McCORDSVILLE — Scrawled on the back of his blue cardboard racecar: “Eat my dust.”
His opponents did.
Kindergartner Leo Manor was the champion of Thursday’s Kindy 500 at McCordsville Elementary. Of more than 100 kids, he barreled the fastest down the length of the gym.
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For much of May, the school’s youngest race fans have been learning all about the Indianapolis 500 and what it means to the Hoosier state. At the culmination of the lesson came a challenge: to celebrate the 100th running of the race, teachers sent students home with cardboard boxes earlier this month and an assignment — decorate them however you wish and get ready to run.
Their students listened. Kindergartners at the school transformed cardboard boxes into mini racecars, strapping their creations to their shoulders and darting toward the finish line — hair flying and wheels sometimes falling off.
The school event had all the makings of the real race: Princesses, a pace car and Paul Page, the broadcaster for the Indianapolis 500. There were even a few crashes.
On Thursday morning, they paraded their creations into the gym before the start of the race. A Batmobile, a shark and a butterfly were among the designs.
Leo stuck with a traditional racecar style — no frills here — with Styrofoam bowls for wheels.
His mom and dad helped him design the car, but the idea was all his own, Leo said.
The key to winning?
“I just ran so fast,” he said, out of breath from his victory lap around the gym. “When I run so fast, I slide.”
Much like the victor will Sunday, Leo was awarded with a jug of milk and a trophy. The little racer couldn’t manage a full-on chug, but he sipped just as fast as he could until he ran out of belly room.
Stephanie Miller, principal of McCordsville Elementary, said the event started last year as a way to celebrate the big race. Other schools around the state had similar events, and educators thought it would be a fun way to end the school year while teaching kids about a beloved Hoosier tradition.
Capitol City Container Corp., an Indianapolis box company, donated the cardboard boxes for the students. The school sent the boxes home and encouraged families to decorate them together, Miller said.
“We wanted it to be a family project,” she said. “For the students, it’s a fun, interactive way to learn about a major event in our state.”
Kylee Stewart, an Indianapolis 500 Festival princess and Mt. Vernon High School graduate, was on hand to crown the winner; she brought along four other princesses to help make the day special.
Moms and dads filled the stands in the gym at the school as Page announced the start of the race.
“I’ve got more stakes this morning calling this race than I do on Sunday,” he said jokingly as he prepared to introduce the first heat of racers.
Each class divided into a few heats, with four or five kindergartners racing at a time. One winner emerged from each of the five kindergarten classes for the final race.
The winner of every heat received a ribbon. Leo said he plans to proudly display the coveted trophy in his room at home.
Parents Amy Thurber and Samantha Mitchell cheered from the stands as they watched their little racers go.
“It’s great because of the 100th anniversary,” Mitchell said.
Thurber’s son, Graedyn, had fun designing his racecar with his dad, even though he didn’t win. They had about three weeks to get the project done, and now, the leftover car will serve as a kindergarten keepsake.
“It’s such a cute event,” Thurber said. “He had so much fun.”