Soda Creek Elementary School second grader Will McConnell placed seventh at the Sport Stacking championships in Denver.
In the split-second, touch-and-go world of competitive sport stacking, what goes up must come down.
And, at Soda Creek Elementary School, as interest increases in P.E. teacher Chris Adams' classes, his students' cup-stacking times continue to go down.
Adams teaches a three-week, mid-year unit that mixes sport stacking and fitness relays. "It's a fine motor skill. You focus on hand-eye coordination and bi-lateral proficiency with both sides of your brain working. And you improve your times and reaction speed."
Strawberry Park P.E. instructor Sam Rush also teaches a sport-stacking unit and agreed that the sport is growing in popularity.
"I know teachers who will put cups in the room before reading assessment or CSAP tests as a brain warm-up," Adams said.
Adams said kids used to time each other with stopwatches. Now, armed with specialized competition cups with strategically placed speed holes and timing mats, his students are setting new school records on par with some of the nation's best.
Look no further than second-grade phenom Will McConnell for putting Steamboat on the sport-stacking map.
After setting the Soda Creek school record for the full cycle stack (10.36 seconds), Will "The Thrill" McConnell made waves at the World Sport Stacking Association World Sport Stacking Championships on April 14 and 15 in Denver. With two practice sequences followed by a judged best-of-three sequence, McConnell put down an impressive time of 12.3 seconds. Two seconds off his best time was still enough to earn McConnell the seventh-place medal in the 8-year-old division for the individual cycle.
"For an 8-year-old coming in on their own - not on a team - are you kidding?" WSSA executive director of tournaments Pola Metz said. "There's really good competition in that division."
Metz said of the 16 age divisions of 1,125 competitors from 32 states and seven countries, McConnell's time was good enough for an overall annual ranking of 83rd in the world for the demanding cycle - which involves a 3-6-3 stack, followed by a 6-6, to 1-10-1, to a down-stacked 3-6-3).
"It's the premier stacking event," Metz said. "There's three parts, a lot to master, and it's definitely the most fascinating to watch. There's 40 separate hand moves."
McConnell's moves got him noticed by other championship relay teams in need of a free-agent ringer. Unfortunately, none of the teams made it to the finals.
So McConnell will keep practicing and working on improving his times as he looks forward to next year, when Adams plans to send a well-honed Steamboat stacking squadron.
"I practice a couple times a week," said a reserved McConnell on Friday, proudly wearing his official WSSA shirt and medal. "This helps me with piano where I use my fingers and eyes too."
Although sport stacking can be traced back 27 years, the modern version of the sport is rooted firmly in Colorado, where Metz said PE inst-
ructor Bob Fox introduced it to his classes 12 years ago at Coyote Creek Elementary School in Highlands Ranch and then had the "passion, vision and drive," to branch the school competitions out to a regional, state and international level.
The WSSA has information and highlights from the recent world-record setting championships, the largest to date, at www.worldsportstackingassociation.org. Video explaining the various stack formations can be viewed at www.speedstacks.com.