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Omaha Magazine

Prince of Cups

Aug 10, 2016 02:05PM ● By Daisy Hutzell-Rodman

Most folks use cups only for drinking. Not Andrew Dale. The unconventional 12-year-old athlete from Omaha uses cups to travel the globe, forge international friendships, and hone his world-class sport stacking skills.

“Not many people know that stacking is a sport,” says Dale, Nebraska’s top-ranked stacker. “It takes dedication and lots of practice to become a top competitor. You actually sweat from it.”

Sport stacking—governed by the World Sport Stacking Association (WSSA) and sanctioned as a Junior Olympics sport—is both an individual and team sport where competitors stack plastic cups in regulated sequences as quickly as possible.

In his basement stacking lair, surrounded by scores of trophies, medals, and an army of aerodynamic cups, Dale demonstrates why he’s nationally and internationally ranked. His expert hands fly into a blur, growing and shrinking pyramids of cups as they tap out a distinct beat.        

Sport stacking was pioneered in 1981 by Wayne Godinet at a Boys & Girls Club in Oceanside, California. Bob Fox, a Colorado elementary school teacher, took the sport to the next level in the late `90s when he founded Speed Stacks and the WSSA. While primarily a youth sport, divisions range up to seniors.               

Dale casually began sport stacking in 2012 after watching a 2002 video of Emily Fox—Bob Fox’s daughter—setting one of the sport’s early world records.   

“I thought it was just awesome, so I started stacking at home with plastic drinking cups,” says Dale, who currently holds world and national records in the 11-12 division, and is WSSA-ranked  No. 5 worldwide and  No. 4 in the U.S.

Although sometimes peeved to search in vain for cups, Mark Dale appreciated his son’s enthusiasm for what he initially thought would be a passing fancy. So, Mark and his late wife, Kate Dale, allowed the house-wide stacking, the missing cups, and the percussive clamor of practice, eventually granting Andrew’s wish to compete in his first tournament in Maryland in 2013.      

“After day one, he was first in his division across the board,” says Mark, adding that Andrew’s performance pleasantly surprised him and Kate. “We came back the second day for the finals, and now we’re nervous!”

Nerves gave way to celebration when Andrew finished first across the board and won the national championship, shortly after which he was invited to join the Team USA Junior Olympics sport stacking team.

“It’s very rare to get invited after your first tournament. When I was first getting into it, I never thought I’d actually become one of the fastest kids in the world. I thought I’d just be a regular kid, just stacking cups,” says Dale, who is consistently humble about his incredible talent.

While Dale enjoys stacking and excelling in competitions, he also loves the camaraderie of the sport stacking community, which gives him the opportunity to make friends worldwide. He scrimmages and hangs out online with friends from South Korea, Malaysia, Germany, Canada, and cities across the U.S.

Dale’s stacking career allows him to explore the U.S.—he’ll be in Houston this summer for the 50th Anniversary Junior Olympic Games—and travel internationally, too.

“It’s so interesting to see new places in person. It’s just amazing,” he says.

Dale’s been to Montreal, where he finished second in the 2015 World Sport Stacking Championships, and his mother Kate’s hometown of Seoul, South Korea, which was especially poignant after her passing from cancer in February of 2016.     

“Kate and I really tried to instill maintaining humility and the Golden Rule in Andrew,” says Mark, who is as proud of Andrew’s sportsmanship as his talent. “I’m thrilled with his discipline and astounded at how calm and collected he is at these major tournaments. To be considered a top competitor in the world in anything is a remarkable, unbelievable achievement.”

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