KENNEWICK -- In the gymnasium of Southgate Elementary in Kennewick, hundreds of little hands moved in an intricate flurry Thursday.
Across the world, hundreds of thousands of children were doing the same as they tried to help set a new record for sport stacking.
That's right -- sport stacking. Assembling pyramids out of plastic cups at lightning speeds.
The activity is popular the world over. There are rules, leagues and competitions.
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There's even a World Sport Stacking Association, which attempted to break a Guinness world record Thursday for "Most people sport stacking in multiple locations on one day."
Last year, 276,053 stackers across the globe smashed the previous record. They were at it again Thursday in places such as Nepal, South Africa, Germany and even the Tri-Cities.
At Southgate, children lined up behind grids taped onto the floor at either end of the gym. At each intersection within the grid sat a stack of plastic cups.
At the signal, the children darted off, hastily rearranged each stack of cups they encountered into a pyramid and then worked their way back down the line, restacking them again.
It was a relay race of ambidexterity and toppled plastic cups.
In the center of the gym were rows of tables with cups and time displays. This is where the serious competition would be held if this had been about individual performances.
But this time it was just about showing up, joining a global community and stacking cups for 30 minutes straight.
Even though personal times didn't count, the children at the tables furiously attacked the cups, stacking them in the internationally sanctioned 3-6-3 pattern.
Here's how it works:
Twelve cups are stacked upside-down, as in a cupboard. They're arranged in stacks of three, six and three cups, in that order.
The child's hands touch two sensors on the table. As soon as the kid's hands lift, a timer starts running. Working in an organized pattern, the child arranges the cups to make three pyramids: One cup on top of two on either side, and one on two on three in the middle.
Then the child reverses the process and hits the sensors to stop the timer.
It's not nearly as easy as it sounds, and the students benefit from the activity in several ways.
Sport stacking requires hand-eye coordination, counting while under pressure and uses both sides of the brain, said the physical education teacher who got Southgate kids stacking a few years ago.
"You hear about it at all the P.E. conferences and in the books," Lori Woods said. "It even helps academic performance."
Coordinating the movements of the left and right hand simultaneously "translates into left brain-right brain crossover," Woods said.
Another benefit is that the sport is a level playing field for special needs kids.
"I put together a Southgate stacking team for the Northwest regionals in 2009," Woods said. "The special needs kids came back with lots of medals."
Several other Tri-City schools participated in the global record attempt.
By evening, results for Keene-Riverview Elementary in Prosser and Maya Angelou Elementary in Pasco showed up on the association's website.
The tallies of the other area schools that participated -- Whittier Elementary in Pasco and Lincoln, Edison and Eastgate elementaries in Kennewick -- and of the local Boys & Girls Club still were pending, as were many from around the world.
Go to worldsportstackingassociation.org to find out if the kids set a new record.
* Jacques Von Lunen: 509-582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org