Two teams from the Bellingham Roller Betties competed at the 3rd Annual Spokarnage, an opportunity for many of the derby league members to play in their first tournament.
Tough Love and the Cog Blockers — Roller Betties teams with some fostered members from team FLASH — attended the offseason tournament for the first time as a league. Twenty teams from the northwest and Canada, about 400 skaters, competed in the bracketed event Aug. 14-16 at the Spokane Convention Center.
“The interesting thing about this tournament was that we knew pretty well how the Washington teams were going to do,” said blocker for team FLASH Rebecca Peacock, known as Ginger Spite on the track. “But we had no idea how the Canadian teams were going to do and then they came out and did really well.”
Team Alberta, a collective team of players from leagues in Alberta, won the tournament.
“They had strong walls and strategy,” Peacock said. “They had this warmup that was really intense, we are going to hopefully try to implement a little bit.”
The Bellingham Roller Betties are a four-team female roller derby league with three home teams that feed into their travel team Blunt Force Trauma. They are moving into their eighth full season, currently recruiting with their eight-week Booty Camp that began Sunday, Aug. 16. Their season will begin in January, with bouts taking place at the Bellingham Sportsplex.
A skater for four years, Peacock has competed for two derby leagues and joined the Roller Betties about a year and a half ago. Spokarnage was the first tournament she has been to, Peacock said.
“We can play against these higher caliber teams and learn a lot, that’s important,” she said. “We learned a lot at Spokarnage because there were a lot of strong (teams) that came down.”
Lana “Go-Go Gadget” Larson of the Cog Blockers said one of the most notable games of the tournament for her was when they went up against the winning Alberta team.
“We scored 16 points against them, which is a very low scoring for derby, but we earned those 16 points,” she said. “We worked so hard for those points, it was very difficult. I think I was on the ground more than I was on my feet.”
Larson is going into her third season with the Roller Betties and learned much about how to improve her footwork after watching the other teams at Spokarnage.
“Their feet are constantly moving and turning and its almost like ballet,” she said. “Some of the movements are very graceful whereas I, right now, kind of rely just on my athletic abilities. I kind of crash and smash my way through with the jammer.”
When Larson joined the Roller Betties, she was learning how to skate, as are many of the beginners, she said. The first year was about building skills, then learning the rules of the game and now she plans to try out for the Blunt Force Trauma team this season to be able to travel and compete more.
A soccer player growing up, roller derby has become her passion because of the powerful women she has met through the mentally and physically challenging sport, Larson said.
“It’s so unpredictable, it’s very exciting,” she said. “There is never a second where there is down time, there is something constantly happening. It’s aggressive definitely, but the people you’re playing against, they’re all great people and they’re all there to better one another.”
Derby is an aggressive sport and injuries are common.
Jeana Couchman, also known as Wendy Belltolls, came home from Spokarnage with what she said is one of the the biggest bruises she’s ever seen from falling on the polished concrete track.
Couchman, a blocker on team Cog Blockers and also on Blunt Force Trauma, has been skating since 2010.
“It’s good empowerment, a good confidence builder and a good community of people,” she said. “It’s like a family.”
The league plans on returning to Spokarnage next year, Couchman said.
The Bellingham Roller Betties next bout will take place at 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 22, at the parking lot outside Terra Organica. It is their first outdoor bout.
Red Riot vs. Black Death
Where: Terra Organica parking lot, 1530 Cornwall Ave.
When: Saturday, Aug. 22, 4-7 p.m.