Jammin’ with the Los Alamos Derby Dames

The Los Alamos Derby Dames practice at the Family YMCA. Photos by Bonnie J. Gordon/ladailypost.com

By Bonnie J. Gordon

It’s a cold winter night in Los Alamos, but at the Family YMCA, our very own roller derby team is generating plenty of heat as they spin around the gym at top speed.

The Los Alamos Derby Dames is a flat track roller derby league founded in April 2011. The league currently has one team, the M’Atom Bombs.

With some help from the 2009 movie “Whip It” roller derby, which is dominated by all-female amateur teams, has grown in popularity in recent years.

There are a number of teams around New Mexico from Farmington to Las Cruses.

“In roller derby, you visit teams that are at the same level as your team and try to schedule bouts,” Flashover explained.

Flashover (Elisa Baker) is a fire protection engineer at Los Alamos National Laboratory, hence her derby name.

A flashover is the near-simultaneous ignition of most of the directly exposed material in an enclosed area. Her profession also explains her team number, 600oC.

“I’m an amateur photographer and I started going to the Santa Fe roller derby practices,” Flashover said. “Pretty soon I decided,  ‘I can do this.’”

Flashover started skating with the Santa Fe team and was delighted when she discovered a roller derby team was forming in Los Alamos.

“Roller derby takes a lot of work and practice, but it’s worth it. It’s a great addition to life in Los Alamos,” she said.

Here’s a very quick explanation of how roller derby works. Two teams of five members skate in the same direction around a track.

The scoring players (the jammers) start out behind the rest of the players (the blockers.) The jammer scores points by lapping members of the opposing team. The blockers try to help their own jammer while getting in the way of the jammer from the opposing team.

Roller derby is a full contact sport, but there are a lot of rules about what players can and cannot do on the track.

The Women’s Flat Track Derby Association sets the rules of play. Throwing elbows or tripping someone are examples of behavior that will land a player in the penalty box.

Latzah Ballz {Rachel Adler) started skating with the team last March.

“I could count the number of times I’d been on skates when I started,” she said. “Living in Los Alamos, I missed my rowing crew and I wanted something to do that was mine. I saw a flyer, and thought hey, that’s something new and fun,” she said.

“It’s doable, it’s not dangerous and you don’t have to be a super athlete or in great shape. We fall, but that’s what the padding is for,” she said.

Latzah Ballz is an archeologist at Bandelier National Monument when she’s got her skates off. She was working an assignment in Mississippi recently and was able to hook up with a roller derby team there.

“It’s a community. If you’re a derby girl, other derby girls will welcome you,” she said. “Roller derby is really fun and it’s just a little bit out of my comfort zone. It’s great to see people improve and to see yourself improve.”

Latzah Ballz urges other women to take up the challenge.

When Leia Hurtonya (Erin Green) saw “Whip It” she was inspired.

“When I found out Los Alamos was going to have a league, I knew I had to be part of it. Also, my daughter was 6 months old and I wanted to lose that baby weight,” she said.My favorite thing about doing this is the camaraderie and bonding of the team and the relationships you build from working hard with people. The team is my security net—we’re like family. It’s worth the investment because it’s so much fun. Working together to win is so rewarding.”

Leia Hurtonya had never skated before she joined the derby team.

“It’s amazing to think I couldn’t even move in a forward direction at first,” Hurtonya said.

Lola Bipola (Heather Stanek) is a Los Alamos native. While growing up on the hill, she skated a lot, both on roller skates and on the ice, but she didn’t know about roller derby until she saw “Whip It.”

She’s been skating with the team about 11 months. Currently, she’s a stay-at-home mom. Her youngest child is 4.

She likes playing the jammer position best.

“I like being able to see the pack ahead of me and find the holes in it,” Lola Bipola said.

Thumper Bumper (Amy Prickett) had done a lot of roller blading and when she began hearing about roller derby in the media, she was anxious to give it a try.

“A full contact sport with skating—that sounded really fun,” she said. “It’s a good way to work out some aggression and get a good workout. I have a 7-year-old daughter and it’s exciting for me to have a lot of strong female role models around her.”

Thumper Bumper just completed her first semester in nursing school. She enjoys taking a break from her busy life to practice and hang out with her teammates.

“Working as a team is good experience for life. It’s fun to accomplish something together,” she said.

The entire team urged anyone who thinks they might like roller derby to give it a try.

They’ll teach you everything you need to know. You don’t even have to know how to skate to get started.

The LA Derby Dames will be hosting a movie viewing and Q&A session from 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 2 at the Family YMCA on Iris Street.

Everyone who is interested in roller derby is urged to attend. The league needs referees (guys are welcome) and volunteers who aren’t on skates, too.

Visit the Derby Dames at www.laderbydames.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/laderbydames. See some great bout photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/peloazul/sets/72157629833417750/.

Watch the Daily Post for announcements of bouts and come out to the Los Alamos Ice Rink and support the team. Roller Derby is at least as much fun to watch as hockey and it’s a lot warmer during derby season.






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