 2010 and 2011, only to return to the Capital District Soap Box Derby in 2012 for Master’s Division competition.

“It’s always been fun, but I wanted to give other people a chance to come to Akron,” Burdgick said of not bowing out in 2010 and 2011. Her younger brother, Cameron, also races. “I had to come back, though,” she said. “Racing down a hill is pretty fun.”

Burdgick’s uncle, Mike, won a Soap Box world championship 30 years ago. Her father, Steve, raced when he was a kid, and so did his brother and sister.

“It’s something to do,” said Burdgick. “It felt very new at first, but now I’m more experienced and there’s all these different activities that go with it.”

Leading up to Saturday’s race, Burdgick will get a lot of practice runs, as well as make sure her car is as perfect as can be. She and her family might spend some free time at Cedar Point, which is said to be one of the greatest amusement parks in the world.

The All-American Soap Box Derby supplies each competitor with boxcar wheels, so everyone is on a level playing field. “You can’t do anything with the wheels,” Burdgick said. “You can’t cheat. They test the wheels.”

Burdgick won her local race in Albany by five feet, but Akron boasts the best drivers in the world. She’s hoping that her third trip to Akron is a charm.

“You have to keep the wheel as straight as possible,” said Burdgick. “I try to stay calm, but I get nervous sometimes. All that I have to do is be the first one to get down that hill.”

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