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Utah roller derby heats up

Out team members, Katie Woslager and Stacie Newman are rolling with the punches on and off the track, in one of Utah’s thriving, female, roller derby leagues, the Wasatch Roller Derby. On different teams in the league, the Hot Wheelers and the Black Diamond Divas, both have been named to the WDR’s traveling team, Midnight Terror, an honor reserved for the best skaters as they represent the league in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

Out team members, Katie Woslager and Stacie Newman are rolling with the punches on and off the track, in one of Utah’s thriving, female, roller derby leagues, the Wasatch Roller Derby. On different teams in the league, the Hot Wheelers and the Black Diamond Divas, both have been named to the WDR’s traveling team, Midnight Terror, an honor reserved for the best skaters as they represent the league in the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association.

“Katie likes to say that I learned from the best,” Newman said, 27, aka The Instigator, the alter ego moniker Newman uses on the track. “I guess I stir things up, I don’t know … she gave it to me.”

“See how she is,” retorts Woslager. “I don’t say that.”

“Whatever,” replies Newman, who counts this as her second season and mostly plays a blocker.

Woslager and Newman met in one of Utah’s other roller derby leagues and moved over to the WRD after Woslager was dismissed without explanation.

“I was a ‘fresh meat’ captain and we met during practice,” Woslager said, who admits that she questioned how the other league and teams were organized and ran. “It doesn’t mean that anyone is better or right, it just means you want to do something different.”

Women’s roller derby has been growing in popularity throughout the world and the WRD is part of the West Region in the WFTDA, the international, non-profit governing body and membership organization for leagues to collaborate and network. The WFTDA sets standards for rules, safety, seasons, and determines guidelines for national and international competitions for member leagues. Currently, WFTDA supports 109 member leagues and 53 in an apprentice program.

“Roller derby has always been typified as organic, punk and grass roots, but it has gone mainstream and it has become more physical, with a more competitive aspect to it,” Woslager said.
“If you are interested in an athletic sport it is a good way to meet people, cool girls, and play sports.”

Woslager, 33, aka Smack and Decker, moved from Boise to Salt Lake City and played soccer.

“Everyone was married and had kids and I really didn’t have anything in common with them,” said Woslager, who plays primarily pivot and blocker positions. “I saw an article in a local newspaper and I had been a roller girl for Halloween, so I took my pair of $5 skates and showed up at practice and made it. I caught on fast.”

For Newman, who was born and raised in Bountiful, soccer and basketball were her favorite sports in high school.

“I saw it on TV and I just showed up at practice,” said Newman. “I didn’t have skates or pads or anything. I played women’s league basketball but I needed something more. This takes over your life. If you are not in practice or a bout, you are going to other bouts.”

Woslager and Newman live together and roller derby takes up a large part of their lives as they practice on Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings, and also skate scrimmages with other leagues and teams, on the first and fourth Monday night of each month.

“We often have friendly teasing and banter about playing with and against each other on the track. It is fun that we also have each other to talk about plays, strategies, and our own skating,” Woslager said. “We often ask each other for feedback so that we can help each other improve. Beyond that, we really like to skate, so this brings us together.”

There are even men’s derby leagues and the WDR is affiliated with the Uinta Madness, a new men’s flat track team. WRD also has a recreational league, or non-competitive club, called the Red Rockets.

“I love to play with the men and just got back from Bremerton where I played in co-ed bouts,” Woslager said. “It can cause strain when there are other events that we could be attending and instead we choose derby. You miss your other choices of activities at times. For me, I could do derby activities all the time, but Stacie sometimes wants to have more freedom. I think it is a balancing issue really and finding how to keep your other activities close to you and not neglect them.”

The WDR formed three years ago after the founders, Lacie Peterson, aka Honey DeLunatic, and Brandi Olsen, aka Medusa Damage, left one of Utah’s other roller derby leagues. WDR is part of the Wasatch Women’s Club, a federally recognized 501(c)3 charity and the WDR uses “the sport of roller derby as a means to raise money and awareness for other charitable organizations.” The official season usually begins in February and lasts until October.

“We have a different purpose, we are philanthropic,” Woslager said. “We dedicate three or four bouts during the season to specific charities and give 40 percent of all dollars earned during that bout to that charity.”

WRD has raised thousands of dollars for charity, including HopeKids, March of Dimes, The Huntsman Cancer Institute, the South Valley Sanctuary Domestic Violence Shelter, Utah Parent Center and the American Diabetes Association. Roller derby, like any other sport, can also be dangerous.

“I wasn’t supposed to skate for three months, but I didn’t listen,” Newman said after tearing her PCL in August but skating in a championship bout in October. “Honey tore her ACL and Medusa broke a leg after five seasons of roller derby.”

Tryouts for the WRD is scheduled for Saturday, April 16, from 9 a.m. to noon at the Derby Depot, the WRD’s permanent practice and home venue. Women interested in skating and learning more about WRD are invited to come watch practice starting at 9 a.m. and then getting on the track. Minimum skill level required is 25 laps under five minutes around the track, the ability to fall down and get back up and a reasonable ability to stop. Attendees are suggested to bring skates, helmets, and wrist and knee pads but extra gear will be available. Monthly dues average about $40.

The WRD’s next official bout is between the league’s two teams, Saturday, May 7, at 7 p.m., at the Derby Depot, 1415 S. 700 West. Free parking is available. Tickets are $10 in advance at Brown Paper Tickets and $13 at the door. Woslager and Newman will be facing off on their respective teams and the bout should last about an hour and half. The Midnight Terror will face fellow WFTDA traveling team, the Sin City Rollergirls from Las Vegas, in a home bout at the Derby Depot, May 22.

For more information about the WRD, go to WasatchRollerderby.com or email wasatchrollerderby@hotmail.com. To learn more about Women’s Flat Track Roller Derby go to wftda.com.

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Brad Di Iorio

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