Story last updated at 3:30 p.m. Thursday, June 27, 2002

Soap box cars clean up on fun
In most towns in Alaska, if you've never heard of a soap box derby race car, you aren't alone. But not so in Kodiak, where the local Lions Club has purchased 32 of the miniature cars and founded a yearly competition.

The cars, which look like torpedoes with wheels sticking out of them, are used to provide an opportunity to Kodiak youth ages 9-16, and particularly disadvantaged youth.

For veteran racer Melissa Sekerak, the practice of fixing up the cars is a lesson in itself.

"I've really learned a lot about following instructions, seeing how tools work, knowing the names of nuts and bolts, and getting the proper sitting position in the car," she said, while putting the final touches on her car days before the race.

Racers are known to fly down the course at speeds up to 25 mph, as recorded by the radar guns of local police. Cars are fully inspected before the race, and specific attention is paid to official guidelines.

While racing down a hill may sound like child's play, the winner in each division has a chance to compete at an international championship race.

"Last year, we saw people from all over the world, including Canada, Germany and the Philippines," said Steve Paulson, director of the Kodiak Soap Box Derby. "It truly is a world championship."

-- Kodiak Daily Mirror