Indoor recess in Elementary School was the place Michael Vanner found a new passion many years ago. His third-grade teacher gave him and other kids some cups and they would practice stacking.
Vanner, an East Aurora native, took the game one step further. He looked up videos online of sports stackers and wanted to be just as fast as they were.
With over eight years of experience, the now 15-year-old Vanner is now the #8 ranked sports stacker in the world and competes on the United States sports stacking team. He has competed in many competitions throughout the U.S. and will be competing in the AAU Junior Olympics July 27th & 28th in Des Moines, Iowa with over 300 other competitors from around the world.
Speed is the most important factor for sports stacking. Vanner says the only way to get better at the sport is through repetition and lots of practice.
"It's all repetition, so practice is really key," Vanner said. "That is like that for a lot of sports, especially this sport because it is all repetition."
There are three ways to stack the cups during a competition and for each stack, the competitor is timed. There is a 3-3-3, 3-6-3, and then a cycle, where the number of cups being stacked on each other increases. The competitors get three tries to stack the cups as fast as they can. There are specific cups and timing boards that the stackers use.
"Its all muscle memory at this point,"Vanner said. "I'm so used to doing it fast that I just kinda do it how I remember, it comes naturally at this point."
The competitiveness of the sport and seeing his own personal improvement is what keeps Vanner stacking. His favorite part about competitions is the friends he has made over the years.
"The people are always the best part of everything, the friends you make last forever," Vanner added.
Vanner has been practicing for weeks--sometimes for three hours a day-- for the Junior Olympics but is most excited to see his friends and to try and beat his best time.
"It's not really about winning, it's more about bettering yourself," Vanner said. "If you can get a good time that's all that matters."
Last year Vanner placed third and hopes to return to the podium this year.