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Roller Girls take on Melon Smashers

Gorge roller derby travels to Hermiston for first official bout

With only a few months of practice under their belts, the newly formed Gorge Roller Girls competed last weekend in the team’s first-ever bout against the Hermiston Melon Smashers. Roller derby is noted as one of the fastest-growing female sports in the country and teams like GRG and the HMS are popping up all over the Northwest.

An entourage of close to 100 skaters and fans traveled to Hermiston for the June 23 bout, which consisted of two 30-minute periods. The Melon Smashers are also fairly new, but came in with slightly more experience and time on the track. Using size and greater knowledge of the rules of the game, the home team jumped to a 92-35 lead after the first half and a 176-97 victory overall. Despite being outscored by almost double, the showing was a great victory for the Gorge team.

“The bout was a huge milestone in the history of the Gorge Roller Girls,” said Anya Kawka. “We definitely started out jittery and wide-eyed. But by the end of the first period we turned fierce and focused. By the final whistle, the team was estatic, leaping from the bench to hug each other and the Melon Smashers.”

Meana Simone (derby name), a founding member and now GRG’s bout coordinator, said, “I have never been so proud to call myself a Gorge Roller Girl. If that is our beginning, I can’t even imagine where we will go. Watch out Derby Universe, because here we come.”

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In short, games consist of two 30-minute halves. Players skate counterclockwise in a circular track, with five members from each team on the track at any one time. Each team designates a scoring player, called a Jammer, and the other four from the team are blockers. Points are scored when jammers lap members of the opposing team, who can use core-body contact to block or force opposing players out of bounds. Jammers score points for each player they are able to pass.

“For a group still getting used to the feeling of eight wheels underfoot, our control, power and organization was impressive,” Kawka noted. “Hermiston had a couple of distinct advantages. For one, they’ve been training longer and have more experience with the rules of the game, which meant fewer trips to the penalty box. Second, their strategy used size to their advantage. Many of the Melon Smashers were twice the size of the wiry Gorge Roller Girls — a distinct advantage when it comes to blocking on the track.”

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Gorge Roller Girls formed late last year with a core group of women who wanted to start a league in the area. This spring the women put a call out to the public to form two Gorge teams based out of Hood River, with the goal of fielding enough women to be able to compete with other teams from around the northwest.

Turnout far exceeded the group’s expectations, and with nearly 60 women on the roster the team has been training several times a week since.

Additional players, scorekeepers and volunteers are encouraged to contact Gorge Roller Girls for information on how to get involved. For more info visit the team’s Facebook page (facebook.com/gorgerollergirls) or contact them at gorgerollergirls@gmail.com.

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