Derby has helped make Super Kids feel ‘the sky is the limit for them’

Ken Mansell

Ken Mansell | Steve Eighinger

QUINCY — Ken Mansell might have delivered the most poignant address ever concerning the impact of the Quincy Derby, especially its Super Kids division for those with intellectual or physical handicaps.

Mansell, the former Quincy Notre Dame wrestling coach and longtime staffer at the Jacksonville School for the Visually Impaired, addressed Tuesday’s turnout for the derby’s awards luncheon at The Commons annex of Madison Park Christian Church.

“The kids loved this experience, and they loved being referred to as ‘Super Kids,'” Mansell told an appreciative crowd. “All our kids have talked about since participating is the Quincy Derby.”

Mansell said the event, sponsored by the Quincy Optimist Club for 20 years and once known as the Soap Box Derby, has made the Super Kids feel “as if the sky is the limit for them.”

Mansell worked with a group of Super Kids from Jacksonville at the June derby, held on the 18th Street Hill near Bob Mays Park. Other Super Kids participants came from across West-Central and Northern Illinois, plus Northeast and Western Missouri.

“Some of our kids had never been involved in this kind of activity,” Mansell said. “The Quincy Derby is making a huge impact on these kids’ lives.”

Champions in the four Super Kids divisions, plus the Super Stock, Stock and Masters Elite divisions, were recognized at the luncheon. So were the latest inductees into the derby’s Hall of Fame.

“This event is more than a race,” said Tony Cornett, whose son, Michael, a former Super Kids champion, was inducted into the Hall of Fame. “It touches countless people in numerous ways.”

The Quincy Derby is the largest independent such event in the nation and second overall in size only to the All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio. The Quincy Derby had a record 237 entries this year. The 86th Akron derby is expected to have more than 300 entries for its running this weekend, including racers from Canada and Japan. Ray Wilson, who just completed his 13th year as derby director, said the Optimist Club’s goal is to make Quincy’s derby the largest in the nation by “2026 or 2027.”

Zane Ham, Ryker Sanderson, Merritt DeOrnellas and Carter McVay were this year’s Quincy Super Kids champions. They emerged from a roster of 103 entrants that represented the second-most entries since the Super Kids first competed in 2015. A record 109 took part in 2019.

Kalli Mullen and Elizabeth Boudreau were acknowledged as derby champs. Mullen won both the Super Stock and Masters Elite titles, while Boudreau secured the Stock championship.

Mullen became the first back-to-back Super Stock champion and the first racer to win two major titles in the same year.

All eyes will be on Mullen in the spring of 2025 when she attempts to become the event’s all-time victory leader. Mullen now sits with 61 career victories, five behind the legendary Jayden Vogel (66), who won six titles (all in the Stock class) before retiring after the 2022 derby. 

“I’ll be back (in 2025),” Mullen reassured the crowd.

Mullen’s 61-17 career record carries a .783 winning percentage, which is No. 1 just ahead of Vogel’s .767.

More than 2,300 racers have been involved since the derby’s inception.

“That’s a lot of memories being made,” Optimist Club member Matt Schmidt said.

Derby officers recognized Hy-Vee’s longtime assistance and contributions as a major sponsor/donor.

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