AP NEWS

Ready to rumble: Roller derby team prepares for final bout of season

September 15, 2017

The Heartland Hellcats will square off against Central Kansas Roller Derby on Saturday for the first co-ed bout to take place in North Platte.

Traditionally an all-women team, the Hellcats recruited men from across the state to join them as they face the coed team based out of Hutchinson, Kansas, for the fourth annual Railtown Rumble.

This is the last bout of the season for the Hellcats. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the first whistle is at 7:30 p.m. at the D&N Event Center. Tickets are $12 for adults and $7 for children younger than 12. They can be purchased at heartlandhellcats.com, at Express AVL or from any team member.

“We are a nonprofit team that supports other nonprofits here in North Platte,” said Hellcats President Megan “Hipcheck Holly” Huddle.

This bout will benefit 308BMX, a nonprofit working to create a bicycle motocross track in North Platte.

“We’re running a half-time game and a 50-50 raffle for them,” said Kristin “Intensive Scare” Johnson, bout coordinator. “They get to keep all the proceeds from that, then we give them a cut as well.”

The team also makes an effort to stay involved in the community through volunteering. The more the Hellcats are out and about, the more interest there is in roller derby.

For Huddle, who’s been president the last three years, watching the team grow has been special.

“We built this from the ground up,” Huddle said. “I’m at awe with my teammates. ... Each of them brings something special to this team.”

Huddle said she loves new people who express an interest in roller derby, because she knows someday they may share her passion. She believes anyone can be involved, regardless of their age, weight or athleticism.

“If you’re determined in this sport, you can constantly improve,” Huddle said. “We are strong women that work hard for this team.”

New recruits have to go through a “fresh meat” program in which they learn the basic skills required to play, such as how to skate properly, how to fall and how to jump. Once they’ve mastered the basics, they can be cleared for contact.

“Then you can do the fun stuff,” Huddle said.

She said the team is always looking for skaters, coaches and referees. Those who are interested are encouraged to reach out to the Hellcats on their Facebook page.

“Roller derby takes commitment and dedication,” Huddle said. “What you put into this sport, you will get in return.”

The team practices twice a week, year round. They generally have bouts in March, April, May, August and September.

Johnson said the sport is a great way to get exercise and redirect aggression or negative feelings.

“If things are going bad at home or in life, you get to go out on the track and hit people,” Johnson said. “Of course, you know, we don’t lay people out like everybody thinks.”

The athletes hit people safely, and while someone could get hurt, that’s never the intention. Johnson said there’s camaraderie among the athletes who are on her team and the ones who aren’t.

“On the track we may be a different breed — we may be more aggressive or whatever — but even when we’re starting to line up, everybody is dancing, and laughing and smiling,” Johnson said. “The derby community is just amazing.”