Stacking Stars win gold at Jr. Olympics
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.