Bryce Wettstein of Encinitas scored win to solidify her place as top American Park skater in Olympic qualifying
The remainder of the season that leads up to naming of the U.S. team that will skateboard in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo will take the athletes to competitions around the world.
Encinitas 14-year-old Bryce Wettstein will happily be on the caravan, and even though there likely are more victories ahead, they probably won’t feel quite as sweet as her win on Sunday, Oct. 20.
Only a few miles from home, at the CA Training Facility in Vista, Wettstein continued to solidify her status as a U.S. Olympic skate front-runner at the USA Skateboarding Toyota 2019 National Championships.
Among three runs in the Park bowl, Wettstein notched a top judges’ score of 48.15 and bested Hawaii’s Kody Tamanaha (43.10).
She was among the four major winners in a competition reserved only for American skaters. Dashawn Jordan, of Chandler, Ariz., captured the Men’s Street, Mariah Duran, of Albuquerque, N.M., won the Women’s Street and Rialto’s Tristan Rennie prevailed in Men’s Park.
All of the finalists earned important points toward Olympic qualifying, and Wettstein already was the top-ranked American in Park, entering the event at No. 10 in the World Skateboarding Rankings.
“It means more than the world, honestly,” Wettstein said of being the top American. “I feel like with where I am now, I have an impact in the world, in my life and traveling. It is so much more than I ever asked for.”
A sophomore at San Dieguito Academy, Wettstein is a homegrown San Diego skater who has been a regular at the YMCA Encinitas skatepark since she was little. She spent much of her younger years on the backyard skate ramp of close friend and Encinitas neighbor Brighton Zeuner, who finished fourth in Park on Sunday.
Zeuner’s family has moved to Newport Beach, and Wettstein now has a pool and ramp in her own backyard. She also is fortunate enough to also be able to skate regularly at the CATF facility, which was built specifically to train Olympic prospects.
“I really wanted to win this one,” Wettstein said. “This one of my favorite parks, because it’s so different from other parks. You have these peculiar obstacles, and everyone uses them differently. No matter who you are, you’re going to have something new to show.”
Wettstein said she was most concerned with her spin tricks going into the competition, and she nailed them in her runs.
“I’m really not trying to think about (the tricks) so much,” Wettstein said. “It’s when you overthink that your conscious comes in. Skating is an art. It’s all in the subconscious.”
Wettstein has branched out athletically. Having grown to 5 feet 9, she is playing volleyball at SDA. It’s a contrast to the more singular aspect of skateboarding.
“Playing with your friends and your school is awesome,” Wettstein said.
The victory by Rennie, 21, in Park was impressive for the tricks he pulled off and the level of the competition he overcame. Most of the eight finalists pulled off spectacular runs in one form or another, doing so in dramatic fashion in their final chance.
Rennie, who began the day as the 17th-ranked Men’s Park skater in the world, ended up on top with a last-run score of 81.20, an effort highlighted by clearing a 16-foot gap on the side of the pool. In doing so, he bested the last-ditch run of the world No. 1, Hawaiian Heimana Reynolds, 21, who was edged by .48.
Liam Pace, a 19-year-old from Tuscon, Ariz., also cleared the 16-foot gap and finished third, while some of the most rousing runs were produced by Vista 12-year-old Gavin Bottger, who placed fourth.
In Men’s Street, where four scores counted among seven runs, Jordan, 22, scored 331.33 points to beat Maurio McCoy by 47.23 points. Jordan entered the competition ranked 13th in the world, while McCoy was sixth.
American and world No. 1 Nyjah Huston didn’t compete, though he did appear on site for the naming of the 2020 U.S. national team.
In Women’s Street, Duran, 22, overcame a strong field with a winning score of 155.0, nearly 25 points better than 33-year-old Alexis Sablone, a three-time X Games gold medalist.
After the competition, USA Skateboarding named its 2020 national teams. Being on the teams doesn’t guarantee reaching the Olympics.
Among the 22 combined team members are San Diegans Wettstein (Women’s Park), Tom Schaar (Men’s Park) and Jordyn Barratt (Women’s Park).
— Tod Leonard is a reporter for The San Diego Union-Tribune