Editor's Note: This story has been updated to correct where Rogue McCormack plays (Cornfed Roller Derby) and provide correct capitalization for her name and Danny Mcgowan's Roller Derby name (Danny Mac). It also has been updated to correct the spelling of another source's name, Samantha Howard and corrected "Alotta Pushie"'s derby team, which is South Bend Roller Derby.
The whistle blows. Skates screech on the floor. Two players with stars on their helmets attempt to push through the opposing team, ready to burst their way through a human-made wall. Shoulders shove, players use the back of their bodies to block aggressively, as one starred player forces their way past the others and lunges forward with momentum around the circle that acts as a field.
One lap is all they need. With one lap, they have power. They become the one who can end the play.
Two roller derby teams, Team Indiana and Team Kentucky, faced off at the Delaware County Fairgrounds Dec. 10 at 6 p.m. In a game where shoulder shoving, body blocking and physicality are permitted, players whipped across the circle at high speeds with four-wheeled skates on their feet.
Ashlie McCormack, or “Rogue” as the league calls her, and founder of Team Indiana Roller Derby and blocker on the team, said the physicality of the sport is her favorite part.
“It’s an aggressive sport where it’s encouraged that you are very physical, which is not something a lot of women’s sports [have],” she said. “So it’s just kind of one where you can be strong, you can be powerful.”
Team Indiana is made up of different players across Indiana who play for different teams. McCormack plays for Cornfed Roller Derby in Muncie and was a graduate of Ball State University.
The objective of the game is like most sports: get as many points for your team as possible. For each team, there is one jammer who wears a star on their helmet and wins the points for their team. The rest of the team tries to block the opposing team’s jammer from winning points.
To earn points, the jammer has to break through the opposing team’s blockers and for each blocker passed, a point is earned.
Kettlebells rang from the crowd, some had signs and at one point, a crowd member yelled, “Lock her, Indiana,” as the Indiana blockers attempted to block the jammer from Kentucky.
Jessie Fisher, jammer for Indiana and Ball State graduate, tried to find any opening she could as she worked her way around the circle. Using her shoulders, she tried to break through other players blocking her way.
Another player, Holly Reineking better known as “Roulette Wheels,” seemed to avoid the blockers as she skated past them effortlessly.
At one point, Roulette Wheels did what looked like a hopping or skipping motion past the other players.
At a separate time, the crowd yelled, “Get up there, white, get up there,” telling Kentucky to keep pushing past the Indiana players and for the Kentucky jammer to move forward.
Team Indiana maintained a steady lead throughout the game. By halftime, Indiana had 129 points while Kentucky had 57.
Molly Stewart from Team Indiana, better known as “Maul’s Dolls” in the derby, said for the first 10 minutes, she was unsure. Part of this, Samantha Howard or “Goldie Brown” said, was because they don’t have the opportunity to play together all the time and they have to remember how to play with one another.
After the initial start of the game, however, those concerns went away.
“We feel great … we’re working well together,” Reineking said.
During the jams, or rounds in roller derby, Micah Niespodziany, “Alotta Pushie” as she’s known on her derby team in South Bend, watched as Indiana and Kentucky went head-to-head. Today she wasn’t in skates or a helmet as she was just an attendee viewing the game.
She thought the game was “very fun and exciting,” and said it would be a nice game to play.
She also noticed a move being used called apex jumping, where players nearing the smaller edge of the circle jump over part of the line to get in front of the blockers. This is a move that helps players get out of reach of the blockers, she said.
By the end of the game, Indiana more than doubled Kentucky’s score with 259 points and 94 points, respectively. Each team sped across the circle, high fiving attendees and the other team, smiling.
One of the Indiana coaches, Dan McGowan or “Danny Mac” according to his roller derby name, said the game was a complete victory.
“It’s a very good Kentucky team and for us to be able to play at this level, more than double them up. It exceeded a lot of our expectations,” he said.
McCormack said she felt “amazing,” winning by a large margin in what she described as a fun game.
Christy McCarter, or “Phoenix” as the league calls her, is an alternate for Team Indiana and emphasized the fact this was an “extremely tough team from Kentucky.” She said the scores by the end of the game were unexpected.
Along with Indiana’s win, “Diamond” was named most valuable blocker (MVB) and Jessie Fisher was named most valuable jammer (MVJ). For Kentucky, MVB went to “Tank” and MVJ went to “Reckless Ratchet.”
When talking about Kentucky’s loss, one of Kentucky’s coaches Lauren Payne said they were happy with how they played.
“We knew it would be a challenge coming into it. Playing against another state team is always a challenge,” she said. “We did a lot of the things that we wanted to do, and you always come in to win, but we’re happy with how we played. That’s what’s important.”
Nicole Jackson, or “Thriller,” was a blocker and jammer for Team Kentucky and said she started to get in her head while playing. Indiana had good offense and defense, she said.
“It’s a learning experience, a learning curve,” she said, “and I'm looking forward to fac[ing] them in [another game].”
Team Indiana is playing again in Scranton, Pennsylvania, for the Battle of the All-Stars Tournament March 16-19. They are asking for donations to help get there.