Somer City Roller Derby ready to hit the rink

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Somer City Roller Derby is preparing for a St. Patrick's Day scrimmage between members of the team for Thursday, March 21 before the upcoming start of their inaugural season. 

It's almost time.

After more than a year of waiting, Somer City Roller Derby is finally ready to roll into action.

Next Thursday will be the first chance for most to really see Somerset's own roller derby team in action, as the team is hosting a "friends and family night" St. Paddy's Day scrimmage at Skater's Paradise. Members of the team will square off against each other in a holiday-themed evening of fun (with squad names like "Whiskey Business" and "The Shamrockers" -- a clever alias is the heart and soul of roller derby).

After that, things get real, really fast. The team's first official bout (a competition with another team) is coming up just around the corner.

"It's very exciting, but also very nerve-wracking," said team member Danielle Roy, known in competition as Ruby Von Starship. "(That's) as it is with any sort of competitive sports. You work so hard for such a long time, and when it comes time to put it to use, you're like, 'Did I actually learn anything?'

Indeed they did. Under the guidance of coach Katie "Gritty" Caudill, the team has been preparing for this moment since putting together the first touches on organizing back in the summer of 2017, when Ashley Stroud and Tammy Beasley put out on a call on social media for anyone who might be interested in participating.

"We just decided to see how many women were interested and we were pleasantly surprised!" Stroud -- a.k.a. "Ash Tag" -- told the Commonwealth Journal in February of 2018.

That same month, the team chose its name -- Somer City Roller Derby -- and spent all of 2018 developing their skills, mastering their timed tests, and preparing for the first season in which they'd be able to compete. At that time, 2019 felt a long way away. Not anymore.

"I'd say we're confident," said Jennifer Albritton, known as Kitty Omega on the track. "Nervous but confident."

Each bout is played between two teams of five, comprised of a "jammer," a "pivot" and three "blockers," collectively called a "pack." Each game is 60 minutes in length, broken down into two 30 minute periods that are further broken down into two minute "jams." The two jammers try to break through the pack to begin scoring points for their team while the blockers are using shoulders, hips, and strong skating techniques to block opposing team members so their jammer can succeed, scoring a point for each member of the opposing team she passes.

And while it gets rough out there, use of forearms, hands, head and elbows to make contact with an opponent is strictly regulated -- contrary to what might one might see in roller derby-related movies. It's legit competition and athleticism on display.

"It's somewhere between pro football and pro wrestling -- it's showy, but it's real," said Albritton.

She said that those who come to see the team could expect "high energy, lots of physicality, lots of running into each other and following."

Added Roy, "It's going to be loud."

The team will play a couple of bouts at home this year. The details on where those will be played is still being worked out but Albritton said they're trying to work out a deal with the large venue at The Center for Rural Development to hold events there.

The team also expects to travel to places like Indiana, Ohio, and Alabama for bouts, as well as in-state with Lexington and Paducah. The team is trying to schedule their first home bout for April 14 currently.

"There's a couple of teams we're waiting to hear from before we can release an official schedule," said Albritton.

Currently, the team has about 15 members. Much of the work done leading up to the season has been recruiting participants, but dealing with the long wait before official action begins has presented a challenge in team-building.

"Over the course of the last year, it's fluctuated," said Roy of the roster numbers. "It's a lot of commitment and a lot of work. At times, we've grown up to 20 (members), then we lose a handful, then we grow, then we lose some."

But much of the group that was there at the beginning is still there today, with Roy and Albritton -- Ruby and Kitty -- being two of the members who were there early on.

"No one at this point is (causing us to say), 'Will they stay around?'" said Roy. "We've got a really good core group that is committed and excited and strong."

She added that the hardest part of waiting for the season to start was the anticipation.

"Whenever you start something knowing it's basically going to be a year before you can see the fruits of your labor, you've got to have patience," said Roy.

The team looks for volunteers for other positions at well. For people who know how to skate but can't commit to the time demands or are a male, they can be a referee. If they don't know how to skate, that can hold other official positions, such as timekeeping and ticket-taking.

"There are lots of roles for people, in skating roles and non-skating roles," said Albritton.

The scrimmage will take place March 21 at Skaters Paradise behind the Grand Central Place shopping Center and will start at 7:30 p.m. There will be concessions, a host, and donations will be collected for the Sky Hope Recovery Center. A recommended donation of non-perishable food items, notebooks, pencils, blankets, twin sized sheets, feminine hygiene products, wash cloths, towels, and/or comforters will be accepted for the women's recovery facility.

Attendees are encouraged to wear festive St. Patrick's Day attire to have a chance to win Somer City Roller Derby merchandise.

Those who want to learn more about the team or to volunteer can visit and contact the team through their Instagram ("somercityrollerderby") or Facebook ("Somer City Roller Derby") pages.

They've put in the work. Now it's time for all the sweat and effort to pay off.

"At different points of the year, you think you're ready," said Albritton, "and now you actually are ready to start and you're leaps and bounds past where you were before."