updated 7/18/2005 1:55:36 PM ET 2005-07-18T17:55:36

Student teams from Minnesota and Mississippi cruised to victory Saturday in a high-school solar car race along a 1,600-mile (2,560-kilometer) route through the Southwest.

The Saint Thomas Academy team from Mendota Heights, Minn., piloted its unnamed vehicle more than 960 miles (1,530 kilometers) to win the "classic" category for less efficient solar-powered cars. It averaged 26 mph (42 kilometers per hour), hitting a top speed of 51 mph (82 kilometers per hour).

Students from Houston Vocational Center in Houston, Miss., took first in the competition for cars using newer technology. Its Sundancer held up for about 953 miles (1,525 kilometers), traveling 29 mph (46 kph) on average and as fast as 57 mph (91 kph).

The nine teams, including one from Mexico, crossed the finish line at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena Saturday afternoon after an eight-day race that began in Round Rock, Texas. Teams spent up to 18 months designing and building the sun-fueled racers.

"If a group of high school kids can build a solar car and drive it across the country, then the possibilities for our future are endless," said St. Thomas Academy team member Nicholas Deprey.

Los Angeles County's Walnut High School placed second in the classic category after its Ra vehicle went more than 610 miles (975 kilometers).

The 10th annual Dell-Winston School Solar Car Challenge was sponsored in part by computer maker Dell Inc.

Another solar car race, pitting 20 university-led teams from the United States and Canada against each other, began on Sunday in Austin, Texas. Competitors in the North American Solar Challenge are to drive 2,500 miles (4,000 kilometers) to Calgary, Alberta, during a series of timed segments extending through July 27.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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