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Mountain Town Mayhem, Mount Pleasant's local roller derby team, is doing its best to promote its sport one bout at a time.
Spinning Wheels Arena is usually filled with knee pads, helmets, roller skates and families. But when Mountain Town Mayhem hosts a bout, a team in the Central Michigan Roller Derby League (CMRD), the arena is filled with cheer bleeders and scorekeepers.
Roller derby is a competitive women’s sport that has been gaining momentum and popularity recently, joining the Mount Pleasant community just two years ago. The CMRD was founded in October 2010 with the Mountain Town Mayhem team forming shortly thereafter. League President and Mountain Town Mayhem Co-Founder Kristina “Krushner” Saxton has been with the team from the beginning.
“It started with Rosie the Pivoter watching the movie, ‘Blood on the flat track.’ Then came the idea of starting a team and with just a few Facebook posts, (we became) the founding members and now we have a wonderful league,” Saxton said
The league and team names were chosen with the hope that one day there would be enough members to form multiple teams and possibly even a junior team, Saxton said. Currently the team is composed of 18 members and two referees.
The league has members from Mount Pleasant as well as from the cities of Crystal, Harrison, Linwood and Big Rapids.
Women’s flat track roller derby developed in 2001. A contact sport, roller derby requires a lot of speed, strategy and athleticism. There are currently over 400 leagues competing worldwide.
Roller derby is a relatively simple sport where members from two teams, called jammers, compete to skate around the ring as many times as possible while battling through human blockades formed by the remaining team members, called blockers and pivots. The games or bouts are split into two 30-minute periods, where each period is split into two-minute jams.
This sport involves a lot of strategy on the part of both teams, since each can be forced to play offense and defense at the same time as they help their own jammer through the pack while trying to block the other team’s jammer.
All members of CMRD are required to have a derby name at the time they officially join the league. Derby names are usually creative word plays, sexual innuendos or references to pop culture. All derby names must be registered with the International Rollergirls’ Master Roster.
Most roller derby leagues donate the profits from their bouts to charity and CMRD is no exception. The group is a non-profit operation focused on giving back to the community. The mission statement from the CMRD Facebook page explains that the group exists to “promote and support CMRD while helping our communities (through) charity work, donations, volunteering and providing athletic entertainment.”
The league also has open skates and Derby 101 events to pique community members’ interests and recruit new team members. The Derby 101 skates cover the basics of the sport, including skating, stopping and the proper way to fall. The group even provides equipment for first time participants but requires they bring their own mouth guards.
Mountain Town Mayhem hosts a black and red open scrimmage once a month. The scrimmages are open to all skill levels and even referees and other league members are welcome to join in the bout. The only requirement for the open scrimmages is that participants bring a red and black shirt with their derby number on the back.
CMRD has strong foundations in friendship and sportsmanship. This really sets the team apart from other derby teams, Saxton said. Before the bouts all the team members help setup the rink before they go off to do their own pre-game rituals.
“[I joined the team] for the exercise, but through that I became hooked [and] made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my life,” Saxton said.
During the bouts, every player gives 100 percent, cheering on their teammates and those from the other team. While the atmosphere is chaotic, it’s also filled with high spirits and friendly competition.
“We cheer everyone on, leave it all on the track, and when it’s over we hug the other teams and have a great time,” Saxton said.
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