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Derby Rolls Into Star Center

By James Yodice
Journal Staff Writer
       Rio Rancho's newest sport on skates is low on Canadians, even lower on salary. There is a rink (kind of), but no ice. There are athletes, but no testosterone.
    Instead, they are athletic trainers and students and schoolteachers and homeless-shelter workers who gloss themselves with colorful aliases like Miss E. Vil, Cinder Block, Muffin and Dahmernatrix.
    Can you say roller derby?
    The Santa Ana Star Center has certainly seen its share of interesting sports ventures since the doors swung open 25 months ago, and Tuesday afternoon the portfolio expanded with the addition of a roller derby league.
    "It's completely different than anything else you're gonna see," Muffin said. (No real names here, only stage alternatives.) "I really think we have something to bring to the community."
    The Star Center has signed the Duke City Derby, a New Mexico league of all-female teams that will begin playing games in April. The league was founded in 2005.
    The Derby ostensibly is a collection of five teams, including an all-star — and nationally-ranked — outfit called the Munecas Muertas, most of whom who were introduced Tuesday in full uniform, including a type of skate that one player said cost $700.
    Some of the women killed time by skating through the halls of the Star Center, the sight of which caught at least one visitor by surprise as she peered inside.
    "Who are they?" she asked.
    The Duke City Derby, besides the all-star composite, is made up of three Albuquerque teams and one from Santa Fe. They'll all appear in Rio Rancho about once a month, from April through the Sept. 19 championship round.
    "It's the most fun in the world," said Dahmernatrix, a former Manzano High and University of New Mexico student.
    Oh yeah, that name.
    Well, D-Nat said, she was watching a documentary about the Donner Party, and, well, thought she'd tie her nickname into cannibalism. And there you have it.
    By the way, Muffin is not only the team's top historian on roller derby, but also Munecas Muertas' "resident badass."
    Then, there's Miss E. Vil, a very tall California blonde who said she played college basketball at Weber State in Utah.
    "(When I was done), I was looking for something else, something athletic and challenging," the 26-year-old said. "I found roller derby, and it changed my life."
    Muffin said roller derby, in its current form, began in Austin, Texas, a few years ago.
    The Duke City Derby was one of the first leagues to form in the country, and there are now about 300 worldwide. Most fall under the umbrella of the Women's Flat Track Derby Association, or WFTDA, the NFL of roller derby.
    "These girls are basically athletic, a little punk rock," Muffin said. "They didn't identify with any of the existing sports organizations, most of (which) were male-dominated, or required them to abandon their own identities."
    Now, as for the sport itself, it has, until recently, been a real sport in the way that professional wrestling is a real sport.
    It is no longer scripted, Muffin said.
    "For some reason, it was a concept that really resonated with young women," she said.
    The short version of roller derby is this: five skaters on each team on a flat surface track. One of the five (called the jammer) races the other team's jammer around the track. For every opponent she passes, a point is scored. The other four teammates are blockers; they are trying to impede the progress of the other team's jammer.
    Sort of like hockey, only the skates have wheels and there are no nets.
    "You will see some girls flying through the air," Dahmernatrix promised.
    Which, on the surface, seems rather harsh, because they aren't getting paid. The money made through sponsorship or ticket sales, Muffin said, will go to promote the next event or to travel.
    "For a lot of young women, it gives them an identity that is truly their own — a physical, competitive identity they can create for themselves," said Muffin, a former social worker. "It's better that nobody gets paid. Because you know when you get on the track, the only reason those other girls are there is because they sacrificed as much as you did."
    The season opener is April 25. Call the Star Center at 891-7300 for more information on tickets.





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