by: Greg Dawes, Chris Merk & Shawn Ovenden
In April 2016 a small group of leaders of Boy Scouts of America got together and hatched an idea to build the record breaking world’s longest pinewood derby track at the BSA Mid America Council Jubilee to be held in October 2016 at Mahoney State Park. This was going to be no small task as the current record was 713 feet 3 inches and these individuals are not known for thinking small. Just breaking the world record was simply inadequate... it needed to be crushed. The goal was set and the team embarked on a journey to construct a pinewood derby track that was nearly half a mile long (3.7 times the length of the current record) and failure was not an option. Join Greg Dawes, Chris Merk, and Shawn Ovenden as they discuss the engineering, science, construction and challenges of setting the world record.
Greg Dawes is a Loan Officer for First Mortgage Company. Helping people has always been at the core of what he does, having served in a variety of positions throughout the community such as the Corporate Relations Chairman for the Cox Classic PGA Golf Tournament. Greg currently is the Committee Chairman of Pack 558 in Omaha, and has served in the position for the last 8 years. Greg is also the Mid America Council Pinewood Derby Chairman, having served in this position for the last 7 years and the Founder and Chairman of the Mid America Pinewood Derby that began in 2011. Greg earned his Eagle rank in 1985. Greg helped coordinate and hatch the World Record Longest Pinewood Derby Track idea – from start to finish being involved in all aspects of the design, implementation, construction, and running of the record setting event. Greg is married has been married to Beth Dawes for 14 years and is the father of John (Star Scout), Will (Star Scout), Chase (Webelos Scout) and Henry (Tiger Scout). Greg is an active community leader that devotes a large amount of his time to service works for others.
Chris Merk is a Representative with the North Central States Regional Council Of Carpenters and a Journeyman Carpenter with 18 years’ experience in the Omaha area. Chris has served as Cub Master of Pack 501, built a 26 foot tall climbing tower at Little Sioux Scout Ranch, and hosts an annual pinewood derby car clinic. He acted as the primary builder of the World Record Pinewood Derby Track, helping with the planning and design. As well as contractor outreach working with companies such as Brand Energy (scaffolding), Total Tools (power tools), JE Dunn construction and Kiewit for (heavy equipment). Chris and his wife Courtney have 3 boys Grant 14, Liam 10, and Greysen 5. All of which participate in scouting.
Shawn Ovenden is a Professional Civil Engineer working for HDR Engineering and has over 22 years of experience. He is actively involved with several organizations including the Nebraska Water Environment Association, American Public Works Association, Engineers Club of Omaha, and the Boy Scouts of America. Shawn currently serves as the Scoutmaster for Troop 558 in Omaha and has been involved with Scouting since 2008. His role as the lead engineer on the World Record Pinewood Derby Track involved assisting the team with track siting, design, coordination, layout of horizontal and vertical control with RW Engineering, and any other issues or needs that came up prior to and during construction. Shawn has been happily married to Nancy Ovenden for 22 years and is the father of Adam 17 (Eagle Scout) and Eric 15 (Life Scout).