Can Nyjah Huston be stopped? He continued his killing spree here at the Jobing Arena in Glendale, Ariz., and qualified in first for the finals tomorrow at Street League Stop 3.
This course is by far the gnarliest course in Street League history. The rails in the tech section are long and have kinks on them, the ledges are six inches taller than the norm and the hubba ledge is chest high at the top. When I talked to Sean Malto, who qualified in second today, he said, "I was slamming a lot in practice, but you just have to figure it out. With this course you're going to take some bigger slams, but you'll get bigger scores for the tricks you land."
The day started with Chris Cole setting the bar in Heat 1. It seems like Cole has found his rhythm here at Street League. After finishing second at the Kansas City stop, he qualified in third today with a 79.4 and had he not gotten into the 180 switch crook on the hubba he was trying (rather than the tailslide that he had already done), he would have most likely placed higher.
A nice surprise today was watching Luan Oliveira get into his groove and qualify in fifth place. His first time at Street League was in Kansas City earlier this year, and after getting used to the format, he came out swinging. He manhandled a plethora of difficult manual tricks in the tech section, did an amazing and unexpected switch bigspin heelflip at the end of a line in the line section -- and then frontside flipped over the chest-high hubba ledge in the big section. Today Oliveira showed the fans and skaters alike that he is a force to be reckoned with.
Another surprise today, not only to everyone in the arena, but to himself, was the kickflip crooked grind that Billy Marks landed down the hubba ledge on his last attempt during Heat 3. Marks had made several attempts at a kickflip noseslide down it on the few tries leading up to it, and when he rolled away on his final attempt, the crowd was stunned. When we spoke afterward, he told me that he had not planned to land in a crooked grind, but when he popped, that's just the way it worked out. Marks ended up receiving the highest score of the entire day with an 8.7 and just narrowly squeaked into the finals.
But the big story here is that Huston, now with short hair, could very well take it (again) in Glendale. He started off in the tech section with a couple of falls that are very uncharacteristic of Huston. At the end of Section 1, he was points behind Cole and nowhere near Malto. In the line section, he scored lower than both as well, but was within a point of their averages for the section. In the end, it was the big section where Huston secured his lead. With an onslaught of difficult tricks, such as a backside 180 nosegrind and kickflip backside 5-0 down the hub, along with a switch heelflip and switch frontside heelflip down the stairs, Huston rose to the top and demonstrated that the big section is his domain.
Is Huston going to win three in a row? Will Malto come back from his knee injury and take home a second Street League victory? Or, could this be Cole's time to shine? No matter what the outcome, tomorrow is going to be incredible.