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Roller derby all-stars ranked No. 2, bound for championships



It’s an exciting time for the Rose City Rollers, our city’s resident roller derby organization, and it’s all-star squad, Wheels of Justice.

The WOJ team has not only made the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association Championships, Friday through Sunday, Oct. 31 through Nov. 2, in Nashville, but the local skaters hope to win it. They’re ranked No. 2 behind Gotham of New York entering the 12-team, WFTDA Division I tournament. To the victor goes the Hydra trophy.

“We have the potential to do really, really well, to make it all the way to the final game,” says Nancy Guidry, aka Penny Dreadful. “With this incarnation of the team, it’s the best we’ve ever looked. We’ve been working super hard and putting in a lot of extra hours.”

Wheels of Justice previously competed in the tournament in 2011. It’s a hard tournament to make, with four sets of playoffs that precede the championships, and teams have to finish in the top three to advance. The WOJ team won the playoffs held at Charleston, W.V., recently, winning bouts in routs.

“You really have to be at the top of your game,” Guidry says. “It’s challenging, but we’ve had a great year. I have a lot of confidence in our team right now.”

Guidry says WOJ is in a favorable bracket, opposite Gotham and several other strong teams. WOJ will play the Rocky Mountain-Windy City winner and, should it win, would play third-ranked Bay Area. (Follow all the results on www.rosecityrollers.com, www.wftda.com and live at www.wftda.tv).

Roller derby today isn’t quite the same as the game of histrionics and often prearranged outcomes of yesteryear. It’s taken seriously. There are still blockers leading the way for a jammer, and points are still scored by how many opponents the jammer passes during two-minute jams in two 30-minute periods. A team generally carries a 20-women roster and activates 14 for a match, and most of them see action.

“I feel very strongly that we have some of the best jammers in the world,” says Guidry, a blocker. “We also have strong blockers. And, we’ve got so many incredibly smart players, which really helps.”

Rose City Rollers was formed in 2004, and the Wheels of Justice all-star team the next year. The roster turns over, and the current WOJ team has many members playing their first season together under coach Mike Wade. The team also attracted a couple of transfers.

The WOJ team has been ranked No. 1 in the world before, but has never won the championship.

“We’re really going for it,” says Kim Stegeman, aka Rocket Mean, the Rose City Rollers founder, executive director and retired WOJ member. “We’re in a great bracket and, if I’m being super realistic, coming out of the tournament in second- or third-place would be fantastic. We would love to be first place.”

Guidry and Mercy Shammah are captains. Other standouts include Jessica Rodriguez and Jessica Chestnut, and transfers from Denver, Jessica Reves and Shaina Serelson.

There’ll be teams from five countries at the WFTDA championships, hosted by the Nashville Rollergirls and played at the Municipal Auditorium in Nashville.

Winning a championship would be a big deal for the Rose City Rollers.

“This is the biggest thing in the world, THE event for everybody in the world,” Stegeman says. “There’s clamoring to get into these brackets; there are 273 leagues in the flat track association, and Division I ranks teams 1 to 40, and then it’s whittled down and the top 12 go to the championship tournament.

“We’ve been fighting for this for a long time. Last year we were knocked out in the first round by London, and we were surprised. We got recommitted and trained really hard. Being on the travel team, you live it, you are skating an average of six to 10 hours a week, plus off-skate training, team building, cardio work, and eating right.

“And, they don’t get paid to do this,” Stegeman adds. “They pay to do it.”

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