With Pink Floyd pumping through a set of nearby speakers and several close friends looking on, Bryce Vicenti leaped onto a black and white skateboard for his opening run at the first annual Towaoc Skate Competition on Friday.
Weaving through halfpipes adorned with artistic graffiti and launching off platforms nearly 5-feet high, the 10-year-old showcased a skill set born of hours of practice at Towaoc’s unique outdoor skate park that he considers a second home.
“I skate almost every day,” Vincenti said. “I used to just stay at home and play games a lot, but not I want to get outside and do something fun. I skate because it is fun, and I want to learn new stuff.”
The seeds of the Towaoc Skate Competition were sown roughly six weeks ago when 19-year-old Tifiny Mills decided to organize a community-based event that would allow young people in Towaoc to show off their skills.
Although Mills, who graduated from Montezuma Cortez High School in 2016 and is employed at the Ute Mountain Recreation Center, had limited experience with the sport of skateboarding, she was able to recruit five individuals with skating experience to judge the event.
“I would like to hold a skate competition, but I need some knowledgeable skaters to help,” Mills wrote on Facebook before the event. “You would be helping our Towaoc youth find a passion ... that can teach them many life lessons.”
Among the judges was Tifiny Mills’ brother, Mikey Mills, who is pursuing a degree in digital animation at Utah Valley University. A longtime skater who is intricately familiar with the challenges facing Towaoc’s youths, Mikey Mills said that events like the Towaoc Skate Competition are valuable because they inspire young people and bring the community together.
“Events like these are important because they show that the community cares,” said Mikey Mills. “A competition like this gives kids a chance to relate with the community. Community members are able to see that skaters are not social deviants, as they are sometimes portrayed.”
One young skater clearly impacted by the event was 13-year-old Jeit Height, who recently began skating in hopes of improving his physical conditioning. Clearly invigorated by cheers from his peers, Height said that friends he has made while skating have helped him improve his outlook on life.
“Everybody here is a friend,” Height said. “It’s pretty good being out here with them guys cheering me on and helping me. I’m glad that I started skating, and I will probably continue skating this summer.”
More than 20 skaters between the ages 9 and 19 competed in the event, which included several different age categories. Top finishers included Daevancio Percelliano, who won the 12-and-under age division, and Logan Lang, who finished first in the 13-15 age group.
“I skate almost every day,” said Percelliano, when asked about the key to his victory. “I just like skating.”