OAKLAND -- The gym at Piedmont Community Church was transformed into a mini NASCAR on Saturday as some 90 Cub Scouts and more than 100 Girl Scouts raced their elaborately handcrafted wooden cars in the annual Pinewood Derby.
"This is the 10th year that the girls have participated in the derby," said Girl Scout co-leader Eliza Lo Chin. "We had girls competing at every level from Daisies through Cadets, which is basically kindergarten through middle school."
The Scouts start off with a basic kit consisting of a small block of wood, four wheels and nails for the axles. Parents help their children make the miniature racing cars, carving, painting and decorating each entry to meet race specifications. All cars must be roughly the same size and weight, giving entrants an equal shot at the finish line.
Maya Phelan, 9, with Girl Scout Troop 30981, took first place in a field of about 25 competitors in the "Juniors" division with a winning time of 3.42 seconds.
"My dad and I worked on building the race car, but I designed and decorated it myself," said Phelan, whose racer had a Pokémon theme with flames on one side and a flaming dragon on the other.
"I came up with the design looking at pictures online," said Phelan, who collects Pokémon cards and books and plays the Pokémon video game.
She said the highlight of the day for her was watching the final race because her car was neck-and-neck with the second-place finisher.
"At one point, I thought I wasn't going to win, it was so close," said Phelan, who won a trophy, personalized certificate and Girl Scout badge.
Phelan's mom Sharon Badillo said she loved seeing how excited the girls were, whether they won or not.
"I liked that everyone was a winner and had a lot of fun," Badillo said. "All the girls got a personalized certificate and badge and awards were also given for categories such as 'Shiniest Car,' 'Cutest Driver,' 'Most Animal Friendly,' and 'Best Classic Car.'"
Cub Scout Den 5 leader Rob Kobal chaired the 2014 Pinewood Derby.
"The Pinewood Derby is an amazing opportunity for parents and kids to work together and come out and have a good time," Kobal said. "We had every achievement level -- Tigers, Wolves, Bears and Webelos, as well as an adult race."
Speed was not the only category that was rewarded in the Cub Scout competition. Awards were also given for "Most Creative," "Coolest," "Best Craftsmanship," "Dream Machine," "Most Bodacious," "Most Unique" and "Best Use of Materials."
Three adults entered the Pinewood Derby this year, with Nicholas Kuesel taking first place with a winning time of 3.31 seconds. Racing must run in the family -- his son Nicholas with Den 6 was also a winner, taking first place in the "Bears" category.
The Scouts' sloping six-lane wooden raceway, which features an electronic finish line and runs the length of the church gymnasium, was constructed in 1967 by James H. Obando and restored in 1996.
"It's probably time for a new racetrack!" Kobal joked.
The Pinewood Derby was the brainchild of Cub Master Donald Murphy who described his vision for the event in a 1999 interview, according to the Boy Scouts of America website.
"I wanted to devise a wholesome, constructive activity that would foster a closer father-son relationship and promote craftsmanship and good sportsmanship through competition," Murphy said.
The inaugural derby was held in 1953 at the Manhattan Beach Scout House in Southern California. Over the years, Cub Scouts have built nearly 100 million mini racers -- and girls have come on board, too.
Seven-year-old Matthew Aquino took first spot for speed in the "Wolves" division and won a boxed display case for his racer.
"My car has good big wheels; I polished them a lot to make it go faster," Aquino said.
His den buddy, 7-year-old Evan Quinn, took second in the "Wolves" division. His inspiration was a Minecraft video game.
"I wanted to make this design so I used gold on the sides and bottom and put swords on the sides," said Quinn, who was rewarded with a medal and a Scout patch. "This is the second year that I've made a race car for the derby -- it took me a long time because I kept messing up."
Aristotle Aquino, Den 6 leader and Matthew's dad, said he's helped his sons make six cars in all, but that this was the first time one of them placed.
"This is the first time we've ever placed -- that we won is a miracle," said the proud dad.