Puzzle taking Warner Robins teen to Germany

WARNER ROBINS — An introduction in the eighth-grade led 16-year-old Jared Phelps to his greatest love.

One day, a friend brought a Rubik’s Cube to school and successfully completed it in one sitting as Phelps watched.

“I just had to know how he did it,” said Phelps, a Houston County High School junior.

Phelps found himself in a store purchasing his own Rubik’s Cube. Soon, he was amazing his friends with how quickly he solved the puzzle. When the novelty of that cube wore off, he purchased a bigger one.

Phelps’ infatuation with the Rubik’s Cube has earned him a chance to compete in the 2009 World Rubik’s Cube Championship on Oct. 9-11 in Dusseldorf, Germany. He qualified after participating in the Horizon’s Open in Atlanta, where he tied for first place by completing a four-by-four cube in less than seven minutes while blindfolded.

Phelps has collected 14 different Rubik’s Cubes of various sizes, from the standard three-by-three that you can buy in your local toy store all the way up to the six-by-six that is only available from Italy. He is trying to get his hands on a seven-by-seven cube from China.

Since Phelps started about three years ago, he has participated in five competitions. Much of his time is spent practicing or perusing books looking for the next major Rubik’s Cube innovation.

His mother, Catherine Phelps, has grown accustomed to hearing “click-clack” noises around the house. When people see her son with his cube, she fills with pride even though she doesn’t quite grasp where he learned such a skill.

“I think it’s really neat and I got energized by it,” Catherine Phelps said. “We do everything we can to get him to competitions.”

While he enjoys competing and learning new strategies, the Rubik’s Cube has not taken over Jared Phelps’ entire life.

He is active in his school’s academic and math clubs and plans to participate on the school’s swim team.

He also plays piano and tuba and is involved in activities at his church, Southside Baptist.

Nevertheless, his dream and focus right now is on bringing a championship back to Middle Georgia.

He said his Rubik’s Cube aspirations won’t end even if he succeeds.

“I’ll just keep going and trying to get faster times,” Phelps said.

To contact writer Natasha Smith, call 923-3109, extension 236.