An 11-year-old girl from Gretna was named Soap Box Derby world champion July 20 after four rounds of victories in Akron, Ohio.

Kelsey Van Waart took first place in the Masters Division of the FirstEnergy All-American Soap Box Derby.

“It was quite an experience,” said Peter Van Waart, Kelsey’s father. “This is something our families have been a part of for a long time.”

Kelsey said she got her start in racing about three to four years ago.

“My grandpa had my dad do it and now me and my brother race, so we’re third generation racing,” Kelsey said.

Cars come in a kit and, for the Masters competition, take months to build. Kelsey worked with her father, her grandfather and her great-uncle to build her car, which will be retired and put on display in the Soap Box Derby Hall of Fame Museum in Akron.

“It’s so much fun,” she said.

A win at a championship in Seymour Smith Park landed Kelsey a spot in the international competition. More than 400 competitors ages 7 to 20 raced at the championship, which features a 989-foot track.

The Masters Division, for ages 10 to 20, was one of six divisions that named champions at this year’s event.

“I was very happy,” Kelsey said of her win. “Our family has been involved in Soap Box Derby for 65 years and this was the first time we were able to bring home first place, so that was very exciting.”

The victory earned Kelsey a gold ring, a $3,000 scholarship and a trophy.

“It makes you a little bit more focused and definitely makes you a better driver,” Kelsey said. “It strengthens the bond with your family.”

On Friday, an episode of “Live” aired, during which Kelsey raced hosts Ryan Seacrest and Tamron Hall down a New York City street on national television.

“Thank you for letting us win,” Hall said.

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