My first-grade teacher was a gentle old lady who kept tissues stuffed up her sleeves. That's not exactly the person I would picture wearing fishnets and roller skates and slamming other girls into the railing.
But many members of Missile Mountain Roller Derby are charged with shaping the minds of our youth. "Most of the chicks I know that skate derby are teachers," says Kristen Parker, 29, who's a manager for School District 11's food service.
This probably says more about derby than about American education. As the Pikes Peak Derby Dames first showed us six years ago, if derby girls knock each other around, it's for sport. And a little showmanship. In fact, at a recent Missile Mountain Rocketeers bout against TXRD All-Scar Army from Austin, Texas — the movie Whip It! is based on TXRD's early back-alley style — audience members got to witness an impromptu dance by two players of opposing teams between rounds.
"To see women out there just banging on each other, and then to go after and just have a good old time — I mean, that's just amazing," says Natalie "Alde Pantzue" Hanson, 25. "You can't get that anywhere else."
Missile Mountain Roller Derby Training and Events Center, northeast of Marksheffel Road and Constitution Avenue, opened the state's first banked roller derby track on July 9. It started by hosting local teams, like those in the Rocky Mountain Riot recreational league. When the Riot dissolved around August, Missile Mountain absorbed the team members and formed the Rocketeers. The girls are working toward building more teams, even one for men.
While many of the skaters had more experience on flat tracks, they're looking at home on the banked one. "If you have a solid grasp on flat-track, getting on this track isn't going to slow you down," says Parker (who uses her last name as her derby name). "It just makes you faster."
Their track even has its own name: "Betsy."
"What's cool is that we built her — she's ours," says L.P. "Splat" Carvell. "We cut every piece of wood, we drilled every hole, we cut every piece of steel and welded it together, so she's very special to us."
But Betsy does have a downside.
"We're the only banked track in the area, so we're having a hard time finding people to play against," says Missile Mountain owner Nissa "Screamin' Alltheway" Ramirez.
With only about 10 serious banked track teams in the nation, the Rocketeers tend to play mostly flat-track bouts regionally, often subbing in for other teams. In fact, they've only played three official Missile Mountain bouts this season.
"It was hard for us, kind of starting halfway through the year — a lot of people already had their seasons set, so it was a lot of begging and pleading, a lot of scraping together players to try to get some bouts put together," says Ramirez.
The bout against TXRD was their first against a banked-track team, and it was mostly luck of the draw. Since the team was already in the area to support one of their teams at the flat-track finals in Denver, they swung by for a bout. "It was a derby miracle," says Ramirez, that they lost by only 22 points.
Though the season is technically over, the Rocketeers have scheduled a friendly mix-up bout Dec. 3, where teams from around the area, including the Derby Dames, will join in.
Basically, the girls are just happy to skate, and to skate with each other.
"When the Riot dissolved, we all as a family moved on to Missile Mountain. Not a single person was left behind," says Hanson. And with members' ages ranging from the early 20s to mid-40s, mothers, daughters and sisters all have their places.