Did you miss the bouts last weekend? Check out what bout writer Black Irish Betty had to say about these amazing match ups!
What a weekend! Not only did the one and only Wheels of Justice host some amazing roller derby players from around the world for a training camp they like to call Derby Daze, but they also managed to play 2 bouts! Denver Mile High Club on Friday and the Alumnihilators (more on them later) on Saturday. Phew. I am tired just thinking about it.
Let’s get started with all the hard hitting action from Friday night!
Well, as you all know, it is summer, at least in this hemisphere, and summer means hot. Yes, even in Portland, we reach some 100 degree and higher days, and Friday was one of those days. I am not sure what weather in Denver is like, but no matter if they were used to it or not, it was hotter than I think anyone had wanted it to be. As the sun began to set, the whistles blew, and we were on our way!
This is only my second time seeing Wheels of Justice in a sanctioned bout…come to think of it, I think this is only my second sanctioned bout ever! Either way, I am thrilled. First up, we have number 77, Loren Mutch, rocking the purple hard for WOJ and number 20, Wilhelm, showing us how amazing a team can look in white, for Denver. Faster than I can look to my friends and comment about my excitement, Mutch takes lead jammer and snags 4 points before calling off the jam.
WOJ continues to take lead, small amounts of points being scored here and there, until the 7th jam, when Denver’s Gypin (22) rips that lead jammer status away, scoring 5 on Licker n Split (523) before calling off the jam. I am on the edge of my seat, watching this amazing tug of war for lead jammer when the 10th jam happens, and I about faint.
Scald Eagle (50) on the line for WOJ, taking on Curtis (93) for Denver. It starts like any other jam, whistle blows, Eagle grabs lead and the race is on. This jam seems never ending, with pass after pass being completed by the war painted maven. On about Eagle’s 4th pass, she looks towards the area I am sitting, I think really looking at the scoreboard more than any of us, but you see her mouth the word “YEAH!” and nod her head. In that moment, I felt like I was really part of the action more than I had ever been before.
Don’t get me wrong, all Rose City bouts are amazing. I love all the fans and skaters; I get to meet the coolest people, I am lucky enough to see some great derby throughout the year, and be part of a thriving derby community, but there was nothing quite like that moment. Not a something I will forget any time soon, that’s for sure. By the time that last whistle said the jam was over, Eagle had racked up an outstanding 29 points to Curtis’ 7. What a jam!
In reviewing the notes I took to write this summary, seeing the points scored, the penalties accumulated, and leads won and lost; I get to relive how hard all these skaters work. I read a line and can see the jam play out in my head again. Jam 13 was one of those memorable ones. Up again are Loren Mutch for WOJ and Gypin for Denver; the whistle blows and before I know it, Mutch skates towards the penalty box with a track cut. Denver’s Gypin quickly takes lead but then receives her own track cut, and we are up for a full two minute jam. Points were hard won here, with 14 for WOJ and 8 for Denver in that two minute battle.
As the jams continue on, I am noticing something I have not seen a lot of in person, star stashing! Through the first half, Denver managed to stash that star and break through some heavy packs. I was blown away. Seriously, I had only seen this on YouTube! For those of you thinking “what is she talking about?”, a star stash is when a jammer removes their jammer cap or panty as they are called (you know, the one with the star on it so we know who they are) and sort of hides it away in their hand or jersey, making them look like any other player on the track. This also makes them an inactive jammer, so let’s say they make it through the pack with the star stashed before the other jammer does, they are not eligible for lead jammer because they are currently inactive. Only when the cap/panty is on, can you gain lead jammer status or score points for that matter. It is a fantastic little trick and I consider myself lucky to have seen a rad and very talented team put this in to play right before my eyes.
At half time, we have reached some awesome scores; 165 for WOJ and 83 for Denver. There were a total of 21 jams in that first half with WOJ taking lead on 14 of those. This spread might seem really far in a lot of other sports but in derby, this is nothing. The 15 minutes are up, we are back in our seats as the skaters take their positions on the track.
We begin the second half with Loren Mutch up for WOJ and Wilhelm up for Denver. Denver is starting down blockers due to penalties that were not fully served in the first half. Mutch quickly grabs lead and scores a quick 5 on her first pass. Denver looks to change it up and doesn’t stop with stashing the star but fully passes the star to their pivot, Barrett (number 28), who then becomes the jammer of record.
Star passing is an art in and of itself. The jammer can only pass the star to the pivot;the other one with a cap/panty but instead of a star, it has a stripe down the middle. To put in football terms, the jammer is like your running back, the pivot, like your quarterback; calling plays, making sure people are where they should be, and occasionally having to run the ball in themselves. The star pass is when just that happens; they take over, making themselves eligible to score points for their team by rocking that star instead of the stripe. (In case you are wondering, they just slip it on over the stripped one, no need to take the other one off in all this chaos)
Something happened in this second half, it was palatable. During an official time out after the 4th jam, my friends and I looked at each other and all agreed. Something shifted with Denver. Never did figure out what it was but those walls seemed tighter, their offense seemed more…something. Whatever it all was, it was a joy to watch.
In jam 8, things get a bit messy. We have Frisky Biscuits (1) on the jam line for WOJ and Gypin for Denver. Frisky takes the lead, Gypin stashes the star, and then in some sort of whistle ocean, I see three WOJ skaters moving towards the box! Frisky, Sarah Gaither (26) and Tarantula (401), in almost a perfect line, speed their way to the box, losing lead and in that moment, Denver puts the pedal to the metal and scores themselves a rockin’ 28 points to WOJ’s 8.
The next 5 jams feel like both teams have something to prove. They move quickly but in that quickness, gain a couple of track cuts on both sides. We arrive in jam 13 with Eagle who joins Gypin (who is quickly becoming my favorite Denver jammer) on the jam line. Eagle in all her apex jumping glory, manages two track cuts in that jam. An official review is called by WOJ for the second track cut, but the call stood and Eagle would start the next jam in the box, giving Denver’s Curtis the chance to snag lead and a quick 9 points in the 14th jam.
At this point, the clock is counting down; only time for a few more jams. Points are hard to come by for WOJ with jam 14, 15, and 16 being scoreless and Denver picking up 9, 5, and 4, respectively. The 18th jam becomes our last and it is the quickest start I have seen all night. Both teams rush through the pack with Licker n Split taking the lead and both teams showing us some of my favorite derby action; jammer on jammer. Yes sir, I love it when a jammer takes the time to use their offensive/defensive skills on the other jammer as they round corners at top speeds. There is just nothing like it in the game. They aren’t lost in a pack, fighting their way through a sea of teammates and foes, it is just the two of them…making their way, trying to take each other out. It is glorious.
With that final jam call of, we end an amazing night of derby with WOJ scoring a total of 270 points and Denver 191.
Not so fast! We can’t forget to talk about our MVPs for the night! Wheels of Justice huddled up and gave us MVP blocker for Denver, number 3, Anghel and MVP jammer, number 33, Klein. Denver turned around with their MVP picks for blocker, number 8, Brawn Swanson and MVP jammer, number 50, you can’t ever forget her moves, Scald Eagle.
I feel so lucky. Getting to see a visiting team, all the time and effort they put in to be here, to give their all, was a truly beautiful thing. Thank you for a wonderful night, Denver. You are amazing.
Black Irish Betty transferred to Rose City in the winter of 2016 after having skated with the Lady Hawks in Hillsboro, OR. She is stoked to be a member of Rose City Rollers and the recreation team, the Wreckers!
All photos: Regularman