It's been a while since we've seen a roller derby championship game in these parts. --- With league turmoil, rebuilding sessions and non-competition clubs being the dominant stories of the year, there hasn't been much in SLC in terms of league battles for top honors -- leaving many fans of the sport to travel north this Saturday to see the biggest championship game of the year being played in Ogden.
The Junction City Roller Dolls cap off their season with a doubleheader, most likely with City Weekly's own Bill Frost overseeing the action. The first bout pits the all-star team The Trainwrecks against The Treasure Valley Rollergirls out of Boise, followed by the league's championship game, as the Railway Banditas defend their title against the Hilltop Aces in a rematch from last year's championship game. Before the game, we chat with league co-owner/founder Slayer Cake, and both team captains Killa Parta and Cherry Von Sin, about JCRD and derby in general, as well as their thoughts going into Saturday's action.
Slayer Cake, Killa Parta and Cherry Von Sin
Gavin: Hello, ladies! First thing, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Killa: I'm Killa Patra. I've been skating with JCRD since they started in June of 2008.
Slayer: Hello! I'm Slayer Cake, and I have been involved with roller derby since 2006 and am one of the original founders and current owners of the Junction City Roller Dolls in Ogden.
Cherry: Hello, I am Cherry Von Sin! I have played roller derby for almost two years now. I am currently the Hilltop Aces captain and I am loving every minute of it!
Gavin: How did each of you take an interest in roller derby, and what motivated you to get involved?
Killa: My sister had randomly heard an advertisement on the radio about a team that was starting and wanted me to go with her. I thought it sounded fun so I went and now here I am.
Cherry: I found out about roller derby from a friend. I was at the bar one night when I ran into a old friend, who was wearing a Junction City Roller Dolls hoodie. I fell in love with the logo. I loved the pin-up gal on the train. Then I started asking questions and got more and more interested about roller derby but I didn't think that I could do it. It sounded rough. He bet me that I could not do it and I love a challenge. The rest is history.
Slayer: In October of 2006, a friend of mine was approached by Killa Patra at Weber State University. When she told me there was a roller derby league in Davis County, I thought it sounded awesome! I had no idea what I was getting into, it just sounded like crazy fun. I showed up and skated and that was it. I was hooked. It was nowhere near as huge as it is right now, and I never imagined it would take over my life the way it has.
Gavin: What was it like for each of you training and eventually doing tryouts for different leagues?
Cherry: I have never been on any other league than Junction City. Training with them is great. In the beginning, everyone is there to help and share their experiences on the way. As time goes by, you leave the nest and become your own person -- focusing on what you can improve on or watching other girls on the track and how they move, hit, get low; all things that come with derby. My personal training was hard. I came from not playing ANY sports to a fast-paced full-contact sport. I can remember the night of tryouts. Getting home and walking up five steps almost killed me.
Killa: Well, I haven't actually had to "tryout" for different leagues, so to speak, but I have been skating for as long as I can remember. Naturally, a sport that involved roller skating caught my interest.
Gavin: Slayer, how did the idea come about to start your own league in Ogden?
Slayer: The founders of JCRD (myself, Colonel Skirts, Hannah Bull and Zelda Cruz) had all skated with The Davis Derby Dames, a small Davis County league, between 2006 and 2008. The four of us began to realize that we had a very different vision from that of our league's owner; things had turned sour and we were looking for ways to improve our league. We wanted to have a better environment for our skaters, we wanted stability and consistency, we wanted to bout, and we wanted to be proud of our league within our community. We tried to solve the issues internally but were unsuccessful. The four of us broke off and a little over half of the skaters came with us. We all worked around the clock to set up the league. We decided to claim Ogden as our league's home city since Davis County was already DDD turf and we really wanted to distinguish ourselves and move forward. Junction City Roller Dolls officially became a league on June 28, 2008.
Gavin: How did you come up with the name and the teams, and what was it like for you putting the league together and getting everything organized?
Slayer: Ogden has been called "Junction City" because of the city's history as a main railroad-transfer point. A fellow skater, Lez Zepplin, actually sparked the idea early on for us, so we ran with it. We really liked the way Junction City sounded and wanted to incorporate Ogden's colorful history and the railroad theme into our league. The teams came in our second season and the favorites were voted on by the entire league. Our all-star team is the Trainwrecks and is made up of our top skilled players in the league. This is the team that travels and competes with other leagues. Our home teams, Railway Banditas and the Hilltop Aces, were introduced in our 2010 season, and this year we added a third home team, the Aftershocks. Home teams are crowd favorites and compete with each other each season for the home-team-championship title. As far as putting the league together, once the owners established the business and got the main structure together, a board of directors was selected to help delegate tasks and head up league functions. We worked together to write up our league rules and procedures, everything from scratch. Each board member has adapted and made changes throughout the years to make each position work within the board and the league and we are still making changes. Each board member is responsible for their own position and making sure that the skaters are informed, organized and participating. We have board members in charge of everything from merchandise to sponsorship to skater relations and bout production. Each board member is a current skater who volunteers their extra time to keep things running. No board member or owner is ever financially compensated. Our reward is JCRD, our skaters, our fans and the tremendous sense of pride for what we have all accomplished. Board member or not, each and every one of us does our share and works together to promote the sport and keep the league running strong. Without the skaters and volunteers, the league does not survive. I am grateful to every member, past and present, for contributing and making JCRD what it is today.
Gavin: As you said, Junction City Roller Dolls officially started their first season in 2008. What was that inaugural season like for each of you, both in establishing yourselves in Ogden and separating yourselves from other leagues in the state?
Slayer: By the time we were ready for our first bout, it was nearing the end of the derby season, which is typically early March to November. We soon found out that skate locations were far and few between in the Ogden area. So even though we were an Ogden-based league and trying to set ourselves apart, we ended up holding two public "expo" style bouts in October and November of 2008 at the Classic Fun Center in Layton. They were mainly for fun and to introduce ourselves. We had a "Straight A's vs. Slackers" bout and a " Zombies vs. Military" bout. I remember them feeling like such a HUGE deal at the time. It sounds corny, looking back, but I remember feeling so emotional about coming together and bouting after all we had been through that year. After those bouts, we felt very confident that our league would survive and that there would be a fan base to support us. As for the other leagues, at that time there were only two other established leagues in the state -- our old league, the Davis Derby Dames and the Salt City Derby Girls in Salt Lake City. I do give huge thanks to Salt City for helping us break out in the derby community back in '08. They treated us like a sister league and we received a lot of help from them and their officiating crew. They were far enough south so we didn't have any issues separating ourselves. They were way more established and skilled, and we were the new girls up north so it wasn't hard to tell who was who. As far as Davis Derby Dames, they ended up moving to Ogden not too soon after JCRD did and re-formed with new ownership under the name O-Town Derby Dames. It was a little bit of a turf war at first, fighting for local media coverage, after-party locations, and having to clarify who was who, but once JCRD settled in their spots and O-Town in theirs, it all worked out.
Gavin: This year, you officially became a member of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association. How did the opportunity come about, and what was it like joining their organization?
Slayer: When we first started the league, we played by WFTDA rules -- 2.0, I think. We didn't know what it really meant to be a part of WFTDA, we just knew that the big leagues were members. I think we were pretty intimidated for awhile because we were just starting out and thought WFTDA just was for ranking. Our first bout we played outside of our league was against the Salt City Derby Girls and we got our asses handed to us. I think most of us just thought that we needed to actually win bouts before we could be a member of such an organization. In 2010, we finally began researching and putting more thought into applying. We realized it wasn't just about winning bouts or being the biggest, baddest league out there, it was about joining a community of skaters from all levels and all types of leagues who were working to help further the sport. When the WFTDA came out with its apprentice program, we decided that it was time. We applied and were accepted into the program in 2010. Once we got that far, we were assigned a mentor from another WFTDA league who helped to answer our questions and provided us with the resources needed to help complete the program. It took nearly all of 2010 to complete the paperwork and requirements, and in March 2011, we graduated as WFTDA members. So far, it has been a positive experience and we have learned so much from the other WFTDA leagues.
Gavin: Killa and Cherry, how has it been for each of you competing in the league and for your respective teams over the years?
Cherry: Competing in the league is something of its own. You are striving to get yourself to the top, but there are always girls that can do something better. It's constant competition with yourself and others.
Killa: This year was my first full year as a captain. It was a learning experience, for sure. It has been cool to watch the development of different players.
Gavin: When did you both end up becoming captains for each team and what was it like taking on that role, going from a teammate to a leader?
Killa: I was voted in as captain of the Banditas this year around February or March, and having to be the person, or one of the people, that answers for the whole team is a lot of pressure. Luckily, I have a great team that sticks by whatever decisions the captain and co [captain] choose.
Cherry: I was voted in in the beginning of the 2011 season. I wasn't expecting that role at all. It was my second year of playing and I felt as though I still had much to learn. I still do. It was a hard transition from a teammate to captain. It was my second year! I was scared to run practice with girls that have been doing it for many years. At times, I felt as though I should just give that responsibility to someone else, but I feel now that I have grown into it a bit more. Being a leader takes a bit more than just telling people what to do and how to do it. It takes a good leader to know when I don't know something and some other girls do. I am not afraid to admit it and let others instruct rather than denying my team that opportunity to learn something. You have to give and take.
Gavin: How is it for each of you training with your fellow teammates and essentially busting their asses to be the best?
Cherry: I love my ACES!!! ACES FOREVER!!! Those girls give everything they have! Everyone is so encouraging and supportive of one another. We all also bust each other asses. We work together and talk about where we are on-spot and where we can improve. It's hard to look back at yourself and your team and take blame for what went wrong on this jam or that jam.
Killa: It's great! I love skating with these girls. I'm always open to learning new ways to skate or tricks to learn, and having a bunch of girls that have my back is awesome.
Gavin: Moving on to the championship bout this year, this is actually a rematch from last year's championship, which the Banditas won over the Aces. What was last year's game like for all of you?
Slayer: The bout itself ... eeks! I honestly don't remember much about last season's championship! There has been so much derby THIS season that I'm having a hard time recalling...
Cherry: I will be honest in saying that I don't remember a lot from that game, either. Sorry!
Gavin: Here we are, a year later, with a rematch for the title. What changes did you make to the teams over the year to get where you are now in the championship round?
Slayer: For the 2011 season, we decided to make the home-team rosters permanent rather than rotating. Permanent teams were selected at the first of this season, and other than replenishing for retiring skaters, the teams have remained the same. Last season, skaters were drawn from a hat before each bout and would be on any given team. This season definitely means more to the teams because they have all been putting the work in together to train and get the teams ready. Each team trains a little differently and each team has their own goals and game plan. There is more to win and more to lose for the championship. The competition between Aces and Banditas has been fierce this season, so I expect this to be a pretty intense bout. Whoever wins or loses, when we play on our home teams we play for Junction City. It is great to win a bout on your home team and feel the pride and your hard work paying off, and it's even better at the end of the night to hug and shake hands with your opponents and realize that we ALL won.
Gavin: What are your thoughts going into the championship, both from your respective teams and yourselves as captains?
Killa: Being able to bring it all together and win!
Cherry: Oh, I am excited! All the Aces are excited! We have seen that trophy! I think the Aces have what it take to take the game. We had a rough start to the season but we have only gotten better. I am sure the Aces are excited to show how much we have improved as individuals and most as a team! I, personally, am so proud of my team. I would not trade ANY of them for anything. I know that we will give our best.
Gavin: Moving on to local stuff, what's your take on the way roller derby has grown in appeal and participation around the state?
Slayer: I love how roller derby has exploded in Utah! It's really cool to see new leagues sprouting up, to see skaters take so much pride in their own leagues. I think it is a great opportunity to learn from each other, and we are all pretty close so it makes it possible. There is a good blend of competition and fun on the Utah leagues -- you can still see tutus out there on some while others are more uniform and competitive. Some are drinkers and after-party animals and some are strictly sport. And that is great! I have really enjoyed seeing the men's leagues and the junior leagues mixing things up out there, too. Five years ago, only a handful of people knew about roller derby in Utah. Now it seems like everyone knows of someone who skates in a league or has been to a bout. Fan participation is what keeps us going so I am glad that there are more leagues to promote the sport and bring in new fans each time.
Gavin: What's are your thoughts on the other local leagues around the state and the work they've done to promote the sport?
Slayer: I think we all kind of bounce off each other. When one league promotes, all leagues benefit. New fans, Facebook and word of mouth are huge in this community. When a sister league is on the news or in the paper promoting their league, everyone in Utah roller derby benefits because it gets people talking and looking into the closest league to them. Leagues also promote outside of the area by traveling to other states and becoming known in the derby community for their skills. I think the local leagues do a great job promoting and reaching out to new fans.
Gavin: Last year, there was a lot of drama and controversy around the leagues: who would be coming back and changes being made all around with lineups and memberships. What's your take on the statewide issues from last year and how they affected everyone this year?
Slayer: I feel like 2011 has been a great season and everything is where it should be. We have no take on last season's issues. We prefer to stay out of other league's business and avoid public comments altogether; it just isn't healthy for the derby community.
Gavin: How is it for you competing against some of those leagues and seeing how other women are at the same skills?
Killa: Playing against other leagues is awesome. When you play against a team from another state or whatever, you never really know what your gonna get. Derby is a very strategic game, and it's great to see how another team applies it and how my team reacts.
Gavin: With the growth in competition and fandom, do you believe Roller Derby has found its new era, or does it still have some growing to do before it reaches that point?
Killa: I think roller derby has barely started to make its comeback. Every year, there are more and more teams starting up that are exposing their towns to it. I would love to see roller derby on TV again!
Cherry: Roller derby has so much room to grow! We are just starting. Derby has amazing fan support; they help us get to the next level every time. There are girls now in derby that are paving the way for others. Every day, roller derby is becoming more and more of a sport and not a "side show." For instance, this week derby has taken a new level by being noticed by ESPN. It's getting bigger and bigger by the day.
Gavin: What can we expect from all of you after the season ends?
Cherry: Expect girls to be training harder during the off season. I know some of the girls that have asked me what they can work on in the off season. Girls want to get better and the only way to do that is practice. So expect to see them on the rink and at the gym. Girl will be working hard for more derby action next year.
Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to plug or promote?
Slayer: JCRD league tryouts on January 28, 2012. Check our website/ for more details. Oh, and, of course, a huge shout out to all of the skaters who make this league possible!
Cherry: Support Local Roller Derby!
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