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Friday, 01 November 2013 12:30

Toughest gals on wheels

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From left to right: Alicia Santos, Amy Drevdahl, Dawn Anderson and Tina Dobbs work together to form a blocking wall during warm-ups at their bout in September against The Duluth Derby Divas. The team is made up of women from a wide variety of backgrounds who like the physical activity and camaraderie of the sport. From left to right: Alicia Santos, Amy Drevdahl, Dawn Anderson and Tina Dobbs work together to form a blocking wall during warm-ups at their bout in September against The Duluth Derby Divas. The team is made up of women from a wide variety of backgrounds who like the physical activity and camaraderie of the sport. bombshells photo

STATELINE NEWS -- In the event that you need estate planning, you may find yourself sitting across a desk from attorney Michelle Zickert. If you need to put a call into Beloit Health System, you may hear the friendly voice of operator Amy Drevdahl. If you run by the grocery store to grab dinner you may be in line at the checkout behind homemaker Jennell Lintz.

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But for these women, what they do by day is only half the story.

Three nights a week, Zickert sets down the paperwork to become the rink shark, Mako Move, Drevdahl becomes the point-racking jammer, Enslaved By the Belle, and Lintz transforms into the fast-moving Down-N-Dirty in the rough-and-tumble sport that is roller derby.

 

Together with 25 to 30 other local women, they are the Beloit Bombshells.

Zickert, a Beloit resident and current team president, helped create the Bombshells back in June 2012, pulling members from other groups in the area like the Rock River Rollers, the Stateline Roller Derby Divas, the Delavan Dolls of Derby and the Cherry Bombers from Chocolate City.

"We’re kind of a conglomeration of other groups that dissolved or collapsed, plus we’ve picked up some new skaters as well," Zickert said. "We are a really tight-knit group, and we practice three times a week. Some of our girls even come from as far as Burlington to practice."

In addition to practicing and participating in the group’s scheduled bouts with other nearby roller derby teams, members of the Bombshells have a quota of volunteer hours and quarterly event appearances that they have to meet. They’ve appeared at Operation Ooh-Rah, The Downtown Beloit Association’s street dance, Festival on the Rock and Venetian Fest in Lake Geneva.

Many who’ve never been to a roller derby match think of the more theatrical derbies that were popular in the late ’80s, but Zickert is quick to point out that that’s not how the Bombshells roll.

"It is all completely athletic, it’s not like it was back in the ’80s where it was kind of staged," Zickert said. "It is very real, but it is a lot of fun to watch. A lot of us are moms, and we have day jobs and we are out there having fun, and we want the crowd to have fun."

As an example of just how much contact there really is in the sport, a woman from a rival team, The Duluth Derby Divas, broke her leg and dislocated her ankle during their bout with the Beloit Bombshells in late September.

"We don’t like it to be that extreme, but sometimes it does happen," Lintz said about the incident.

"It was a really fun bout, faster paced than most. It was very physical, and there was a lot of hitting," Zickert said. "She had to spend the night in the hospital for the broken leg and had to go home to Duluth that next morning, so it was pretty unfortunate."

Despite the injury there is little doubt that the Derby Diva will be back out on wheels as soon as she’s healed up, because according to Drevdahl, derby is the kind of sport that hooks you.

"It’s been almost three and a half years since I started in roller derby," Drevdahl said. "I heard about it because the company I worked for got asked if we wanted to sponsor the team, and I was like ‘There is roller derby in Beloit?’ After I had the chance to go to the first practice I was totally hooked. It keeps me in shape, I love it for the exercise and I love meeting all the new people. We have girls of all different ages and backgrounds on our team."

Although the Bombshells are not affiliated with an official league yet, each match is heavily refereed, and there is strict attention paid to the prevailing rules.

"Roller derby isn’t really well organized yet, but there are a couple different organizations," Zickert said. "The biggest organization is Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, otherwise called WFTDA. We aren’t a sanctioned league, but we use their rules."

Additionally, the Bombshells register their unique derby names at twoevils.org/rollergirls, which is an international registry for derby athletes to maintain uniqueness. Zickert says attendance for their events is usually heavy. For their first bout they sold out and couldn’t fit any more audience members into the Skatin’ Station Roller Skating Rink at 1230 Inman Parkway in Beloit, where all their home matches take place.

There is a door charge, but the players don’t collect any payments; the funds go toward equipment costs, rink rental and the all-important insurance. Zickert hopes that in the future, after becoming more established, the Bombshells can help fund raise for local charities.

Although the fast-paced action is a big draw for the derby girls, much of their interest in the sport also has to do with the camaraderie they experience with one another.

"The sport itself is a great outlet for all the stress, but more so I found a big group of kindred spirits," Zickert said. "We all connect really well and now I have 20 new best friends. I really mean that, I really didn’t connect all that well with other women when I played other sports in the past. I just felt like I was on a different wavelength. But with the Bombshells we all just have so much fun."

If you’ve never been to a match, the Bombshells encourage you to stop by their next bout at the Skatin’ Station on Nov. 16 against the Prairieland Punishers. Lintz, or Down-N-Dirty, can think of several good reasons to watch the Bombshells duke it out on wheels:

"It’s stress relieving. It’s energetic and it’s like NASCAR; everyone wants to watch it for the wrecks."

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