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Local cup stacking champ to compete for world title

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Posted: March 27, 2008 9:47 p.m.
Updated: April 11, 2008 5:00 a.m.
Local cup stacking champ to compete for world title

Bulloch Academy ninth grader John Harden demonstrates his cup stacking skills.

    What is sport stacking, anyway?
    Bulloch Academy student John Harden can tell you. The 14-year-old has only been stacking for 15 months, but he’s a state champion headed for the world championship in Denver, Colorado, next weekend.
    Sport stacking is simple — a competitor stacks a number of plastic cups in various arrangements, breaks the stack down and creates another — all in fluid movement.
    Stacking cups? Believe it or not, it has become a highly popular sport around the world, and Harden hopes to become the sport’s king.
    “I got it for Christmas,” he said about his first sport stacking set. An uncle thought it would be a cool game for the teen, but he never expected John to dedicate the time he has to become a champion.
    “I did it and stuck with it,” Harden said. “I kept doing it and got better.”
    Soon he was entering tournaments, and in the Georgia competition, he was one of the better stackers.
    When he went to the 2008 Georgia Sport Stacking competition, he came away as reigning state champ.
    “There were three different competitive stacks,” he explained. You do three stacks of three, take it down. Then you do three-six-three, take them down. Then you do the cycle, which is longer.”
    Harden was the overall individual winner and holds the state and national record. April 5 and 6, he will be stacking in Denver, competing with 1,500 others from 10 other countries, battling for the world championship.
    Harden’s national record for the 3-3-3 stack is 2.34 seconds. As one watches his hands move in a blur as cups appear in stacks, disappear and form others, it’s not a hard thing to believe.
    “It’s amazing to watch him,” said Anne Clay, Harden’s mother.
    Sport stacking is all over the Internet, Harden said. There are YouTube videos of sport stackers. Some may have never heard of the sport, but there is a sport-stacking society that thrives on the simple but skill-requiring activity.
    Sports are important to Harden. When not stacking cups, he participates in soccer, track and field events and cross country at school.
    He even makes the honor roll.
    But his favorite thing is competing.
    “You just keep getting faster,” he said. “The more competitions, the more chances you have of setting a record.”
    He’s not alone. Harden’s friends join him in sort stacking. “ They like it,” he said.
    But some people are puzzled. “A lot of people ask what it is,” he said. “But it gets more popular every year. All states do it now.”
    The sport helps maintain ambidexterity, eye-to-hand coordination and reflexes, he said.
    Sport stacking began over 20 years ago when a California physical education teacher created it as an exercise, he said.
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