VIDEO: Beaufort County student sets world record in sport stacking

info@islandpacket.comApril 11, 2013 

Anna Smith, 14, of Lady's Island stacks cups on Thursday afternoon at Beaufort High School. Smith competed in the 2013 World Sports Stacking Championship in Orlando, Fla. and set the new world record for females in the 3-6-3 stack.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Beaufort High School ninth-grader Anna Smith's movements are quick, fluid and precise. Blink and you miss them.

In just more than two seconds, Smith turns three stacks of cups into three pyramids that disappear back into three stacks of cups.

"It's so fast, it doesn't register at first. You go, 'Wait. What just happened?'" said Beaufort County School District spokesman Jim Foster, who filmed the speed stacker in action.

Anna set a world record last weekend at the 2013 World Sport Stacking Championships in Orlando, Fla. Nearly 250 stackers of all ages from 16 countries participated.

"It's kind of surreal," she said Thursday. "I wasn't expecting that."

Sport stacking -- also known as cup stacking or speed stacking -- requires participants to quickly stack and unstack specially designed plastic cups in a predetermined pattern.

She performed the 3-6-3 stack in 2.237 seconds, beating the previous girls' world record by 0.013 seconds. Before that, she was ranked third in the nation and for a time held an American record before it was taken from her by another Team USA member during the national championship in Baltimore.

"It's amazing," says her mother, Debbie Smith, a master teacher at Lady's Island Elementary School, especially given how the odds were stacked against her at an early age.

At 1 1/2 years old, doctors told Anna's parents she probably would never walk or talk.

The adopted Russian orphan was severely anemic and malnourished and had not hit key milestones for a child's development.

"She was really bad off," Debbie Smith said. "She looked like every starving child with a distended stomach you see in campaigns about world hunger."

But within a few months of bringing her home, Anna was as healthy as any normal child her age.

"She just needed food. She was too weak," Debbie Smith said. "As soon as she started eating, she started walking."

Now, whatever she picks up -- athletically, artistically or academically -- she seems to be a natural, Debbie Smith said.

Her father, a physical education teacher at Lady's Island Elementary, inadvertently turned her on to stacking.

"I was flipping through a PE catalogue in 2006 and came across it, thinking it would be a fun, new, different activity for the kids," Harry Smith said. "And Anna just stood out."

Harry Smith formed the first stacking teams in the Beaufort County School District seven years go, and several elementary and middle schools now sponsor teams or teach the sport in gym classes.

The activity helps with hand-eye coordination and requires work from both sides of students' brains because they have to use both hands and go back and forth across the table, he said.

Anna, who also plays varsity soccer and junior varsity tennis, practiced about an hour a day for a month to prepare for the world championship, constantly repeating the sequences -- stacking and unstacking pyramids of three then six then three cups.

"It was something cool and new that other people weren't doing," Anna said. "And it was different from other sports and was easy to learn and pick up."

Her next goal: Set a national record for the cycle stack -- a sequence of stacks combining a 3-6-3 stack, a 6-6 stack and a 1-10-1 stack, in that order -- at the Junior Olympics in Detroit in July.

"It takes a lot of repetition and precision and knowing what you're going to do before you do it," Anna said. "Because if you have to think about it, it doesn't work. It's got to be a reflex."

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