The Texas Roller Derby girls whip, block and jam around the track. Photographers’ flashes go off constantly, not wanting to miss a moment of the hard-core action. Tattoos and bruises decorate the roller girls’ bodies.

This was the scene at the last match between Putas Del Fuego and the Holy Rollers. The Putas — with their faces painted in sugar scull designs and their legs covered in fishnets — battled on blades and won the right to compete in the Calvello Cup finals Oct. 25. 

Bentley Screws had no knowledge of roller derby years ago when she attended her first match. She is now a member of the Putas and has been playing for four years. 

“I walked in and remembered looking at it going, ‘I want to do that. I can do that,’” Screws said. 

Screws, who is also a drama teacher, said hitting, yelling and getting into pillow fights are things she can’t do at work. But on the rink, it’s all about staying in character and putting on a show. She defeated a Holy Roller in a rough and tumble pillow fight on the track as fans roared with excitement in the bleachers. 

“I think that what you bring in as your ‘human off skates’ is what you bring into the sport itself.” Screws said. “From a female perspective, you can always relate to someone on the track. We all are rooting for each other.”

Annie Smokley, longtime roller derby player and coach, grew up searching for a sport that fit her personality. Smokley said roller derby gives the women who participate an outlet for their aggression and an opportunity to look up to other strong women. She said she gained confidence through racing and her relationships with other roller girls. 

Dental assistant by day and member of the Cherry Bombs by night, Smokley works on behalf of Texas Roller Derby to keep the league running. Although none of the roller girls are paid, they are required to attend a certain number of practices and games other than their own to help sell merchandise and work the events, held in Austin at the Palmer Events Center. Smokley said this helps bring the league together and build a solid community.

“We skate in a warehouse that costs us a few thousand dollars to skate there,” Smokley said. “We have to really push our ticket sales and merch to keep it going because, without all that, you don’t have that business.”

A trait unique to Texas Roller Derby is the penalty wheel, spun by a man dressed in drag called the penalty mistress. When a player commits a minor penalty, the wheel can land on challenges such as tug-of-war, pillow fights, arm wrestles or relay races. The player who committed the penalty will take on an opponent from the other team to gain points.

Derby girls leave it all on the track and show no mercy — fist fights even break out between referees and players. 

“It gives you the power to feel like you’re not just some girl — you’re so much more than that,” Smokley said. “Being able to be in that environment and seeing women going from really shy to this whole new person is amazing.”

Jammer Erika Alexander participates in a practice skate for a mash up exhibition bout debuting at the Texas Roller Derby’s Carnival of death. T.R.D.’s new format utilizes two blockers instead of 4 and also adds a third team. 

Photo Credit: Charlie Pearce | Daily Texan Staff

Texas Roller Derby’s Carnival of Death is bringing harlequins, freak shows and a new way of playing to the Thunderdome. It’s going to be a wild time, featuring kid-friendly games and booths, a debut of 9-Skate, a mash-up exhibition and a midnight Secret Skate Theater performance.  

Texas Roller Derby started the worldwide revival of roller derby in 2001, bringing a punk, do-it-yourself approach to the sport. The skaters invent alter egos with punny names, homemade costumes and skate for teams such as the Holy Rollers or Putas Del Fuego. The league is built, maintained and owned by its members.

The Carnival of Death is a new concept for Texas Roller Derby. Jonny Stranger, team manager for the Hellcats and artistic director of Texas Roller Derby, is the idea man behind the carnival. He created the event to celebrate the end of the season, honor a member of the derby who passed away this year and show off a new format for roller derby. The main attraction of the evening will be a mash-up exhibition match between the Harlequins, led by Elle B. Bach, and the Freak Shows, captained by Soviet Crusha.

Dyan Rice, better known in the dome as CheapSkate, was on the Hellcats and is the inventor of 9-Skate. Created as a practice drill, 9-Skate pits three teams of three against each other, rather than the standard two teams of five. In both formats, there is one jammer on each team who earns a point every time she laps an opponent. The job of the blockers is to stop the opposing team’s jammer while helping their jammer through the pack of blockers. There are two blockers per team in 9-Skate, while typical derby bouts have four. Adding a third team and extending the jams to 90 seconds gives the players more options, letting members of opposing teams join forces or double-cross each other.

“When I first started doing it, I just thought it was really fun, because it’s confusing and hard,” CheapSkate said. “There’s some sabotage that can happen, which I really love, moments of sabotage and Benedict Arnold moments.”

9-Skate forces players to be adaptable and dynamic, able to change their plans quickly to get past the blockers from the other teams. In practice, it can seem anarchic and confusing, but it adds to the strategy that goes into roller derby. There is also a collaborative element to the creation of 9-Skate, as there is with most aspects of Texas Roller Derby. At a practice, nine members of various teams within the league work together to create a set of rules, doing practice jams to find what works best for the new format. 

Women who join the league as skaters often also take jobs with Texas Roller Derby.

“It’s this very empowering thing where someone will come in and become a human resource manager [for Texas Roller Derby], and they’ve never done it before, but it’s something that will give them experience if they want to go out and open their own business,” Stranger said. “Our league, Texas Roller Derby, takes good women and makes them better.”

The players also have a voice in discussions, such as rule changes or what the punishment for a penalty is. The actions that cause a penalty do not change, but the punishment does. In the regular season when a skater gets a penalty, a penalty mistress spins a wheel with various challenges on it, such as arm wrestling, tug-o-war or the two-lap duel. For the mash-up, the challenges are going to be switched out. 

“For our mash-ups, we try to find wacky versions of the penalties,” Bach said. “We’re not too sure of what yet, but it might include things like a small cardboard box and a skater trying to clown car it.”

While it might bring to mind visions of violence, roller derby is an environment of acceptance, individuality, empowerment and — most importantly — fun. The philosophy is to fight hard, play hard and leave it on the track.

“The cool thing is that there are so many different people who do derby,” Bach said. “We’ve got every type of career and person, so whenever you throw out an idea, you get all this great feedback. Sometimes it’s hard to pare down what you’re going to do. It’s rare in life to be working so closely with mostly women.”

Nicole Marcoe (right), a mountain bike enthusiast visiting Texas from the San Francisco Bay Area, rides through a straight-away in the Peddler Dirt Derby Tuesday night.

Photo Credit: Thomas Allison | Daily Texan Staff

With the hope of getting more beginners riding on Texas trails with their bikes, Central Texas Grassroots Cycling will be hosting four more bicycle races this spring.

The Peddler Dirt Derby, CTXGC’s 2012 spring bike series, takes place Tuesday nights at the Del Valle Motorcross Park. The nonprofit organization CTXGC names the Dirt Derby series each year after its title sponsor. The Peddler, a bike shop in Austin, is this year’s sponsor. The second in their series of six races was hosted Tuesday night, with about 40
racers participating.

CTXGC’s president Ryan Albert said the organization’s mission is to promote fitness through cycling while making it more accessible for those with a casual interest.

“We want it to be like backyard football,” Albert said. “Most other sports you can just pick it up; go play with your buddies in the backyard or the park. We want to make more opportunities like that for people with cycling.”

Albert said there are typically two different kinds of bicycling races: noncompetitive charity events, which can be expensive to get into and USA cycling events which are also costly and can intimidate a beginner. Albert said USA cycling events also require a license, which adds to the cost.

“Out here, you can come and try it for $5 with no license, no barrier to entry really — just show up with a bike,” Albert said. “This is a good beginner level event for people who want to come out here and sample.”

Albert said the reason their prices were comparatively low was because of the sponsorships they get.

“We typically sponsor with partners we believe in, and we try to find sponsors that have a little bit of a coolness factor or a local favor,” Albert said.

Tom Mahnke, a local real-estate agent, is one of the current sponsors. He joined in the races Tuesday evening and said the event had a friendly atmosphere.

“Everybody is very friendly and it is just a great way to hang out with friends on Tuesday night,” Mahnke said.

Jacob Dodson, 2010 UT alumnus and CTXGC board member, said he joined the program during its fall series of 2008 when he was still a student. He said children can always race for free and the group hosts events like ‘Ladies’ Night,’ when women can race for free.

“We are a nonprofit, so we are not out there for making gobs of cash,” Dodson said. “We are just out there to provide a good night of racing and promote fitness through cycling.”

The Dirt Derby started in 2006 as a for-profit business that hosted races. Albert changed the races into nonprofit events in 2008, which he said helped in several ways.

“I shifted the flavor to what it really is and that made it easier to get sponsorships and volunteers,” Albert said.

Albert said they have gotten a lot of UT students as participants in the past, mostly in the fall.

“We’ve had a lot that have just come spectate,” Albert said. “They don’t know if they want to do it, they just come out here and hang out and drink a beer with us, and that’s cool. We don’t charge for spectators.”

However, Albert said they could always use more students in attendance.

“I think we’re missing the boat on UT students,” Albert said. “I think we could get a lot more.”

Printed on Wednesday, March 7, 2012 as: Dirt Derby draws excitement

Iowa backup QB suspended for two games after arrest

A.J. Derby has been suspended for two games following an arrest this past weekend. The redshirt freshman was arrested for public intoxication and fourth-degree criminal mischief in an incident outside of an Iowa City bar late last Saturday. Police responded to a complaint that a man had punched out the window of a bus as he was exiting. The 20-year-old Derby admitted to punching the window and said he would pay for it. Derby also underwent a breath test that showed his blood-alcohol level was at .120.

Head coach Kirk Ferentz said in a statement that Derby’s suspension comes “as a result of poor decisions this past weekend.”

Junior John Weinke will move in to the backup role for the next two weeks against Penn State and Northwestern.

Florida State QB Manuel ready to start after injury

Seminoles quarterback E.J. Manuel could be ready to play this week against ACC foe Wake Forest. Manuel injured his non-throwing shoulder against Oklahoma on Sept. 17 and had been sidelined until this week when he threw some light passes indoors with FSU trainers.

“I’m feeling a whole lot better than I was two weeks ago this time,” Manuel said.” My range of motion, my strength and all of my other stuff is back. I’m excited to get back out there at practice.”

Head coach Jimbo Fisher still isn’t sure if Manuel or redshirt freshman Clint Trickett will start this Saturday. He said the coaching staff would closely monitor Manuel’s progress and make a decision closer to game time.

“That brings another big dimension to the offense,” Fisher said of Manuel. “Not that Clint wasn’t, but it brings extreme athleticism back to the position.”

Bronco players reinstated, finally clear eligibility issues

Geraldo Boldewijn has been reinstated by the NCAA after sitting out the first four games of the season. Boldewijn, along with safety Cedric Febis and defensive tackle Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, were all suspended pending NCAA eligibility issues before the season. All three players are from the Netherlands and had played their senior football seasons in the Boise area before signing with the Broncos. Febis was reinstated before the Bronco’s second game against Toledo this year and Tjong-A-Tjoe’s reinstatement is still pending. Boldewijn brings a legitimate deep threat to the Broncos, something that has been missing after the departure of Titus Young last year.

“It’ll be fun,” said Broncos quarterback Kellen Moore. “He deserves some opportunities. He brings some stuff that the other guys can’t. He’s got some talents that hopefully we can showcase.”

Head coach Chris Peterson made it clear that the suspensions were in no way related to academic performance or violation of any NCAA rules. Boise State athletic officials expect to release a comprehensive statement regarding the three players sometime soon.

“We’ll fit him in there and give him some things and we’ll see,” Petersen said. “We just feel really bad for these kids. These kids are sitting here trying to work this out ... missing games. It’s really hard on them.”

Utah QB to miss time after injuring non-throwing arm

Jordan Wynn will miss at least the next two to three weeks after he injured his left, non-throwing shoulder last week against Washington. After that time is up the university said, “He will be re-evaluated at that time to determine if he is ready to return.”

Wynn will be replaced by junior Jon Hays, who completed 10 of 17 passes for 156 yards with a touchdown and an interception during the second half of the Utes loss to Washington. True freshman Tyler Shreve will move in to the third-string position during Wynn’s absence.

“[Hays] showed a lot of poise on a lot of plays,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “I saw a lot of positives in the half that he played. He has a strong arm and runs fairly effectively.”

“We have to change some things in our offense to play to our quarterback’s strengths,” Whittingham said. “It will necessitate that we do some different things. We’ll play more shotgun and more spread. We’re working through that as we speak. Jon is a better runner than Jordan.”

American League's Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees hits during the first round of the MLB Home Run Derby on Monday in Phoenix. (Photo cre

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

It's good to be a Yankees middle infielder these days.

Two days after shortstop Derek Jeter picked up his 3,000th hit, his teammate Robinson Cano won the Home Run Derby, and he followed Jeter’s lead to make a dramatic finish.

While Jeter made hit No. 3,000 a game-tying blast into the left field seats, Cano faced an uphill battle in the final round as he squared off against Red Sox first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

Like any great Red Sox-Yankees battle, the stakes were high, records were broken and the finish was thrilling. Gonzalez led off the third and final round, belting a record-tying 11 long balls. Bobby Abreu set that record in 2005 and Ortiz matched it in 2010. Both went on to capture the Home Run Derby title, but 11 would not be enough for Gonzalez to win.
With his father — former major league pitcher Jose Cano — throwing to him, Cano deposited 12 baseballs over the fence, breaking the final-round record with four outs to spare and sharing the father-son embrace of a lifetime following the Derby-winning blow.

The Home Run Derby had lost much of its luster recently with many fans losing interest after a lack of excitement since Josh Hamilton's record-setting display in 2008 at the old Yankee Stadium. But this year's Derby went a long way toward making it relevant again. The showdown between Cano and Gonzalez was remarkable and riveting, exciting as any game this season.

The way the Derby started didn't suggest it would be as spectacular as it eventually was. Jose Bautista, whose 31 home runs and 7.45 million All-Star Game votes are tops in the majors, managed only four home runs in a Round 1 that included nine consecutive outs. The National League, led by Prince Fielder, was just as disappointing, mustering only 15 long balls between their four representatives. Fielder was the only one of the four to advance to the second round and did so only after a swing-off.

Chase Field, home to the Arizona Diamondbacks, is not the best venue for a home run contest. But it didn't seem to be a problem for Gonzalez, who is familiar with pitcher's parks as he's spent most of his career playing in PETCO Park in San Diego. The AL's leading hitter at .354 also proved he can hit for power, scattering nine home runs to take the first round lead.

Cano's eight homeruns was plenty to get him into the second round, but a three-way swing-off was needed to decide the other two second-round participants. Matt Holliday, AL captain Ortiz and Fielder each got five swings. Holliday got home runs on two of them, Ortiz hit four bombs, and Fielder was a perfect five-for-five as both captains joined Cano and Gonzalez in the next round. But the captains were eliminated in that round as Cano's 12 dingers and Gonzalez' 11 bombs, including seven in a row at one point, brought their respective totals to 20 and brought them to the Derby's final round.

This Derby was the first with captains and the first that saw the AL and NL compete against each other. Both captains were allowed to pick three players from their league to join them. Both Fielder and Ortiz ensured they brought a teammate to the Derby with Rickie Weeks joining Fielder and Ortiz bringing Gonzalez. The AL demolished the NL, 76-19, as both Cano and Gonzalez hit more home runs (20) in the first two rounds than the NL in the entire contest (19).

In the final round, Gonzalez matched his second round total by sprinkling 11 baseballs into the right field seats, but Cano caught fire when it mattered most. Of Cano’s first seven swings, five were home runs and two died at the warning track. Seven of his last nine swings, including the last four, resulted in home runs. With Cano on such a roll, it would have been interesting to see how many more he had left because he ended the round with only six outs.

Let's hope the Red Sox and Yankees can make October as exhilarating as Cano and Gonzalez made the Home Run Derby.