Four years in the making
by Than Acuff
All of the traveling up and down the valley for workouts, the late nights in gyms, hockey rinks and rec centers for the past four years finally paid off for the Gunnison Valley Roller Girls roller derby team as they won their first bout in the team’s history last weekend in Monte Vista, taking down the San Luis Valley Scarlet Rollers 176-151.
Renee “Crash Nasty” Newton started the whole process of flat track roller derby in the Gunnison Valley after spending seven years honing her craft in North Carolina. She teamed up with veteran roller girl and North Carolina teammate Cabell “Tits McVenom” Bryan to form the Gunnison Valley Roller Girls and spent the better part of the first year simply introducing the sport to the women of the Gunnison Valley.
Being a haven for athletically gifted women with a touch of fierce competitiveness, the Gunnison Valley served as a breeding ground for fledgling roller girls and the team started to grow in numbers and ability.
Unfortunately, their seasons were a bit hit and miss as the team struggled to find adequate practice space for a majority of the year, and interest waxed and waned the first couple of years.
The program turned it up a notch two winters ago when they found practice space at the Fred Field House in Gunnison and the Crested Butte Community School gym.
“I think our biggest problem was we’d make progress in the summer and then in the winter things would fall apart,” explains Newton. “But after we got that winter space, things started rolling. The spaces are a little small but we at least are able to get our skates on and practice.”
While the core team remains small in size, with 10 girls being the most consistent, Newton feels they make up for numbers in their athleticism and fitness.
“We’re small but we have such a talented, athletic group of women and it doesn’t hurt that we train at 9,000 feet,” says Newton.
They had their first official bout last summer in Crested Butte when they hosted the 10th Mountain Roller Girls out of Eagle, Colo. The 10th Mountain Girls had years of experience under their belts and handed the Gunnison Valley Roller Girls a pretty good thrashing but the experience only rallied the local team even more.
“That just lit a huge fire,” says Newton.
In addition, the team picked up a coach, Toby Electric as he is known in roller derby, to help guide the girls and start smoothing out the rough edges.
“He’s been awesome,” says Newton. “He’s bringing new drills, keeps the girls motivated and helps us see what we need to work on. Not only are we skating faster but we’re hitting harder. It’s been really great having everyone step up. The skill level is impressive.”
They opened the 2015 flat track roller derby season on Saturday, April 25 in Monte Vista, taking on a new addition to the Colorado flat track roller derby ranks, the SLV Scarlet Rollers.
The Gunnison Valley Roller Girls jumped out to an early 40-0 lead and held on the entire bout to finish with a 176-151 win.
“The win felt great and the bout was really positive,” says Newton. “All of the hard work and training is paying off and it’s a really cool feeling.”
The team will continue their workouts through May and will host a scrimmage in Gunnison on Saturday, May 30. They will then host a rematch with the Scarlet Rollers in Crested Butte at Big Mine Ice Arena on Saturday, June 13.