Down and derby


Britt Beiter and Searia Shappard, both of Murphysboro, react as their team the Bloody Roses scores a point Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in a co-ed scrimmage organized by the Southern llinois Roller Girls in The Pavilion of the City of Marion. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

By Athena Chrysanthou

Cristyn Farris sat in a row among her fellow roller derby teammates, ready to set her roller skates on the competitive track for the very first time.

Five months of practice prefaced Farris’s first match Saturday night, where two area roller derby leagues, the Southern Illinois Roller Girls and the Brigade of Handsome Gentlemen, joined for a coed mixer in the Pavilion of the City of Marion. The scrimmage game, called the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, was a contest of speed and strength between The Bloody Roses and The Black Hearts.

Farris, a resident of Marion and a recent graduate of SIU’s fashion design program, said she expected to suffer from what roller derby players commonly refer to as “jamnesia,” meant to describe the loss of memory from a first competition because of the high adrenaline and physical demands of the sport. She described the experience as “a whirlwind.”


“There’s adrenaline going on,” she said. “There was definitely parts that I remember and specific hits I remember.”

The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, a coed scrimmage held annually, welcomes skaters from different leagues in the region. Roller derby players from Midstate Mayhem and Capital City Hooligans leagues travelled from Springfield to compete in the scrimmage.

Amanda Nelson, team captain of the Southern Illinois Roller Girls, said the event is the first one of the season and gives the team a chance to have fun and show fans a good game. Ticket proceeds fund the rest of the season for Southern Illinois Roller Girls, with the next competitive derby on March 25.

Bloody Roses player Fernando Conner, known by the team alias “Babyface,” warms up Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, before the start of a scrimmage match called the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in The Pavilion of the City of Marion. The Bloody Roses beat their opponent, the Black Hearts, by a score of 287-214 during a coed mixer organized by the Southern Illinois Roller Girls. (Bill Lukitsch | @lukitsbill)

Skaters reflected the theme of the event by dressing in black, pink and red outfits. Some wore glittery makeup and sported stage names on their backs such as “Kooch,” “Shirley Temper” and “Chewee Bomb.”

The names are part of the alter ego that comes with being part of roller derby. Skaters sometimes choose names based on favorite movies, personality traits or famous people.

The game is set up with five skaters from each team on the track at one time. The “jammer,” identified with a star hat worn over a protective helmet, scores points by lapping members of the opposing team.

The rest of the team members are known as blockers. Their objective is to help the jammer through the pack and score points. The blocker’s job consists of aggressive movements which can sometimes result in serious injury.


Gina Crain, a former member of Southern Illinois Roller Girls for three years, traveled from Springfield to attend the scrimmage. She said one of the unique aspects derby provides is the opportunity it affords skaters to dress up how they like and express their individuality.

“Sometimes a lot of people that skate are professionals in their jobs so they don’t get a chance to let out their colored hair or tattoos,” Crain said. “In derby anything is accepted.”

Members of the Bloody Roses celebrate after beating the Black Hearts by a score of 287-214 on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, in a co-ed scrimmage at The Pavilion of the City of Marion. The matchup was organized by the Southern llinois Roller Girls. (Athena Chrysanthou | @Chrysant1Athena)

After the bout, Farris reflected on the camaraderie among other derby players, saying the friendship she’s built with other teammates is something that attracted her to the sport.

“I don’t get as much of the fun interaction in everyday life as a hairdresser,” Farris said. “It’s not the same sort of feeling and atmosphere.”

Staff writer Athena Chrysanthou can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @Chrysant1Athena.

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