Roller derby comes to Lexington



By Courtney Kincaid

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The distinct smell of a roller rink — hot dogs and sweaty roller skates — covered the air Saturday evening at the Lexington Convention Center.

The seats were filled with energized and enthusiastic fans chanting “R-O-C-K ROCK! ROCK! ROCK!” They were cheering for “Smokin’ Okie,” “Sugar Shock,” “Banjo Kablooey” and other members of the Rollergirls of Central Kentucky (R.O.C.K.) who competed in their final bout of the 2012 season.

After a close and hard fought battle, the R.O.C.K. lost their bout to the Red River Sirens of Clarksville, Tenn. The final score was 159-134.

The action was raw and painful. The hits were hard, the shoving was forceful and the competition was brutal. The game is played in a series of short matchups or “jams,” where both teams designate a scoring player (the “jammer”) who scores points by lapping members of the opposing team.

“Roller derby is a do-it-yourself sport. It is entirely skater owned and operated, which allows skaters to express themselves and their originality,” said Lauren “Skate Beckett” Payne, R.O.C.K.’s bout coordinator and bench coach.

Payne said there are seven roller-derby leagues in Kentucky varying in size. Bowling Green is the largest, filling two full teams. As the women in short shorts and fishnet stockings demonstrated, it’s not about brute strength and size but rather it’s all about speed.

“Roller derby is exciting,” said Megan “Junk Drawer” Robertson, a member of R.O.C.K. “Once you understand the game, rules and penalties, it’s easier to understand and fun to watch.”

R.O.C.K. is Lexington’s only women’s flat-track roller-derby league. The league was founded in 2007 and has become a local favorite with many Lexington residents. Payne said R.O.C.K. has a fan base that reaches between 400 and 800 people attending the events.

The team is composed of 28 fierce and competitive, yet friendly, women of different ages. On game days, the team is narrowed to 14 on the roster and then 11 who actually skate for that evening. The team puts in a great amount of time towards training and scrimmages a few days each week. Much of the training consists of members of the team practicing on their own terms.

“It has been a good season, but this season has been a rebuilding year because we have had a lot of newer girls join,” Payne said. Brian Duggan, a fan of R.O.C.K., has attended every home game this season. “There has been a lot of shakeup with members leaving and new members joining, so they are still new and learning, but I enjoy watching the team compete,” Duggan said.

The next hard-hitting and exhilarating bout begins April 20 as R.O.C.K. begins the 2013 season.