Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 5
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Roller Derby a Hit With Whitman Students

Photo by Rachael Barton

As LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” booms through the sound system of the YMCA, a sharply dressed commentator announces the countdown until the Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls return to the makeshift roller rink in the middle of the gym floor. The timer on the scoreboard reaches zero and a loud buzzer interrupts the music. This is the Roller Girls’ cue.  A team of tattooed and fish-net-stocking-clad women skate onto the floor to face their opponents in a hard-hitting roller derby match.

This was the scene at the Oct. 5 Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls home match at the YMCA against the Grunge City Rollers of Seattle, which the home team went on to win.

Roller derby is an up-and-coming sport that has gained attention in the last few years. There are a few things, however, that separate roller derby from more traditional sports, the biggest of which being that the “ball” in this sport is actually a human being. The “jammer,” as this individual is called, serves as a puck that teammates attempt to move around the rink, completing laps to score points.

Another unique aspect of roller derby is its hard-hitting nature.  Roller girls hurl themselves at opposing skaters, attempting to throw them off their feet or block their jammer. At one point, shortly before the end of the match, a Sweets roller girl was knocked off her feet and spent several minutes on the ground nursing a severely injured shoulder.

This level of action and carnage makes derby a very entertaining spectator sport for many. This match marked the first time sophomore Robby Dorn attended a roller derby match, and he was pleasantly surprised.

“They looked pretty intense,” said Dorn. “Overall it was a very new experience for me, but it was a total riot to watch. It’s definitely a rough sport with a lot of teamwork, athleticism and strategy.”

Roller Derby’s appeal to a mass audience is not difficult to understand: heavy physicality, athletic ability, fun costumes and diverse fan base. In fact, the Sweets’ fan base is comprised almost entirely of Walla Walla locals. The whole environment makes derby exciting for new fans.

“It was surreal,” said first-year Andreas Molbak. “There was so much going on; it was hard for me to fully process everything.”

The Sweets have a small connection to Whitman, with only one current student on the roster, but they are trying to spread the sport to more Whitman students.

“I’m the only Whittie who skates for them right now,” said senior Liz Leong. “Since I have started skating with them, though, they’ve tried to get more people from Whitman because the league’s kind of dying.”

Leong became involved with the team after years of in-line skating experience. She began noticing posters for the Sweets on campus, and now she’s happy to have discovered the team.

“I saw posters as a freshman,” said Leong. “And then I actually got interested last year enough to email them and join them.”

Leong loves the uniqueness of roller derby and the fun costumes.

“It’s like a full contact race in fishnets on roller skates,” said Leong. “That’s essentially what it is.”

The team is big on community involvement and actively participates in giving back to Walla Walla. This can be anything from a half-time raffle to community service projects during and after the season.

The Sweets continue to look for more involvement from Whitman students.

“Anyone who wants to join should definitely get in contact with the team,” said Leong. “We have gear we can lend out and anyone is free to come skate –– guys and girls –– and it’s super cool to get to know the locals.”

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