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Kids race on Capitol Hill in Soap Box Derby

Saturday - 6/16/2012, 5:08pm  ET

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Congress has to give special approval for the race because of its location on the grounds of Capitol Hill. (Special to WTOP/Emily Sobel)
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Emily Sobel, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Capitol Hill became a racetrack Saturday morning for competitors in the 71st Annual Greater Washington Soap Box Derby Race.

Forty kids from across the region competed in the race, which ran down Constitution Avenue between New Jersey and Louisiana Avenues in the center of Capitol Hill.

Regional Soap Box Derby races take place in cities across the country. But the unique location of this race requires Congress to approve it so that the race can happen on Capitol grounds.

Competitors entered into one of the race's three divisions: Stock, the lowest- level division for children seven to 14 years old; Super Stock, the mid-level division for children 10 to 17 years old; or Masters, the highest level of competition, also for children 10 to 17 years old.

For Caleb Alexander, 9, a first-time competitor from Leesburg, Va., the derby is a family affair. His 16-year-old sister, Abigail, is a more experienced racer and also competed today in the Super Stock division.

"I just enjoyed watching my sister, so I decided I wanted to try," he says.

Jay Warnick, 15, of Southern Maryland, has been racing for eight years and competed in the Masters division today. Warnick became interested in the derby when he was a member of the Cub Scouts and has since become an experienced racer.

"The very first time I went down the hill, I was hooked instantly," Warnick says of his love for the derby.

Besides racing, Warnick's favorite part of the soap box derby is the social aspect. The Washington area race is a chance for kids to see friends they haven't seen since last year's race.

"I've made a lot of friends racing," Warnick says.

All racers made their derby cars by hand using kits purchased from the All- American Soap Box Derby. The cars may be customized using either stickers or paint, depending on the division the competitor enters.

In July, winners from each division in today's race and in regional races throughout the country will go on to compete in the World Championship Soap Box Derby Race in Akron, Ohio.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)