DoNorth

Plattsburgh Women Gear Up for Roller Derby

With helmets tight, arms steady and skates poised, eight women crouch, gazing over their shoulders at the lanky skater behind them. A hush overtakes the rambunctious crowd as the announcer starts bellowing: “The legend of these tracks. Right here.” “Five seconds,” the referee cues. The air horn sounds, and cheers erupt from the bleachers as the skaters charge down a straightaway, elbowing and tripping each other as they round the flat oval track’s curve and speed down the opposite stretch. They flip-flop positions, elbows flying. The last skater passes the pack, her hands slashing against her side to signal the…

With helmets tight, arms steady and skates poised, eight women crouch, gazing over their shoulders at the lanky skater behind them. A hush overtakes the rambunctious crowd as the announcer starts bellowing: “The legend of these tracks. Right here.”

“Five seconds,” the referee cues.

The air horn sounds, and cheers erupt from the bleachers as the skaters charge down a straightaway, elbowing and tripping each other as they round the flat oval track’s curve and speed down the opposite stretch. They flip-flop positions, elbows flying. The last skater passes the pack, her hands slashing against her side to signal the end of the play before the group tumbles to the gym floor.

Welcome to women’s flat track roller derby, Lumber Jill style.

The Plattsburgh Lumber Jills, the only roller derby team in the Adirondacks, are North Country royalty. In 2010, the princesses rolled into Plattsburgh, proving fierce, fit females are just as powerful as dainty, demure dames. The team, originally a group of six with limited skating experience, held its first practices above the city’s local food co-op. Later they battled seagulls for practice space in a deserted parking lot near a water treatment facility.

Now, the team, which has grown to about 15 skaters, has crowned the recreational center its citadel and competes with humans instead of birds.

The Jills’ abode maintains an open-door policy and a welcome committee, which greets between 300 and 900 spectators at each bout. They come to watch women hammer each other for an hour.

Connie Mendeville, a first-year Jill, has played a gamut of sports, but she says nothing compares to roller derby.

“It’s exhilarating,” she says. “You are allowed to show an aggression that you can’t show in other sports. I get to hit as much as I physically can. No other sport reaches this level.”

This is especially true for women.

“I love it,” says Irene Yadao, jammer blocker for Rockland, Maine’s Rock Coast Rollers. “Your adrenaline is rushing.”

In Plattsburgh, the sport has transformed former athletes, ages 20 to 36, into top-tier competitors who, with plaid skirts, edgy hairstyles and fiery spirits, host Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Western New York and Canada’s best.

If they’re accepted into the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), the NBA of the derby world, the team’s reign will extend far north of Montreal and west into Ohio and Illinois. Joining that national ranking system would bolster their fan base.

The team is ready. The Lumber Jills hold three two-hour practices per week. Each woman maintains her own weight lifting, aerobics, and plyometrics workout schedule. The reward: winning in front of a packed gym.

Their schedule sends the team to away bouts during summer 2014. But the Lumber Jills will return to Plattsburgh to defend their hardwood on Sept. 20 and Oct. 18.

With helmets and skates instead of tiaras and slippers, the modern royals don’t intend to relinquish their reign.

Issue 3: Summer/Fall 2014

0 comments Show discussion Hide discussion

Add a comment

More in Open Air