Tiny hands move at neural speed, and the slap of plastic cups against tables echoes through the gym at Lady's Island Elementary School
Third-grader Tommy Holloway yells, "8.21! Mr. Smith, I got 8.21!" to his coach and physical education teacher, Harry Smith, after stacking and unstacking a dozen cups in a required sequence in 8.21 seconds.
"Wow," Smith replied. "I think that's a new school record."
Holloway and five other students from Lady's Island elementary and middle schools practiced this week for the 2009 World Sport Stacking Championships,April 18 and 19 in Denver.
Those six students, in kindergarten through sixth grade, will be the first from Beaufort County to attend a world championship, Smith said.They practice at home or at school for about an hour most days.
Sport stacking, developed in the 1980s in southern California, is a team and individual sport that requires participants to stack and unstack 12 specially designed plastic cups in pre-determined sequences, racing against the clock and their competitors.
The activity helps with hand-eye coordination and requires work from both sides of students' brains because they have to use both hands to do it, and go back and forth across the table, Smith said
The first stacking teams in the Beaufort County School District formed about three years ago, and several elementary and middle schools now sponsor teams of competitive stackers or teach the sport in gym classes. Schools include Mossy Oaks, Bluffton, M.C. Riley, Okatie and Lady's Island elementary schools and Lady's Island Middle School.
Doug Newton, a physical education teacher at Bluffton Elementary, said his students love the sport, which he said is set up for kids -- even those with little athletic ability -- to succeed because the basic rules and patterns are easy to learn.
"It's good for those kids that don't excel necessarily in P.E. class," he said. "It gives them a chance to feel comfortable in class."
Although Smith first introduced the game to students in gym class three years ago, he said sport stacking at Lady's Island Elementary took off this year, and he held try-outs to choose the 40 students that comprise the school's team, which is about twice the size of last year's team.
Fifth-grader Logan Riley, who will be competing in Denver, said stacking never gets boring.
"You don't know when you're going to fumble, when the cups are going to fall, so it's exciting to see what your time will be," he said.