Stack­ing Stars win gold at Jr. Olympics

Record Observer - - Front Page - By HAN­NAH COMBS hcombs@kibay­

CENTREVILLE — Five years of train­ing and prac­tice paid off for the Centreville Stack­ing Stars when they com­peted at the Ju­nior Olympics Sport Stack­ing Cham­pi­onships in Hous­ton and won gold! Ali­son Kern, phys­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion in­struc­tor at Centreville El­e­men­tary and club coach for the Centreville Stack­ing Stars, was re­spon­si­ble for lead­ing the team to qual­i­fy­ing at Na­tion­als, held at Tow­son High in Mary­land, March 12 and 13, 2016 and then on to Hous­ton, July 29 and 30.

For 12 weeks, the stu­dents met be­fore school at 7:30 a.m. to prac­tice for an hour, Kern said. The club was open to stu­dents at Centreville and Ken­nard el­e­men­tary schools, and Kern had about 30 stu­dents who trav­eled to Tow­son for the

Na­tion­als in March. Six of those stu­dents qual­i­fied to com­pete in the Ju­nior Olympics.

Bre Kern, age 5, Cait­lyn Rath, age 11, James Rath, age 8, Kara Rin­gold, age 8, Lexi Kern, age 7, and Shan­non Rath, age 8, trav­eled with their coaches and par­ents to com­pete at the two-day event in Hous­ton. Jen­nifer Rath co­coached with Kern.

The event — a sanc­tioned, world com­pe­ti­tion — took place at the Ge­orge R. Brown Con­ven­tion Cen­ter in Hous­ton and fea­tured two pre­lim­i­nary qual­i­fier rounds (pre­lims) for in­di­vid­ual events. For this year’s event, the World Sport Stack­ing As­so­ci­a­tion used its tra­di­tional scor­ing sys­tem and all in­di­vid­ual fi­nals were based on re­sults from each event (3-3-3, 3-6-3 and Cy­cle). The top 10 stack­ers in each event and age di­vi­sion ad­vanced to fi­nals and re­ceived awards based on their fi­nals times in each event. The top five dou­bles teams and top four re­lay teams in the timed 3-6-3 re­lay in each age di­vi­sion also ad­vanced to the fi­nals.

Cups are stacked in pyra­mids of sets of three, or sets of three and six in the mid­dle; in cy­cles and re­lay it is a com­bi­na­tion.

Com­pet­ing with so many other stu­dents, some from other coun­tries, in­clud­ing Canada and Malaysia, wasn’t scary at all, said James Rath, “be­cause we’ve done it be­fore (at na­tion­als).”

Cait­lyn Rath was cho­sen to com­pete with the top 32 fe­males in the na­tion. Cait­lyn’s age bracket was 11- and 12-year-old girls and was a very tough age group to com­pete in, she said.

The stack­ing com­pe­ti­tion is stiff, said Kern. Many of the teams rep­re­sented com­pete and prac­tice year-round, while for Queen Anne’s County stu­dents, stack­ing is only part of the be­fore and af­ter school pro­grams of­fered. Other sports and ac­tiv­i­ties are also en­cour­aged, said Kern, and many of her stu­dents par­tic­i­pate in soc­cer and at least one other ex­tracur­ric­u­lar ac­tiv­ity in ad­di­tion to stack­ing.

“It can be chal­leng­ing and fun,” said Kern, “but it is about much more than just com­pet­ing. The kids learn to han­dle pres­sure (per­form­ing in front of judges), build con­fi­dence, prac­tice team build­ing skills and most im­por­tantly how to per­form their per­sonal best.”

Kern said that with a sport that uses such pre­cise tim­ing to score re­sults she likes to en­cour­age the chil­dren to con­cen­trate on beat­ing their per­sonal best time, in­stead of com­par­ing them­selves to their team­mates.

Bre Kern, who re­ceived the gold medal in the 6U re­lay, said she can’t wait to do it again.

One of the hard­est events, ac­cord­ing to James Rath, is the cy­cling event, “be­cause you have to stack up and down a lot,” he said. Judges watch to see not only how fast the com­peti­tors are, but how clean and how many fouls are com­mit­ted.

Cait­lyn Rath said com­pet­ing with a dou­bles part­ner was the event she found most chal­leng­ing. Part­ners hold hands and work to­gether to cre­ate stacks, “You re­ally have to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with your part­ner,” said Rath.

Bre Kern com­peted in 6U dou­bles with a part­ner from Texas, as did James Rath in the 8U with a part­ner from Colorado.

The trip wasn’t all about com­pet­ing though, the kids had time to visit a wa­ter park in Galve­ston and the Hous­ton In­ter­na­tional Space Cen­ter, along with a chil­dren’s mu­seum and a chance to play un­der­cover spies.

Other Ju­nior Olympic events were also tak­ing place around Hous­ton, said Jen­nifer Rath, adding what a fun ex­pe­ri­ence it was to see dif­fer­ent ath­letes in their trav­els.

Cait­lyn Rath had a unique op­por­tu­nity when one of the Olympic ath­letes com­pet­ing in Rio with the women’s Rugby team stopped to try cup stack­ing with her.

“Cait­lyn’s time was faster,” said Jen­nifer Rath.

To com­pre­hend just how fast these kids can move, here is a list of some of their best times:

Bre Kern, 6U, had a time of 6.763 on the 3-3-3.

Lexi Kern, 7F, had a time of 4.707 in the 3-6-3; she also re­ceived gold in cy­cle with a time of 13.592 (al­most 2 full sec­onds ahead of se­cond place) and gold in the all-around.

Shan­non Rath, 8F, had a time of 3.270 in the 3-3-3 and 4.454 in the 3-6-3.

James Rath, 8M, had a time of 2.731 in his 3-3-3 and 3.444 in the 3-6-3. He placed se­cond in the cy­cle com­pe­ti­tion with a time of 10.141.

Cait­lyn Rath, 11-12F, won gold in the 3-3-3 with a time of just 2.403 sec­onds. She was third in the 3-6-3 with a time of 3.373 and third in the all-around at 15.937.

Kara Rin­gold was a first-year com­peti­tor with the club and had a best qual­i­fy­ing time at Na­tion­als.

One of the big­gest high­lights of the trip was the team gold they re­ceived for re­lays, said Kern. James, Kara, Lexi and Shan­non com­peted to­gether in the team re­lay to place first with a time of 24.101 sec­onds.


Cel­e­brat­ing the win at the Ju­nior Olympics, from left, back, James Rath, Lexi Kern, Cait­lyn Rath, Shan­non Rath and Kara Rin­gold. Front, from left, Brooke Rin­gold and Bre Kern.


Fore­ground, Lexi Kern earns a high-five from one of the judges at the Ju­nior Olympics. In the back­ground, other con­tes­tants com­pete and prac­tice.

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