Dead River Derby finishes home season

Erin Guara

Dead River Derby, Marquette’s roller derby team, wrapped up its 2015 home season Aug. 29 at Lakeview Arena. The final bout was a double header with home teams the Rolling Riptide and Superior Sirens opposing the Floral City Roller Girls and Bath City Roller Girls, respectively.re-IMG_4034

Roller derby is a full contact sport played on four-wheeled skates by two teams skating around a track. Each team has five players on the track: one jammer and four blockers. Jammers earn points by passing rival team members while blockers create a wall to “block” the opposing jammer and form holes to help their own pass through. The game is played in multiple two-minute sessions, called jams.

The event was sponsored by local businesses, such as the 906 Sports Bar and Grill, Pike Distributing, the Marquette Food Co-op and Stucko’s, among others.  The team donated a portion of ticket sales to benefit Room at the Inn, a local rotating shelter for the homeless.

The event kicked off indulging Dead River Derby fans with the first victory going to the Rolling Riptide. In a total of 44 jams, the skaters managed to win 188-106 against the Floral City Roller Girls. MVP blocker, “Whip Her Willa,” and jammer “Glory Sparks,” were announced post-game.

This was Dead River Derby’s first year playing as two separate teams, though some players skated for both teams. The Superior Sirens skated in the second bout against the Bath City Roller Girls. They played with as much vigor as the Rolling Riptide, but their adversaries’ speed proved too much for them to secure another win.  The Sirens furiously racked up points over 46 jams for a final score of 156-134.  MVPs for bout two were “Pepper Pilliwinks” as blocker and jammer, “Zia.”

This year the team elected a date after the start of NMU’s fall semester to offer students the opportunity to experience a game, Sparks said.“We’re always looking for student involvement.” Sparks said.  Dead River Derby has open enrollment and directs anyone interested to email [email protected] Membership is open to any woman over 18, represented by the team’s diverse demographic makeup.

“We’re an eclectic group,” Sparks said. “A derby girl can be anyone. We have multiple age groups, moms, students.”

Women often enter roller derby during a time of transition, especially when children begin school or college.

Sparks was even optimistic for a male team to join the Marquette roller scene, due to the town’s love for ice hockey.  “There’s actually a men’s roller league in town, and we’re in need of co-ed refs.”

Hockey isn’t the only sport that was compared to roller derby. “Wrangle-Her,” a new member of the team, cited rugby as her inspiration to try roller derby.  “I tried it because I used to play rugby, and roller derby keeps me active and involved. It keeps me focused, so it’s worth the balance of school, work, and derby,” she said.  She is due to graduate from NMU in December.

Attendee Katelyn Craghead, a sophomore at NMU, is also a rugby player.  “I play rugby, and I’ve seen the movie ‘Whip It,’ but I’ve never been to [a bout],” Craghead said.

Dead River Derby members maintain a close relationship with each other.  “It’s definitely a welcoming environment,” Wrangle-Her said, noting the familial aura among the women.

Despite the aggressive physical nature of the sport, rival teams often get along very well on and off the track.  Glory Sparks was seen laughing with a Floral City Roller Girl after they took a joint tumble during the first bout. The camaraderie and rivalry between teams is well balanced, Wrangle-Her said.  “We’re really good about keeping it on the track, and even then it’s not unusual to see someone helping another team’s player up.”

Roller derby is an intense physical burden and injuries are quite common.  The number of falls and collisions per game is massive, and long hours are spent in practice, yet the women who play know that bruises and broken bones are worth the exhilaration of derby.  “Dead River Derby practices three hours a day, twice a week,” Sparks said. “It is not unusual to burn 1400 calories in a practice.”

“It’s really the hard work and the community of women we have here,” Sparks said on what makes roller derby unique.  “We’re often misrepresented as a sport, but we are cheeky.”

Dead River Derby next heads downstate to face the Lansing Mitten Mavens on Sep. 26.