Rockin' roller

Southern Oregon Rollergirl Axle Bones, center, competes during a match against the Tsunami Sirens at the Medford Armory. Julia Moore photoJulia Moore

Axle Bones is working on getting her skating legs under her, but the Tsunami Sirens won't give an inch.

Bones, one of the youngest members of the Southern Oregon Rollergirls, wouldn't have it any other way.

"You have to fight hard out there," she said before the bout. "If you aren't willing to give it your all, then you probably shouldn't be doing roller derby."

Of course, Axle Bones isn't the North Medford High School senior's real name. The derby team has recently adopted a policy of not naming their girls to the media because of some problems teams have had with men stalking the girls after bouts.

For Bones, the idea of choosing a new identity that exists on the flat track is part of the roller derby appeal.

"It's almost like a superhero name," she said. "You get to create a new identity for yourself."

Southern Oregon hosts two roller derby teams: the Southern Oregon Rollergirls, which skates out of the Medford Armory, and the Sis-Q Rollerz, based at The Venue, 1029 Narregan St., Medford. (Correction: The home track of the Sis-Q Rollerz has been updated in this story.)

SORG formed in 2009 and has packed houses at the Medford Armory and road venues. In February 2010, its first bout was against the Sick Town Derby Dames of Corvallis, before a crowd of about 1,200 fans.

Bones was a passable skater when she decided to try out for the team a year and a half ago.

These tryouts are called "fresh meat" by derby teams.

"When I tried out for fresh meat, I knew I had a lot to learn," she said. "But I was determined to make the team."

The tryouts can be rough, as can practices. Bones injured herself several times during practice.

"I dislocated my elbow once," she said. "I also cracked ribs when a skate wheel hit me."

However, she plowed on to make the team as a jammer, the lone girl at the rear of the pack whose job is to break through the scrum and score points by passing opposing players. Each player she passes is one point.

On March 17, Bones found herself battered around by the Tsunami Sirens, a derby club that skates out of Del Norte County. The Sirens held a size advantage over the Rollergirls and ended up winning the scrappy bout.

Bones scored her share of points, but often found herself crashing to the track.

The learning curve is steep in roller derby, and Bones seemed determined to improve her game through the breaks and bruises.

"It's a confidence builder," she said. "You go through some tough bouts, but you know you have a family of girls that always have your back. You can always count on them."

SORG wants to be a national player in roller derby. The team has been accepted as an apprentice league with the Women's Flat Track Derby Association.

As an apprentice affiliate, SORG joins more than 100 leagues nationwide with 60 apprentice leagues. The Rollergirls could participate in large regional tournaments to determine the nation's best derby teams.

One of the benefits of joining the WFTDA is the mentoring program, where established leagues provide guidance and tips for newer teams.

Between bouts, Bones is planning to pursue her college degree in Portland. She shrugs off some of the stereotypes associated with roller derby.

"A lot of these girls are going to college and have good jobs," she said. "Some of them have children and families and live normal lives."

Bones said she plans on pursuing roller derby when she moves to Portland.

"I'm going to try out for teams up there," she said. "Definitely."

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471; or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.



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