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Greensboro catching on to roller derby trend

It was four in the morning early in February, and Aubrey Lockard was watching “Whip It.” A 22-year-old UNC-G student, Lockard had opted to forgo studying for class that night. The next day, she created a Facebook page for Greensboro Roller Derby, which rapidly grew in popularity to over 1,000 fans.A movement had begun.

On Feb. 21, over 70 women gathered at Chumley’s Bar to inaugurate Greensboro’s first roller derby team. The Camel City Thrashers from Winston-Salem practice in Greensboro, but Greensboro Roller Derby is the first organized effort to pull together a team in the city.

“It seemed like a room full of people who were just waiting for someone to say ‘Let’s do this,'” said Cara Craig ’06. “It feels really collaborative.”

Craig attended the meeting and plans to join the team. She first heard about roller derby through a friend whose sister played in Austin under the name “Helena Hand Basket.” In 2006, A&E aired a short-lived reality series on derby in Austin, which Craig remembers watching.

After going to a few of the Carolina Roller Girls’ bouts, Craig and some friends had considered starting a team in Greensboro.

“I think what stopped me then is I didn’t have health insurance, and it’s a lot of work,” Craig said. “It’s been in the back of my head for a while now.”

“Roller derby is the basis for any healthy city,” said senior Eileen Barnett, who is eager to see the team get off the ground. Barnett is from Richmond, Va., home of the River City Roller Girls.

Over the next year, Lockard and the other women of Greensboro Roller Derby hope to begin practicing together regularly, hold tryouts, and begin competing in early 2011. They’ve already chosen pink and black as their colors, put up a Web site at www.greensbororollerderby.com, and begun looking into fundraising. Their biggest obstacle is finding a regular place to skate.

“I’m really tired of trying to find somewhere to skate, but I’m not going to give up,” said Lockard, who skates as “Molly Flogger.” “We’re skating at public times at Skateland (USA). We’re looking for somewhere to have closed practices.”

In roller derby, each team can have 20 members, but only 14 can be on the roster for a given competition, referred to as a “bout.” Players rotate in and out between “jams,” where one jammer, three blockers, and one pivot from each team race around the track trying to score points.

With so much interest in the team, Lockard said it is likely that more than one team will be formed. Names that have been tossed around include the Mad Dollys (in reference to Dolley Madison) and Natty’s Naughties (in reference to Nathaniel Greene).

Once Greensboro Roller Derby is off the ground and established, players will have to pass a skills assessment test to join the team. Eventually, they hope to join the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which requires apprenticing with an established league. To skate with the team you have to be 18, but players on WFTDA teams need to be 21 or older.

Until then, the team can compete in unofficial bouts like other undocumented teams, such as the Camel City Thrashers.

“People don’t realize that people still do derby,” said Denise Porterfield, aka “Kat Diablo,” of the Thrashers. “I don’t know anybody who could balance derby and another hobby . it just takes over almost everything.”

If the Thrashers’ bout at the Greensboro Sportsplex on Feb. 19 was any indication, Greensboro Roller Derby will have no trouble attracting fans. Joined by some players from other teams, the Thrashers split into two teams for the invitational.

Despite the seemingly high price, the Sportsplex was packed. Porterfield estimated that 500 people attended, and many sat on the floor because there weren’t enough seats.

“I wanted to go so bad, but it was $10 and that’s too much,” said junior Hilary Flint. “I still own a pair of rollerblades from Carolina Thrift. I rollerblade any chance I can get.”

Considering the widespread interest in a Greensboro team from players and fans alike, it seems the Triad is big enough for both teams as long as Lockard, Craig, and others can find somewhere to skate regularly. As the word spreads through local media coverage, Facebook, and word of mouth, Greensboro Roller Derby won’t remain a secret much longer.

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