Derby Madness Takes Over at Sacramento State University
By Anne Stokes
Capitol Punisher jammer Blue Crush (#11, right in star helmet) attempts to pass Folsom Prison Bruiser blocker Annie Reksic (#10) during the exposition roller derby match at Sacramento State.
Photos by Anne Stokes
SACRAMENTO REGION, CA (MPG) - The Sac City Rollers teamed up with Sacramento State University’s Women’s Resource Center and UNIQUE Programs on the evening of Thursday, March 12th, bringing their hard-hitting style of entertainment to campus. The free event featured the Capitol Punishers and Folsom Prison Bruisers competing against each other in an exposition match in celebration of March’s Women’s HerStory month.
“The reason we brought [Derby Madness] here in the first place was to expose Sac State students to these kind of events, because it’s not something usually on college campuses,” explained Zenia LaPorte, Sacramento State University Assistant Director for Programs and Marketing “It’s definitely a fun, action-packed event, and the crowd definitely gets into it. It’s a good time.”
Second-year communications student Andrea Arango, who attended Thursday night with her friends, had never seen a roller derby match before but quickly caught on to the game’s rules. “I’ve never seen something like this! I was like, a roller derby? Are we going to go and see people roller skate in circles? But it’s more than that,” she said. “I would say if you’re open to learning and seeing new things, you should definitely go. Have an open mind. I decided to go this year just to see what it’s about and I’m glad I came.”
“It’s always fun playing here at Sac State,” said Aleitha Burns, who has skated under the moniker “Aleithal Weapon” for the past seven years. “We get a lot of new fans, a lot of volunteers. It’s an opportunity for us to just play roller derby without the high pressure of sanctioning and rankings and the competitive nature. But of course we’re all athletes, so our competitiveness comes out.”
The game itself is a fast-paced, full-contact team sport in which 10 athletes at a time compete to out maneuver each other and score the most points. “There are two basic positions in women’s roller derby,” explained Burns. “There are the blockers, they make up the pack, and then the other position is the jammer. Essentially, the goal is for the jammer to get through the pack. The jammers score every time they successfully make it through the pack. So the pack is simultaneously playing offense to help their jammer through and defense to stop the opposing jammer. Jammers score points for every blocker from the opposing team they pass.”
Capitol Punisher blocker Foxy Knoxy (#777, inside right) blocks Folsom Prison Bruiser jammer Bird Dog (#415, in the star helmet) as she attempts to pass the pack and score during the exposition match at Sacramento State. Jammers score points for every opposing blocker they pass while blockers simultaneously obstruct opposing jammers while clearing the way for their own team’s jammer.
Founded in 2006, the Sac City Rollers was Sacramento’s first women’s flat track roller derby team. The team is comprised of two interleague teams, the Capitol Punishers and the Folsom Prison Bruisers, who compete together on an international level. “We play against our local teams here in California; we also have played against teams from Canada, we’ve played against teams from Scotland, [and] we’ve played against teams from Michigan,’ explained Burns. “In two weeks we have our first tournament [of the season]; it’s called the Dust Devil in Tuscan, Arizona, where we’ll be playing against a team from New Hampshire. Tournaments give us an opportunity to play teams from a larger range.”
The team is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, raising hundreds of dollars each bout for local charities, culminating in their annual Red Red Holiday Invitational tournament each December, the proceeds of which benefit the Sacramento Food Bank. “We have raised thousands of dollars over the last nine seasons for the Sacramento Food Bank,” said Burns, adding that “every game that we have, we pick a local charity to raise money for. All the proceeds from our raffle prizes all goes directly to a charity. At each bout we raise a couple hundred dollars for various charities.”
Burns, who is a middle school science teacher, is one of over 100 women and girls who make up the Sac City Rollers. Athletes come from a variety of backgrounds, from stay-at-home mothers to laboratory scientists, and range in age from as young as 18 to women in their mid-40s, who commit to working out at least three to four days a week for two to three hours at a time. According to Burns, however, the benefits reach well beyond just staying in shape: “I’ve gotten a whole group of friends that I know will always have my back no matter what happens.”
The Sac City Roller’s next match against the Auburn Outlaws is slated for March 21st at The Rink in Sacramento. If you think you may have what it takes to be a Capitol Punisher or Folsom Prison Bruiser, tryouts will be held on Sunday, June 7th. For more information, visit www.saccityrollers.com.
Folsom Prison Bruiser Dirty Hippie (#1LUV) stretches out pre-game at Derby Madness, the exposition match at Sacramento State’s University Union Ballroom.
Capitol Punisher jammer Aleithal Weapon (#713, at left), known off the rink as teacher Aleitha Burns, scores points as she passes the pack of Folsom Bruisers during Derby Madness. “I grew up roller skating, I was a rink-rat. Every Friday, Saturday night I was at the roller skating rink. I got my first kiss on skates,” she admits. “So when I heard about roller derby, I thought ‘hey, why not?’ I like full-contact sports, I love roller skating, and try outs were happening in a few weeks. So I went to tryouts and have never looked back seven seasons later, from a rookie all the way to our All-Stars.”