McCORDSVILLE — The competitors took to the starting line in their race cars, but these were no ordinary vehicles.

One looked just like Pikachu the Pokemon. Another was a unicorn, complete with a horn extending off the front. There was a shark and a school bus, while another looked like a big bag of Skittles.

The kindergartners could hardly contain their excitement as they wore their cars, which they fashioned from boxes. Ribbons and flags flapped in the wind off the cardboard contraptions covered in paint and glitter.

And who better to announce the event than famed former Indianapolis 500 broadcaster Paul Page.

“On your mark, get set, go!” he said into his microphone, sending the race cars powered by little legs sprinting as fast as they could down the track toward the finish line to cheers and applause.

It was the seventh annual Kindy 500 at McCordsville Elementary School on Friday. About 120 kindergartners across six classes participated in the festivities, which lets them express their creativity and build excitement for the Indy 500 later this month.

Students started the event with a parade down the school’s track in their decorated cars as proud parents snapped photos on their smartphones from the bleachers and sidelines.

With Page announcing each of their names, racers competed in heats among their classes, with the winners of each then running again to see who would represent their cohort in the final.

Officers with the McCordsville Police Department waved checkered flags at the finish line, where 500 Festival princesses in their sashes and tiaras cheered and exchanged high-fives with the racers. One of the princesses was Lauren Pilkington, a 2018 Mt. Vernon High School graduate and former McCordsville Elementary School student.

School staffers like Trina Conover, a kindergarten teacher, wore shirts that read “Pit Crew” at the event. She said each student got a cardboard box that they took home to turn into their race cars.

“They have a lot of fun decorating,” Conover said. “Their personalities really come out.”

In the final race, students chanted the names of their peers representing their classes. Austin Skaggs crossed the finish line first in his car decked in Indianapolis Pacers colors and the team’s logo. He received a trophy, hat, flag, and of course — a bottle of milk, which he drank from victoriously just like a true Indy 500 winner.

The Kindy 500 hadn’t become a tradition yet by the time Pilkington left McCordsville Elementary School.

“It’s such a cool event,” she said. “I would’ve loved to have done this project with my mom.”

She wasn’t so sure about her prospects on race day, however.

“I don’t think I would’ve been first,” she said with a laugh. “I would’ve been out first.”

The celebration reminded her of an annual field day during her elementary years, which the school also hosted at the track and offered activities like jump-roping and hoola-hooping.

An avid reader, Pilkington also has fond memories of the school’s Scholastic Book Fairs. She enjoyed just being at school as well, where she got to see all her friends.

“It was my favorite place to be,” she said.

She recently graduated from the University of Southern Indiana, where she studied radio and television.

Courtney Treon, lead kindergarten teacher at McCordsville Elementary School, recalled how the Kindy 500 started out small in the school’s gym with an art teacher announcing. Page is a friend of her husband’s, who serves on the Indiana State Police and knows the broadcaster from working at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He suggested she ask Page to announce the Kindy, something she initially had doubts toward but was pleasantly surprised to learn of his willingness.

“It’s the absolute best I’ve ever seen,” Page said after Friday’s races. “A couple were really, really close. The kids had a ball. I love coming out and doing this every year. It’s one of the joys of the job.”

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