Home News Vistas Roller derby rocks in Roswell

Roller derby rocks in Roswell

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From left, Jessica Torez, aka Manik Mombie; Whitney Bain, aka A Latte Treble; Jeneva Martinez, aka Drama Mama; and Tracy Hutherson, aka Half-Blood Princess. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

By day they walk among us, working respectable jobs and raising families.

But not unlike the fictional characters Clark Kent, who can transform into Superman, and Bruce Wade, who can transform into Batman, they all have alter egos with crazy names like Drama Mama, Manik Mombie, Half-Blood Princess and A Latte Treble.

On Monday and Wednesday evenings, they congregate at the Cheap Skates roller skating rink in the Monterey Shopping Center on West Second Street to play rough — really rough — while getting in shape and bonding as friends.

They are the 19 women who comprise Roswell Roller Derby, which was organized about a year ago as a league within the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the international governing body for the sport of women’s flat-track roller derby.

Along with roller skates, their gear includes helmets, knee pads, elbow pads, wrist guards and mouth gear. They laugh away the bumps and bruises they get in the rink as “derby kisses.”

Jeneva Martinez, aka Drama Mama, is well known in Roswell as an advocate for the homeless and a seven-year breast cancer survivor.

As the team’s coach, Martinez said she also skates for the West Texas Roller Derby and the New Texicans traveling teams. She brings back the skills she learns on those squads to help her fellow league members in Roswell.

“I teach them how to fall correctly and to hit without getting penalties,” she said.

Martinez recently attended the Smarty Pants Clinic in Albuquerque. Martinez said the woman who led the camp will participate on Team USA at the World Cup in Manchester, England.

“Roller derby has blow up all over the world,” she said. “We are all amateurs and our focus is recreation, safety and fitness.”

Roller derby was popular as a profession sport in the 1970s and ‘80s.

After fading away for about two decades, it was revitalized in 2004 in Austin, Texas, when someone came up with the idea of holding the bouts on flat tracks instead of the banked tracks used back in the old days.

By going to flat tracks, leagues could easily form in any town big enough to have a roller skating rink.

As of July 2017, there were 405 full-member leagues and 41 apprentice leagues in 24 countries, including the USA, Japan, Ireland, the UK, Norway and Australia.

Tracy Hutcherson, aka Half-Blood Princess, works at the Hampton Inn.

She calls herself the “team nerd” and explained why she joined roller derby.

“I’m a mom with five boys and needed something for myself,” she said. “It (roller derby) was the first time I did something for myself in eight years. I hadn’t skated in 15 years and was like a baby deer on skates at the first practice.”

Hutherson said roller derby is a great way to get fit.

“There is so much more about it than skating and hitting,” she said. “It is a great way to exercise, but doesn’t feel tedious because it is so much fun.”

Jessica Torez, aka Manik Mombie, works at Red Lobster and is the mother of six children.

“I had a friend at work who was in roller derby,” she said. “She came to work with bruises and roller derby was all she ever talked about.”

Torez said people might be scared to get into roller derby if they don’t know how to skate, but said she and the other league members are there to teach regardless of skill level. “We will literally hold your hand.”

Whitney Bain is the league president. She is the band director at Berrendo Middle School and is a flute soloist at several churches in the area.

Her derby name, A Latte Treble, is a play on words for her love of coffee and the flute.

“It’s actually very, very funny,” she said of how she got the bug. “My sister said I should do it because I needed something in my life and I saw fliers online. I gave skating a try and at first decided not to do it. Then my husband pushed me to do it. It’s been the best thing for me.”

All the women interviewed by the Daily Record agreed that joining roller derby has done wonders for their social lives. It is difficult for women past the age of 30 who have jobs and families to make new friends, they said, and roller derby fills that void.

Before it officially became a league, roller derby in Roswell was organized about 2 ½ years ago by Tiffany Pascal, who has since dropped out to devote more time to jiu jitsu, Martinez said. Pascal also is a cartoonist.

The women first started practicing in the Berrendo Middle School parking lot, but had nothing on paper that gave them official status.

From the school parking lot they moved to the Boys & Girls Club gym. Their first bout at the gym sold out and they donated half of their ticket sales, $1,000, back to the Boys & Girls Club.

In June they held a five-day kids’ skating camp at the Boys & Girls Club.

Martinez said 25 kids turned up on the first day, and they expected to loose a few along the way. But in reality, they picked up more campers.

“We are planning to do another one this summer and hope enough kids are interested to form a junior league,” she said.

Martinez said women decked out in their derby uniforms may “look intimidating and do a lot of crazy stuff on skates,” but on the inside they are all Good Samaritans.

“We do a lot of volunteering and charity work,” she said.

The league participates in the Walk for Hope to raise money for local cancer patients and most of the other charity walks around town.

Martinez said there is a lot of behind-the-scenes stuff that the general public doesn’t see, including soliciting sponsorship, advertising and bout production.

Martinez said the league is grateful to the owners of Cheap Skates for letting them practice at the rink, but is always looking for a bigger place to hold bouts.

With a larger facility, Martinez said, the league can bring in traveling teams from within New Mexico and neighboring states like Colorado and Texas, which she said would give a boost to the lodgers’ tax.

The league is insured and the skates have specialized wheels that don’t tear up hardwood floors.

“We need a good-sized warehouse,” she said.

The league is now recruiting anyone from “18 to 88 and 89 if you have a doctor’s note.”

The women said the Roswell team could become coed if enough men joined.

The league also is looking for referees who can skate and non-skating officials.

For more information, look up Roswell Roller Derby on Facebook or email contact@roswellrollerderby.com.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

How to play roller derby

During a bout, two teams of five skaters face off on a flat track. Each team consists of a pivot, three blockers and a jammer.

The pivot sets the pace and the blockers stay with them, guarding each other in what is called the pack.

The jammers are the scoring skaters and start 20 feet behind the pack.

A first whistle blows and the pack begins skating. On the second whistle, the jammers take off and start fighting their way through the pack.

When the first jammer makes it through the pack legally, she is designated the lead jammer.

Subsequent to the jammers first lap, they begin to score points as they legally pass players of the opposing team.