Derby tactics on display during Day 1

BROOMFIELD, Colo. — "Medics, medics! Where are my medics!"

Welcome to the first day of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association's national tournament, known as Continental Divide and Conquer in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains.

Everything was in place at the 1stBank Center, including EMTs as the defending champion Rocky Mountain Rollergirls won their first bout of the tournament over the Nashville Rollergirls, 198-50.

It was the most lopsided bout of the day, and it showed a change in strategy for Rocky Mountain's Fight Club since coming in second at the western regionals.

"Every year somebody finds a loophole," said bench manager Catholic Cruel Girl, aka Sharon Bankert.

Bankert is referring to the strategic trend of the season, which is stacking the jam line with a four-player wall before the jam begins. It wasn't something Rocky Mountain wanted to use during regionals, but there is no denying the strategy is effective.

Minnesota used it as well in a 160-121 win over the Charm City Roller Girls of Baltimore. Minnesota was in that formation and the jammer was able to pass the star to the pivot for big points. Charm City overtook Minnesota's All Stars in the second half, but not for long. Later, Kansas City Roller Warriors defeated the Rose City Rollers from Portland, Ore. 143-128. The Philly Roller Girls then took out Naptown Roller Girls from Indianapolis, Ind. 125-68.

In seasons past, teams have tinkered with skating backwards or even completely stopping on the track to lessen the distance their jammers have to cover before scoring points. It's all part of a young sport trying to think through possible advantages.

"It's evolving exponentially," said Rocky Mountain's Frida Beater, aka Portia Hensley, who has been skating five and a half years. "When I started we used to do suicide drills for a half hour each practice. Now we get right down to strategy."

One of the announcers pointed out that the national tournament is as much a derby reunion as it is an athletic event. Where else can roller derby players find skates, toe guards, derby shorts and mouthguards all in one spot? Suzy Hotrod even signed copies of the "Body Issue" of ESPN the Magazine.

For all Friday's winners, the top seeds from each region await. Rocky Mountain will have to face the Gotham Girls from New York City, who won the 2008 championship, and Minnesota will take on the Texacutioners from Austin, Tex. Kansas City will meet the Windy City Rollers from Chicago, and the Philly Roller Girls will face the Oly Rollers.

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