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Sam Barlow student Joey Cooksey stacks up against nation's premier cup competitors



OUTLOOK PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Joey Cooksey shows off a cup pyramid, a formation that is only a blur when she is actually performing her sport. With a thick shock of pink bangs nearly obscuring her eyes, Joey Cooksey stands at a table loaded with an array of black cups, ready to spring into action.

She pounces and stacks the cups into a pyramid and unstacks them several times, all in a matter of seconds.

This is Oregon's No. 1 sport stacker in action.

Cooksey, a 17-year-old junior at Sam Barlow High School, is on her way to defend her perch at the 2015 World Championship sport stacking tournament held April 11-12 in Montreal, Canada. The invitation-only tournament is expected to attract more than 240 stackers from 14 countries.

Cooksey discovered cup stacking only about two years ago when she watched a video on YouTube and decided to give it a go. Her mom gave her a sleeve of Solo cups, and she started stacking. Then came some plastic water glasses and finally, for Christmas, she got her first set of official sport stacking cups.

“I like stacking, because you are kind of competing against yourself, Cooksey said. “Also, you make so many friends from around the world. I have friends from New Zealand.”

Joey's mother, Lynda Cooksey, also likes the events.

"They're a great bunch of families," she said, "very loving.”

Cooksey practices as much as three hours a day in the family's cozy living room on Southeast Orient Drive. Her stacking ribbons and trophies are on display, as well as musical instruments.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Cooksey in the middle of a stack, makes it look easy. It isnt.A talented musician, Cooksey plays multiple instruments, including drums. She plays trumpet and drums in Sam Barlow's symphonic band as well as performs in a “post hardcore” rock band.

“The whole rhythm thing goes along with stacking,” she says.

Sam Barlow High School Band Director Paul Nickolas praises Cooksey's persistence and charisma.

“She is a hard-working percussionist who has earned a spot in our top ensemble at Barlow through hard work and dedication,” he says. “She has an unassuming way about her (that) when combined with a dry sense of humor, makes her really fun to be around.”



Stacks of fun

The sport of cup stacking involves timed stacking and unstacking of small plastic cups in specific patterns, using nine or 12 cups. The stacking routines, involving about 45 moves, take only a few seconds.

Anybody can sport stack.

“We have 'em in all ages, interests and ability levels,” says Bob Fox, executive director of the WSSA.

The sport is relatively new. Formed in 2005, the World Sport Stacking Association promotes the sport, sets rules and runs the tournaments.

OUTLOOK PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Some of Joey Cookseys sport stacking cups and trophys crowd out her moms coffee table decor. It is a relatively easy sport to get started on, with not much space needed and relatively inexpensive equipment. A basic speed-stacking set with a timer costs about $35.

Traveling to the tournaments however, isn't cheap.

Cooksey is in a constant state of fundraising. She has a GoFundMe account. She takes part in bottle drives and demonstrations at toy stores and other venues. She likes to participate in the Last Thursday street festival in Northeast Portland's Alberta Arts District.

“She gets quite a crowd,” Lynda says, while earning good tips too.

Cooksey is going to try doubles stacking with her mom at the Montreal tournament. They've been practicing.

"We are a force to be reckoned with,” Lynda says with a laugh.

Cooksey plans to travel to Hampton Roads, Va., in July for the Junior Olympic sport stacking championships.

Mom Lynda is understandably proud of her accomplished daughter.

“I got very lucky,” she said. "She is pretty fun.”

Nickolas agrees.

“Joey is a fantastic kid who finds joy and fun in just about everything she does.”

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