ELYRIA — When she first got wind of the international effort to set a world record for cup-stacking, Westwood Junior High health and physical education teacher Tricia Small didn’t think much of the idea.
“We’re not really into this,” Small recalled thinking at the time she first heard about the event. “Cup-stacking is not a fitness activity.”
She changed her mind after learning how much went into the undertaking, in which 167 Westwood Middle School students as well as 106 students at North Ridgeville’s Liberty Elementary School help set a new world record of more than 500,000 cup-stackers who took part in the one-day exercise Thursday.
The mark was verified to participating schools and other organizations Monday via email from the World Sports Stacking Association, which has teamed with The Guinness Book of World Records eight times for the cup-stacking challenge attempted on Guinness World Records Day.
The 2012 world cup-stacking mark of 483,658 participants was shattered at 12:50 p.m. Sunday when the 385 participating students at TT Elementary School in Tarawa Terrace, N.C., were verified as part of the event, according to the stacking association.
Other area schools taking part included North Olmsted Middle School and Olmsted Falls Intermediate School.
Children in 33 countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Colombia, Hong Kong, Ireland, Israel, Korea, South Africa, Taiwan and the United Kingdom, worked for 30 or more verifiable minutes — as witnessed by another teacher or official — to build small pyramids from nine plastic cups.
The idea behind the cup-stacking contest was not to see how many cups could be stacked globally but to track and document how many cup-stackers took part, according to Small.
Participants came primarily from schools, although there were some community-based youth organizations among this year’s roughly 37,000 participating groups.
The official number of children who took part in last week’s cup-stacking event won’t be verified for about a week, according to Guinness officials.
The number surpassed a half-million as of midday Monday, according to the WSSA.
Small made sure the exercise was not only mentally stimulating but physically active as well, with 50 minutes of exercises such as sit-ups and push-ups interspersed with all the eye-hand coordination and balancing of row upon row of cups.
“We saw how much brain activity was involved, and how much it engaged and focused students with right-left brain functions,” Small said. “They get fitness and a competition.”