How I started
My story isn’t really anything special. I didn’t have an internet connection that was stable enough for YouTube until 2012, so most of the time I played very light games like Club Penguin or Poptropica (I was 13 at the time). So once we got the ability to watch something without it taking years to load, I went and looked up everything I could. Rubik’s cubes was one of the first things for some reason.
I learned from Dan Brown, which I can’t 100% recommend for beginners. Feliks Zemdegs I believe learned with this same tutorial, so it’s definitely not the worst. He used a weird version of movement notation which uses ‘i’ for “inverted” instead of an apostrophe for “prime”, I think this might have been the notation Rubik’s had in their pamphlets for a while. Once you start branching out you might be a little lost with normal notation. He also taught on something other than white. I think he was color neutral himself, actually, but white is sort of the standard. This, again, isn’t the end of the world but I’m not sure how many beginners will comprehend that colors don’t really mean anything apart from recognition. The main reason I don’t like his method of solving it, is because it makes it harder to switch to CFOP, especially for the last layer.
Anyway, this isn’t a “Dan Brown Hate” post, moving on. I had my first cube solved in about a day, after that I just kept going and started timing myself and got faster and faster.
My mother was very supportive and would take me to most of the competitions I wanted to go to, so I was able to travel a little bit and go to Maryland, Virginia, South Carolina and western North Carolina.
The first competition I went to was in Raleigh, North Carolina only about 3 or 4 months after I started solving cubes. I didn’t do very well, and I think I even hears some people making fun of how I was using a Rubik’s brand for one handed solving, but I had a lot of fun regardless.
The 2nd competition I went to was a River hill competition in Maryland. This is where I got to meet one of the people I really look up to in cubing, Rowe Hessler. He was such a cool dude, and signed this book I had gotten the year I started. I recorded a video of him solving a 4x4 for my teacher just to show that there were people who were faster than me. I can actually solve a 4x4 faster than he did in that video now, which is pretty sweet. I was sub-20 for 3x3 at this competition, which was a very big milestone for cubers in that time, not sure if it is anymore.
The next competition that stand out was my 4th competition in Charlotte, North Carolina. This is where I got my first podiums ever. I placed 3rd for both 4x4 and 5x5 which were the events I practiced the most for leading up to the competition. I think I was expecting to do pretty well in 4x4, but 5x5 was a complete shock considering that was the first time I had competed in 5x5. After this, I decided 5x5 was going to be my main event, and went on to break state records in it several times. I’m not sure when I first broke state record, however.
My 5th competition was United States Nationals 2015 in Hilton Head, South Carolina. This was a lot of fun and was a mini vacation for my family and I. The area was so beautiful, and competing in such a large place was so much fun. I got to meet even more of my idols and get them to sign my book. People like Chris Olson, Mitch Lane, Kevin Hays, Pavan Ravindra, Drew Brads, Lucas Etter, Noah Arthurs, just so many cool people. I may have broken some state records here, but I can’t remember. I did pretty well at skewb, which was unexpected.
After nationals, most of the competitions I’ve been to have been ones hosted in North Carolina, and a few scattered in Virginia. This is where I really started to compete well and get rid of the nerves. I also started staffing competitions where I would judge solves, run cubes, scramble and help set up the venue. I don’t remember a lot of these because it’s been so long, and nothing really stands out. Around this time is when I started breaking my own state records consistently, I have a PB streak of 15 as of now which is 100% of my competitions.
Gobbler Cube Day 2017
This story deserves it’s own section because it is really special to me. Gobbler Cube Day 2017 was really really memorable for me because I got to go up against people who had held world records. And despite all the nerves I came out really well. I got to go up against Corey Sakowski who was overall really decent at most events and broke the NAR for multiblind at one of my first competitions, Tommy Szeliga who held the world record for Square-1, and Keaton Ellis who held the 3x3 WR single for about an hour (because Lucas Etter broke it at the same competition, it was never counted as a world record </3).
I made it to finals for 3x3, which wasn’t uncommon at this point for me, I was solving consistently low 11, high 10 seconds which got you pretty far still. What was uncommon was it was head to head solves, I had only seen this done at nationals. To make it worse on my nerves I was second seed so I was going head to head against Keaton for the very last 2 sets of solves. Funny side note, Keaton and Corey had hosted a seminar at nationals 2015 for how to not get nervous in competitions, but I didn’t attend it. Before the round started, they made all the finalists sit in a different room. We were all able to talk and warm up, and just the 2 people who would be competing next would leave the room. I sat and started talking with Tommy about some stuff, I think mostly about his world record and where he was from, just basic conversation.
A small anecdote that I will brag about until I die: One small tradition that happens at competitions (at least in North Carolina and surrounding states) is a bunch of friends will sometimes go to dinner after competitions to celebrate. I’ve been invited a few times, but I’ve never been able to go because I lived so far away and we are already going to get home late. Tommy ended up inviting me out to dinner with them. ME at a table sharing a meal with WORLD RECORD HOLDERS, I was so flattered to be asked. It’s not really like a club of “oh you have to be winner’s circle to be invited”, but just the fact that I was cool enough to be invited to dinner was a highlight.
Anyway, back to the finals story. Eventually, everyone goes and competes, so it’s just me and Keaton and we start talking about cube stuff and whatever. The conversations I had back there really calmed me down. I knew I wasn’t going to win, but I was still a little jittery. Before we went back to the waiting area they asked what cube we were using, how old we were, and how long we’d been cubing, so when you walked out they would introduce you. My solves in the final round were recorded, so you can watch that if you want, so I’m not gonna talk too much about the solves. After the 3rd solve I calmed down a ton more because Keaton got a 6.79, so I knew there was no chance anymore XD. I then got a 9 second and an 8 second solve. The 8 second solve is still my second fastest time in comp, and I used a ZBLL alg. This was such a memorable competition and I loved every minute of the finals. I am so glad to have gone and am so glad I got footage of it.
1st Place Podiums
The final competition I’ll mention is the first(and only) competition I placed first in, Carolina Cubers United 2018. One of my good cubing friends, Kyler Smith, was the organizer, and Cady Shields was the delegate. Cady was the organizer of Charlotte open 2014 where I got my first podiums for 4x4 and 5x5, so it’s really funny to me that she was the delegate for the first competition I won 4x4 and 5x5 in. It really shows our growth I think. I don’t remember much of this competition besides it being kind of warm in the venue, and we had parked our car in the spot that the HVAC guy needed to get to in order to fix the air conditioning. Kyler Smith hosted a few competitions before he joined the military, and his were always ran really well and very enjoyable because my friends would be there.
Return to competitions?
With Covid-19 really putting a stress on close contact and large gatherings, competitive cubing took a big hit. I haven’t been to a competition since 2019 (it’s 2022 as I’m writing this). There have been a few online competitions which I’m happy to see, and more people are probably interacting on facebook and discord groups. I don’t trust my internet well enough to be able compete in them. I am sad to say that my heyday has come and gone. I still solve cubes semi-frequently, and am still the fastest I’ve ever been. But my free time is limited now, and there are all these kids who come and get an official 7 second average in competitions by the time they’re 10. I will still try to go to local competitions (Raleigh/Charlotte) when I can, but I won’t be expecting much in the way of results.