Steamboat Springs Every child that coasted to the bottom of Rockies Way on Z-Glass wheels Saturday walked away a winner, regardless of the time it took to reach the finish line.
Sportsmanship ruled the day at the second annual Steamboat Springs Soap Box Derby, where young and old saw the fruits of their work reflected in thousandths of a second.
The Steamboat Rotary Club sponsored the event, which drew 19 children between the ages of 9 and 16.
Heats consisted of two runs between two cars, and the driver with the lowest combined time won the heat.
During each heat, cars and drivers switched lanes and wheels before the second run to ensure fairness.
All drivers made at least four runs down the hill before they were knocked out of competition.
The eventual winner, whose name was unavailable, qualified to race in the 65th annual All-American Soap Box Derby in Akron, Ohio.
The Soap Box Derby program pairs youths with adult mentors who help them build and race their cars.
Ellen McGuiness served as 10-year-old Madison Struble's adviser. The pair spent the weekends leading up to race constructing and adding some decorative touches to their car.
Struble decided to try her luck behind the wheel after hearing about her friend's racing experience in the derby last year. A few test runs earlier in the week prepped her for the competition, she said.
Although the field in Akron last year drew more girls than boys, Struble was one of two girls who competed in the local derby.
The boys didn't intimidate her, she said.
The young drivers focused on keeping their cars steady and tucking their heads to pick up speed.
Stopping was just an afterthought for some.
Tony Virgona, 12, didn't have a chance to wave at spectators as he crossed the finish line. His car didn't stop until it slammed into the pile of air bags placed at the end of the straightaway to catch wayward cars and drivers.
"We call him 'Crash,'" said his father, John Virgona. The son said he intended to alter his race strategy a bit to prevent any future air bag embraces.
Proper car construction accounts for 50 percent of winning, said Steamboat Springs Middle School teacher Johnny Walker.
The other 50 percent comes by way of good car maintenance and driving skills, he said.
Walker assisted children and mentors with the construction of their soapbox cars and gave first-time drivers advice on getting the most out of their runs. He held workshops throughout the winter to help teams build and tweak their cars for the derby.
People who attend the workshops may or may not have prior knowledge about constructing the engineless car, he said.
"Some people are experienced and some come without having a clue, and we give them a clue," he said.
Walker worked with a team of four students from Steamboat Springs Middle School.
Their car's success in the derby was not as important as the lessons they took from their experience, he said.
Seventh-graders Will Homer, Alex Church and Daniel Sills and eighth-grader Riley Thompson used their derby preparation to learn about teamwork.
The team voted to let Homer drive the car, and Church, Sills and Thompson served as the pit crew.
They discovered how fun it could be to work together on a project, Homer said.
Win or lose, the sight of their car pulling out from the starting line was all the reward the boys needed.
"It was worth it," Homer said.