Cub Scouts from Pack 59 in Cinnaminson were excited as they made last-minute adjustments to their cars before the annual running of the Pinewood Derby race on Jan. 26.
And when the starting gate was released for each heat, some 100 youngsters and parents shrieked with delight as speeds recorded electronically on the 40-foot, four-lane track reached 160 miles per hour.
“This is their favorite event of the year,” said Cubmaster Thom Grone, who said there were 35 Scout cars and seven open-class cars racing. “We have had electronic timing for 15 years now.”
The New Albany School cafeteria was bustling with activity as the heats continued and the audience cheered on the decorated and painted cars, handmade from a plain block of pinewood by the youngsters. Pack 59 is sponsored by the Covenant Presbyterian Church across the street from the school, and is one of the largest units in South Jersey, according to Bear Den Leader Joe Cook.
“The Scouts design, sand and paint the cars themselves,” explained Grone, whose daughter Alyson was competing in the derby.
“We provide the youngest participants with the assistance they need,” emphasized Cook, who also pointed out that the pack has members as young as 5 years old. “Cub Scouts is a coed activity for kids kindergarten through fifth grade, whose mission is promoting character, citizenship, personal fitness and leadership skills in youth in a fun environment.”
The axles and wheels are provided by the Boy Scouts of America, but the youngsters could add personal touches such as a small bobble head or creatively painted vehicles in different colors. Grone also noted that volunteers make the event a success each year, including the Boy Scouts who act as referees.
Both Joe and Brook Cook’s sons were involved; Wesley Cook competed while his older brother Jamie – along with Ryan Caroll and Ryan Driscoll – served as race officials.
“You’ll hear everyone screaming, especially in the finals,” observed Brook Cook, advancement officer for Scout Troop 70, which started in 1964 and was chartered by the Covenant Presbyterian Church in 1967.
“This event is so much fun.”
Pack 59 is part of the Scout program’s Garden State Council and is very active all year helping out with food drives, participating in Cinnaminson community events and hosting the Kindergarten Club.
The Pinewood Derby was a lot different in the 1960s, with a shorter, two-lane wooden track. To make weight and make the cars go faster, Scouts would carve a hole in the bottom front and fill it with melted lead.
“We don’t use lead anymore,” said Grone, pointing out that his Scouts have come up with other ways to increase speed. This year was no exception, and the winners received trophies for their ideas.
Sean Carroll won first place in the overall pack fastest cars category, Alexander Kline finished second and Adam Getz took third place. Winners of the fastest cars in individual dens were Liam McCullough, Abigail Kline, Lucas DuBois and Nathan Hill.
In the vote for the favorite and best-decorated cars, the winners were Charlie Evans, Daniel Cooperson, Henry Field, Conor McKenna, Jeffrey Scarpitti and Robert Thornton. Armando Abreu won the coveted Cubmaster Selection award.
For more information on the Pinewood Derby, go to Pack 59’s Facebook page.