Speed-stacking cups: odd 'sport' becomes a hit among youngsters

Speed-stacking cups: odd 'sport' becomes a hit among youngsters

BEND - Josh Taylor stacks and unstacks the plastic cups, his hands a blur as the 8-year-old focuses intently on the task before him.

In just a few seconds he is done, and he lets out a triumphant shout as his father and older sister look on.

Rich Taylor, Josh's father, thought they were just some plastic cups when he bought them for his son last September. Now, Josh owns every state record and one Pacific Northwest record for his age group in the increasingly popular - not to mention peculiar - game of sport stacking.

"I had no clue," Rich Taylor admits. "The first couple months, I didn't pay attention. After awhile, he said, 'Dad, look how fast I am.' I went on the Web site and realized he was close to the record for his age group."

The sport is catching on worldwide. The 2007 World Sport Stacking Association Championships in April were televised on ESPN.

Last March, Josh competed at the Northwest Regional Sport Stacking Championships in Seattle, his first and so far, his only competition.

"There were a thousand people in this gym," Rich Taylor recalls. "It was just mayhem."

Josh, a second-grader at Trinity Lutheran, came away with several state records and one regional record for the 7-year-old age group. He says he enters a zone when he is stacking.

"It's kind of like you're in a video game sometimes," Josh explains. "It's kind of like I'm using a remote control, like a robot."

Kids, with their keen hand-eye coordination and dexterity, tend to be much more proficient at sport stacking than adults, according to Rich. All the individual world records are owned by either the 11- or 12-year-old age group.

For instance, David Wolf of Germany, 11, holds the world record in the cycle event, with a time of 7.25 seconds.

The cycle event requires a competitor to build a sequence of stacked cups, each stack in the form of a pyramid. The first part is three cups, six cups and then three cups, the second is two 6-cup stacks, and then the cycle is finished with a 1-10-10 design.

By comparison, the world record for ages 45 to 49 is 10.62 seconds.

Josh hopes to compete in the Northwest championships again next March, and possibly in the world championships in Denver next April. He says his goal is "to be the world-record holder."

But Josh is more apt to be skateboarding or playing basketball than staying inside all day stacking cups. Asked if he practices stacking much, he replies, "No."

"A month or six weeks prior (to a competition) he'll get faster," Rich says. "It's all muscle memory."

Events at sport-stacking competitions also include doubles and relays.

In doubles, one stacker uses his or her left hand and the partner uses his or her right hand as they stack together. In relays, teams are made up of four stackers and each completes his or her own sequence. The times are then combined.

There is also a division for special needs and disabled competitors.

"You don't have to be physically able-bodied to do it," Rich says.

A timer, a mat and a set of cups costs a total of about $30. But, Rich Taylor says, "You can get locked down with a lot of accessories."

Josh even has a set of metal cups that he uses as a form of training, much like baseball players swing with a weighted "doughnut" on their bats in the on-deck circle.

There is a downside to the metal cups, however.

"They're SO loud," Rich says, laughing.

But the training, as little as Josh does, has paid off for at least one reason, he says:

"I beat my dad and mom."

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