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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
The city of Tallmadge has featured a number of champions.
Tallmadge High School and Tallmadge Little League have seen numerous teams win state titles. A few of those squads have competed in the World Series too.
But Tallmadge hasn't had anyone become a world champion in recent memory.
Dylan Theisen, 12, an eighth-grade student at Tallmadge Middle School, won the rally stock division in the finals of the 2014 FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby July 26 at Derby Downs in Akron.
Tallmadge residents Cailey Bozic, 14, and her cousin Makayla Herrle, 9, also participated. Cailey reached the second heat in the super stock division, while Makayla lost her first race in the stock division.
Dylan, 12, probably needed someone to pinch himself after the race.
"I didn't think it was happening," he said. "It didn't feel right. It's absolutely amazing. To be one in seven billion is incredible."
Dylan and Cailey learned about soap box racing through the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) program at Tallmadge Middle School. The program is taught by Justin Christopher.
"It's the coolest thing, especially since the Soap Box Derby had been in trouble financially," Christopher said. "They introduced the educational part to get schools excited about it again. For Dylan to win the world championship, it's like winning the Super Bowl."
Cailey and Makayla's grandfather, Joe, who Christopher called "the Mr. Miyagi of the Soap Box Derby," helped build all three racers' cars.
Joe's son Adam, who finished second in the 1998 All-American Soap Box Derby and is Cailey's uncle, is in charge of special events at the derby.
"It's really fun teaching the new kids through the school system," Joe said. "The Soap Box Derby is like the Mafia. Once you get in, it's hard to get out. It is time-consuming, but I really enjoy it."
Dylan's father Steve also helped Dylan build the car. But Steve doesn't believe he deserves much of the credit.
"If it wasn't for Joe, we wouldn't be here," Steve said. "We've learned a lot from him."
Dylan was hoping to win at least one heat. Let's just say he did a lot more than that.
Nevertheless, each race got more and more excruciating for the standout racer.
"I was completely nervous," Dylan said. "I was freaking out the whole time. After the last race, the moment was absolutely amazing. All of my friends were at the bottom of the hill waiting. It was really exciting."
While participating in the STEM program, Christopher decided to make Dylan the driver.
If you considered the situation, he didn't have a choice.
"The stock car's weight limit is 200 pounds," Christopher said. "Dylan wasn't a very big guy. All the other kids were too big."
As it turned out, everything worked out beautifully. A Tallmadge student is now a world champion.
"My wife [Ana] and I are so proud of Dylan," Steve said. "He is a great kid who is very humble."
Cailey won her first heat at the derby. But her day ended when she lost in the second heat to eventual super stock champion Emerson Minch of Cleveland.
"I had a lot of fun," Cailey said. "The first heat was really scary because I had to race against one of my best friends. I wish I could have driven better in the second heat, but I was happy with myself."
Cailey also was thrilled to see her friend win.
"Dylan is kind of like a brother to me," she said. "I haven't known him for a long time, but I've gotten really close to him."