Rollergirls hit the rink, dance floor
J. Gnawstin (Jane Austin). Silverback. Graviton One Hit Wonder.
They're skating at you like a hurricane, and the whirlwind isn't letting up any time soon. They're part of the Appalachian Rollergirls, the High Country's first foray into the shoulder crushing, elbow thrashing, teeth knocking dose of adrenaline that those on the rink call "the Derby."
The brainchild of J. Gnawstin (or, as she's known off the rink, Jordyn Coats), Appalachian Rollergirls is a completely new entity, meaning its charter skaters have the unique opportunity, not only to get their skate on, but also to shape the way roller derby plays out in the High Country. And, though it's just a few months off the bleachers, it's already shaping up into a show, and they've yet to scrimmage. As Coats will tell you, a mixture of community support and skater dedication means good things to come.
"I was always the sporty girl ... then I got to college and couldn't do anything," she said.
Roller derby, she decided, was a way both to exercise and fulfill a need to do something different. A Facebook request later, and hundreds expressed interest. In retrospect, it's not that surprising. After all, since the release of the movie, Whip It, starring Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore, the derby has been in the back of the minds of hordes of closet skaters.
"It's always fun, and you're always going to see something amazing," she said, amazing is referring to the injuries, of course.
At each fresh meat practice, expect to witness some fantastic bruising. Take Katie Betz. Called "Silverback Betz" thanks to some gnarly expressions she makes when she's angry, ("It's a nickname my boyfriend has for me," she said) she was among the boasters talking bruises and broken fingers pre-practice last week.
"It's really OK. It's bragging rights," she laughed.
Those bragging rights come in many colors - blue, purple and red - but it doesn't keep the girls from the rink; quite the opposite, actually.
"It's not people punching people in the face, it's actually a legitimate sport," Coats said.
The people, to her, make the squad.
"I've made lots of new friends, found amazing people to hang out with," she said.
And it's an eclectic mix. Take Amanda Fortune. By day, she's a dental hygienist.
But by night, "I'm Gravitron One Hit Wonder," she said, with skates of fury.
"I love the camaraderie and hanging out with women who have it going on," she said.
And it's a nice way to work out aggression, exercise, and have fun.
"It's hockey meets NASCAR," Fortune said. "It's a fun contact, five-on-five race, where one person per team can score points," Fortune said.
Points are scored when the "jammer" laps players on the other team without going out of bounds. The other team, in the meantime, has players trying to stop the jammer from accomplishing her goal, and it gets intense.
Just ask Coach Dwayne Huffman, a rollergirl fan-turned-coach, thanks to a Facebook invite from Coats.
"It's almost like a rock and roll concert ... a mix of going to a good rock and roll concert and a sporting event all in one," he said.
And, according to Coats, it's even family friendly. "A lot of people don't know that," she said.
Whether it's for self empowerment ("It improves your confidence," she said) or camaraderie, the Rollergirls are addictive once you strap on the skates.
First-timer Kim McDonald came out last week just to watch and is already hooked.
"It seems like a lot of fun. Oh, God, I hope I can skate!" she said.
Lucky for McDonald, no prior experience is required. For more information, both on the derby and on becoming "fresh meat" (roller slang for new members), check out Appalachian Rollergirls on Facebook.
The girls are hosting a fundraiser dance party this Saturday at the ReelHouse Cinema & Draft, and it promises to be a party.
"It's going to be awesome. We want to meet and greet interested people and potential sponsors," CoCo Janel No. 5 or, as she's known to her family, Jennele Vaquera, said.
It's called the Appalachian Rollergirls Benefit Throwdown. Think roller girls, music and dancing, a good time even if you're the type to shy away from the rink. Money goes directly to the squad, for things like a skate rental program (for new members), T-shirts and promotional materials.
The squad meets for open practice at the National Guard Armory at 6 p.m. Tuesdays. Interested girls are welcome to come out, see what's going on and strap on some skates. Expect between 30 and 50 girls on any given day.
For more, check out photos of the Rollergirls, both at the July 4th parade and at a Fresh Meat practice, at http://www.mountaintimes.com.