Ohio Valley Sport Stacking Tournament Tests Speed, Dexterity

Photo Provided During a recent practice session at Woodsdale Elementary School in Wheeling, health and physical education teacher Michael Cook coaches the cup stacking techniques of fourth-graders Maggie Hupp and Daevon Dukes. The two are among 40 competing in the fifth annual Ohio Valley Sport Stacking Championships at the school Saturday morning. The event is a qualifier for the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympic Games, which will take place in Detroit in July.

Local enthusiasm continues to build for a fun and fast activity for kids called sport stacking.

It’s a race against the clock to deftly stack and unstack plastic cups in specific pyramid formations. Forty kids — 29 from Wheeling — will compete at the fifth annual Ohio Valley Sport Stacking Championships Saturday morning at Woodsdale Elementary School in Wheeling.

Organizer Mike Cook, Woodsdale health and physical education teacher, brought sport stacking to Woodsdale six years ago, introducing it in gym class and then starting an after-school club on Wednesdays.

“It’s a different kind of activity. It motivates the kids to be active and promotes hand-eye coordination,” Cook said. “You don’t really have to be a great athlete to do it. It just takes time and practice.”

There are three categories, the 3-3-3 — set up and take down three stacks of three cups, the 3-6-3 — set up and take down stacks of three, six and three cups, and the cycle, which is the premier event and involves a series of formations. The top performers in the world complete the 3-3-3 and the 3-6-3 in under 2 seconds. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it.

Some who got involved early on at Woodsdale decided they wanted to try breaking records, so Cook founded the local tournament, which is sanctioned by the World Sport Stacking Association.

Woodsdale students currently hold 11 West Virginia Division racing records and two overall state records, Cook said.

In addition, at the Woodsdale competition in February 2014, a youngster named William Orrell from North Carolina set a world record for the 3-3-3 with a time of 1.472 seconds. He then broke his own record at the 2015 tournament with a time of 1.418 seconds. Orrell is the No. 1 male sport stacker in the world, according to the WSSA.

Sport stacking started in 1998 by a company called Speed Stacks “to help kids around the world with their athleticism and dexterity, all while having lots of fun,” according to Emily Fox, former world champion who provides how-to videos for Speed Stacks on YouTube.

“Sport stacking appeals to kids of all ages and abilities. … It’s easy to learn, fun to master and with a little practice there’s plenty of opportunities to compete,” Fox said.

Sport stacking is even an event in the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympic Games, for which the Woodsdale tournament is a qualifier.

“Since the program’s inception, (Woodsdale) has fielded two AAU Junior Olympics teams and had one former student (Maxwell Morgan) become a member of Team USA,” Cook said.

Cook said the local tournaments are sponsored by Hardee’s Restaurant of Wheeling; owner Bob Bodzenski helps purchase the awards for the event each year.

Doors open at 8 a.m. Saturday, with preliminary rounds beginning at 8:30 a.m. and the finals at noon. Awards will be presented at 3:30 p.m. Spectators pay a small fee at the door.