Duke Freshman a New Media Superstar for Cup Stacking Skills

Duke University freshman Rachael Nedrow boasts a massive YouTube following.

She has appeared on “America’s Got Talent.” She is featured in a song by beloved electronic music artist Skrillex that has gone Platinum, nabbed a Grammy and garnered more than 140 million online hits. And during Duke’s recent fall convocation for new students, the dean of undergraduate admissions mentioned her as one of the pinnacles of the university’s diverse, high-achieving class of 2017.

What’s the secret to Nedrow’s acclaim and success? Her mastery of sport stacking, also sometimes called speed stacking or cup stacking.

The increasingly popular competitive activity– which even Nedrow admits may not be an actual sport– involves stacking, de-stacking and sometimes subsequently re-stacking a set amount of specially-made plastic cups in predetermined ways as fast as possible.

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Sound complicated? Watch sport stackers in action on YouTube. The best ones handle the cups without a second thought, literally appearing like they are in fast forward. It is the arc Nedrow’s own sport stacking journey has taken.

The 18-year-old from Portland, Ore., said she has always sported excellent hand-eye coordination. She first mastered video games– the sci-fi shoot-em-up classic Halo is her favorite– and later tennis, becoming a three-time state champion among small high schools in Oregon.

She started sport stacking in middle school after randomly catching a YouTube video of an accomplished stacker. It led to a trip to the kitchen cupboard and some awkward early attempts with Dixie cups and plastic party cups. Two-hour daily practices followed. By November 2009, as a high school freshman, she had been unofficially named the fastest female sport stacker in the world.

“Sport stacking is something that just clicks with some people and doesn’t with others,” she said. “For me, from the start I found it really addicting and just kind of a fun thing to do. It’s hard to explain, but it’s kind of a de-stresser. If you’re tense, you won’t stack well, because it’s all muscle memory. If you think about it, you will inevitably mess up. It’s something that you have to just DO and not think about.”

In videos Nedrow began posting to YouTube under the username speedstackinggirl, her animated reactions almost immediately made her one of the stacking community’s more popular participants.

“I think I just put a little more effort into my videos,” she said. “I have the same kind of camera viewpoint in all my videos, a straight, frontal view with good lighting, which kind of helped.”

Her most viewed record-breaking moment premiered in October 2008. The title of the video that went viral: “7.00!!! OMG!!! NEW PB! OMG!! OMG!!! SO CLOSE TO SIX!!

It features Nedrow hollering with glee for more than a minute about a new personal-best stacking achievement.

“I’ve had a lot of crazy reactions, but that one was unique,” she said. “I just went over the top and screamed ‘Oh My Gosh’ and ‘Yes’ maybe 30 times. When it first came out, the reaction was crazy. It was definitely one of my more popular videos even before Skrillex saw it.”

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