Editor's note: This story has been updated.
The wheels of skates scratch the hard flooring of the Delaware County Fairgrounds Memorial Building. Whistles blow from the referees, often shouting things to the players. Bodies push, collide and fall abruptly to the ground with a sharp thud. The crowd cheers and grimaces.
The Cornfed Roller Derby All-Stars played Rockford Rage Roller Derby on Feb. 18. Cornfed maintained a steady win against Rockford throughout the bout in a game of high-speed skating, shoving and scoring.
Each jam starts with an initial whistle blow when the skaters get into position. When the referees do two whistle blows, the actual jam begins when two players — known as jammers — attempt to break through the pack of players in front of them and be the first to get past and be the lead jammer.
Once the lead jammer breaks through, it seems like they get a chance to breathe. Although their speed is quick, their next challenge lies ahead as they must break through the pack of players again to earn points for their team. Each opposing player they pass, each point they gain.
At one point, Miss EDventure from Cornfed, whose real name is Erica Douthitt, broke her way through the packs, who often started with their arms held together in a blocking position, and spun. She raced ahead of the jammer, speeding across the rest of the circle before she met the pack again. Falling to the ground due to impact, she gets up and wins points for her team. Ultimately, she hits her sides with both hands, signifying the end of the jam.
In another jam, Bride of Skatinstein from Rockford, whose real name is Miranda Clift, barely makes her way past the blockers on one foot. Later in the bout after halftime, she did another move on one leg, this time facing toward the blockers similar to a move found in ice skating.
Douthitt was kept at a standstill at one point during the first half. As two players fell to the ground, she made her way through, in one lap skating with almost no defense to block her.
She and Bernadette Crashnbash from Rockford, whose real name is Aislin Bright, were both jammers who were at the same place around the circle in one part of the game. Douthitt shoved Bright. Nothing happened. She shoved again, and Bright fell to the side while the crowd roared.
At intermission, Cornfed led Rockford 131 to 55 points.
Danny Mac, a coach for Cornfed Roller Derby whose real name is Dan McGowan, said the team played around with some of their rotations the first half of the game and were going to try a little bit more in the second half. He said the blockers and jammers were doing well, and the offense took a little bit longer but started to click through the first half.
“What you like to see out of a team is that we’re calm and collected and that we’re discussing what’s next,” he said, “and we continue to do that throughout this first half.”
McGowan said he didn’t quite know what to expect from Rockford.
“They’re a more experienced team than we were expecting to see today,” he said. “We knew they were going to be good but Rockford came out very collected … they came out way more polished than we were expecting.”
Boggs from Cornfed, whose real name is Emma Boggs, said she was feeling good about the game at intermission.
“I feel like I've had some really good jams and I just put up a 16-point jam, which is pretty good because I normally do like four or eight,” she said.
She had taken some hits during the same, she said, so at intermission, she was preparing to stay calm and collected to get ready for the second half.
Grizzly Barrett, whose real name is Christina Barrett, said she was feeling really good, but she still felt “guarded” about the game.
“The points may not look close,” she said, “but within a matter of a couple jams, they could be close.”
She said she wanted to keep playing strong and, as a blocker, she wanted to keep playing defense and offense in the game. At intermission, she had a band-aid on her arm due to a hard hit she received through the gameplay.
As intermission came to a close, the once rejuvenating players were back in the game.
Bright at one point fell onto her backside with her legs slightly elevated during the fall. After getting back up, she was nudged by one of the blockers and fell again, before ending the jam by rapidly and harshly hitting her sides.
In one jam after intermission, there seemed to be a standstill for Douthitt, with the blockers not allowing her to move forward for around half of the circle. During this time, Clift effortlessly skated past without serious limitation.
During roller derby bouts, jammers wear star-covered caps and have the ability to give that cap to another player, allowing them to be the jammer. When this happened for Cornfed, Peach from Rockford, whose real name is Jennifer Koepke, attempted to slide sideways in front of who would be the new jammer but she missed just slightly and no collision occurred.
Rogue for Cornfed, whose real name is Ashlie McCormack, was jammer one time during the bout. During this time, she seemed to find gaps at the sides of the pack rather than forcing her bodyweight head-on, gaining multiple points for Cornfed. Some players did this approach, while others attempted to collide aggressively into the pack, hoping to make headway.
The bout ended in a victory for Cornfed, who earned 240 points compared to Rockford’s 148 points.
Melody Mayhem, whose real name is Adrianne Wingler and was a jammer, thought the game went really well.
“Our blockers were really strong together and our jammers were really focused,” she said. “We didn’t know what to expect. We never played them before, and it was a lot of fun.”
Kent French, head coach for Cornfed, said he loved how the game went and there are still things he hopes to improve on.
“[Cornfed] is a phenomenal group of players,” he said. “They all know the game extremely well, so that makes my job extremely easy. They just go out and do their thing.”
McCormack said she also felt the game went “really, really well,” and was also “really, really tough.”
“The other team came and hit us really hard and played the game fast and really challenged us to work for every single point that we got,” she said.
If she could do anything differently with the gameplay, she said she’d want Cornfed to slow the game down in the first half, which she said they were more successful at doing in the second half.
The Cornfed Roller Derby Misfits, who contained some of the same players as The Cornfed Roller Derby All-Stars, played a separate bout at 8 p.m. Feb. 18 against Fort Wayne Roller Derby.
Cornfed Roller Derby’s next game is May 27 in Muncie with two away games during March and April. They will be ending the season with the two-day tournament called “Smalltown Smackdown” June 17-18.