Eleven-year-old Megan Rae got the VIP treatment during the All-American Soap Box Derby World Championships, including a police escort to whisk her to the front of every line, as a reward for building a perfectly conforming race car.
"It was great," said Rae, who is an incoming sixth-grader at Steamboat Springs Middle School. "Really fun and full of excitement."
Rae earned her spot at the championships, held July 26 to 31 in Akron, Ohio, by winning the fourth annual Soap Box Derby in Steamboat in May.
Almost 500 competitors from 43 states and three foreign countries gathered in Akron to compete in the finals after winning local competitions. Rae, who competed in the "Super Stock" division, faced about 140 other racers.
The festivities began July 26 with an opening ceremony, when "she had a police escort into the stadium," said her mother Amy. Rae's car then had to be weighed to ensure that it didn't exceed the weight limit of 230 pounds.
But because nothing on the car needed to be changed, Rae was given a VIP award for the week, which allowed her to skip to the front of all lines.
"When her car arrived in Akron, it had to go through a thorough inspection," said Amy Rae. "But everything was perfect."
On race day, Rae and her car scored another victory in the first heat, leaving Rae in the top one-third of all competitors. The second heat was close, but Rae lost -- by "about 4 inches," she said.
"It was very close," said Amy Rae. Had she won the second heat, Rae would have finished in the top nine, Amy said.
Rae's high finish is remarkable for a newcomer to the sport. It was her first year racing, but she is "hoping to do it again next year."
However, if Rae decides to compete, she will have to start from scratch and build a new car. Soapbox derby cars are built on wooden platforms with brakes, steering and a plastic shells added.
This year's shell was painted periwinkle with pink stripes, but Rae said that she's been planning next year's designs already.
Custom Color, Steamboat Motors, Christy Sports, the city of Steamboat Springs and her grandfather sponsored Rae.