MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) _ Some came with peeling rubber soles. Others had toes sticking out of frayed canvas with ragged laces, or no laces at all.

They all, however, shared one trait _ a stench.

``These shoes stink!!'' said 8-year-old Ivy LeGrand, holding one battered black high-top up for closer inspection. ``The cat peed in them.''

The smelliest, oldest sneakers from around the country were on display Saturday for the 20th annual rotten sneaker contest.

As six judges in white coats poked, prodded and sniffed the pungent parade of footwear, contestants explained the secrets of success.

``We're able to pass the sneakers on, so they go through more than one generation,'' said Jim Lynch, whose two sons competed.

Also on hand as a judge was a fat brown-and-white skunk named Flower. The skunk, a descented former pet now owned by a wildlife rescue organization, inspected each offering with a twitching nose.

``The skunk is worse, but with some of these shoes it's a fine line,'' said Carol Winfield, Flower's handler.

Eight-year-old Michael Moore of White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico won the grand prize and took home a $500 savings bond, a trophy almost as tall as himself, new sneakers, and a year's supply of Odor-Eaters, which sponsors the contest.

``I won't let him in the house with those sneakers,'' said his mother, Sandrato Moore. ``Even the dog runs from them.''