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Annapolis

Patuxent Roller Derby hosts premiere ‘bout’ in Millersville

Bustin' Out Beana, right, and her Patuxent Roller Derby teammates line up to welcome Beevil Knievel and Fredericksburg during player intros before a roller derby match at Benfield Sportscenter in Millersville on Saturday, September 10, 2022.

You know it’s a good night at the roller derby when a mild-mannered accountant gets named the best blocker of the game.

The Patuxent Roller Derby, a new squad of skaters based out of the Benfield Sportscenter, hosted its first home bout Saturday in Millersville. No one was prouder of the big debut than team founder Nicole Corpuz, a.k.a. Tricky Nicky, who was named best defensive player by the opposition.

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Patuxent may have lost, big time, to Fredericksburg Roller Derby. But you’d never know it from the jubilant spirit of the 16 skaters in blue and silver jerseys who’d been body-slammed to the floor all night.

“We just kept pushing,” Corpuz said.

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She’s been pushing her squad since July 2021 when practice began with just four skaters and a dream of their first home bout. A native of Guam, Corpuz bought a roller derby Groupon in Houston and has been hooked on the sport ever since. But when she and her husband moved from Texas to Columbia in 2019, she struggled to find a new team. Practices in both Washington and Baltimore were a long drive, and Charm City Roller Derby, the Baltimore squad, struggled to get back online post-pandemic.

Last summer, her husband proposed a time-consuming solution: “Why don’t you just start your own team?”

So, she did. The Patuxent Roller Derby team now boasts 16 skaters, plus two trainees known as “skater tots.” Practices are held every Tuesday night at Benfield, and outside on Sundays at Alpha Ridge Park in Marriottsville, weather permitting. The women live as far north as York, Pennsylvania, and as far south as Davidsonville, although most live in Howard and Anne Arundel counties. Their ages range from just out of college to 51.

“It’s a very age-inclusive sport,” said Lindsey VanDusen, a.k.a. Linzy Lo Slam, who at 24 is one of the youngest skaters.

All describe roller derby as an inclusive pastime and engaging counterpoint to their day jobs. Some picked derby names that play off their professions, including “The Harmacist” (a CVS pharmacist), “Shudder Speed” (a photographer), and “MiZs Calculated” (a middle school math teacher).

Corpuz runs payroll at Synergi, a design firm in Columbia, and yes, she knows the nerdy, mild-mannered accountant who goes crazy on the weekends is something of a cliche. “I do this for balance,” she said.

Despite all the protective gear players wear, roller derby can be a brutal sport. Over two 30-minute halves, play is divided into two-minute segments called jams. Five players are allowed on the track for each jam: four blockers (called “the pack”) and one offensive player who can score points, known as “the jammer” and identifiable by the star on her helmet cover. Each defensive player the jammer passes equals one point. For example, if a jammer skates around the track once, but on her second time only manages to pass one blocker before time runs out, she would score five points.

As in ice hockey, there are penalties such as illegal hits to the center of another skater’s back, jammers who deliberately grab blockers and “directionals,” skating clockwise instead of counterclockwise. Offending skaters are sent to the penalty box, which leads to “power jams,” akin to a power play.

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If a jammer gets stuck in a wall of blockers and can’t get past, she’s allowed to pass her helmet cover off to the “pivot,” a backup jammer who can take off around the track in her stead.

“There are different styles of jamming,” explained VanDusen, one of the most petite Patuxent skaters. “I’m short, so I try to skate fast and dodge in and out. Wheelie is a much more aggressive skater.”

By Wheelie, she meant Veronica Weissner, a.k.a. “Wheelie Nelson,” a jammer who was sent to the penalty box on Saturday despite taking an elbow blow to the face. “I am going to have a black eye tomorrow,” Weissner declared when she came off the track.

“We call bruises ‘derby kisses,’” VanDusen countered.

When the final whistle blew, Patuxent had lost, 216-108. Tired, sweaty and covered with derby kisses, both the winning and losing teams were ready to celebrate the home derby milestone with a post-bout party at Bubba’s 33 in Severna Park.

“I have wanted to do roller derby for a long time,” said Zara Simpson, who teaches math at Old Mill North Middle School. “It’s a different sport, for all body types. You need everything to be strong, but you do not need to be a certain size.”

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Simpson joined the DC Roller Derby in 2019, adopting jersey number 314 as an homage to Pi, but was thrilled when Corpuz launched the new league closer to her home in Columbia. Five of her current and former Old Mill students, as well as a colleague, came out to cheer her on. Teaching is stressful, Simpson said, but roller derby is a great stress reliever.

“This is the most empowering thing I’ve done,” Simpson said. “We are always cheering each other on. We are each other’s biggest fans.”

Spirit signs, Patuxent Roller Derby T-shirts and blue-and-silver mermaid insignia were all over the gym on Saturday. Each Patuxent skater also holds a volunteer role with the team, and in some cases, so do their spouses. Simpson recruited students to help set up livestream equipment so viewers as far away as Oregon could watch the bout. Other players make earrings, design graphics, write news releases and run active social media accounts.

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Tickets for Saturday’s bout cost $10. The team’s goal was 75 spectators. They drew a paying crowd of 178.

“That’s great,” said marketing coordinator Lisa Stevenson, who skates under the literary moniker Lady McDeath.

All view themselves as ambassadors and recruiters for the sport. Simpson cajoles any women who will listen to give the sport a try; there’s an open house Sept. 27 and the “Roller Derby Bootcamp” that gets underway at Benfield on Tuesday nights starting Oct. 11.

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“We’re starting up the next generation of our team,” Simpson said. “A new class of skater tots.”

But beyond that, the team’s future is a little hazy. There isn’t another bout on the books until April 1, although that could change, as more roller derby leagues ramp up post-pandemic, and if the Patuxent Roller Derby finds a new indoor winter home. The team will lose its Tuesday night slot at Benfield from December through April.

Corpuz is on the lookout for another gym, somewhere between Baltimore and Washington, that’s affordable and available. Beyond that, Corpuz isn’t too picky.

“All we need is a floor,” she said. The skaters will do the rest.


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