GRR in the Gainesville Sun!

GRR Saints vs. Sinners

At fair, roller girls put on show

Sun staff writer

In a world where fishnet stockings, short spandex shorts and yellowish-black bruises are the norm, the Sinners defeated the Saints, while a man dressed as God provided commentary from a nearby stage.

This elaborate scene was constructed by the Gainesville Roller Rebels who hosted their first bout Sunday at the Alachua County Fairgrounds.

Hundreds of fans gathered to watch the scantily-clad athletes participate in full-contact speed skating competition – known as roller derby.

The sport of roller derby, however, is much more technical than that, as the founder of the first local team, Ms. Rebel, explained during the match.

Spectators enjoyed a tailgate before the 6 p.m. start of the competition and received plenty of hype as each player was announced and skated tauntingly by the opposing team – the Sinners laying black roses at their opponents feet and the Saints wielding swords of justice.

Catherine Seemann, aka Ms. Rebel, is out for the season due to a torn MCL. Her team is also missing a player due to a severely-bruised tailbone and another player suffered two radial fractures.

Obviously, the sport isn’t for the faint of heart.

A point driven home when Jacksonville-player “Chryssy Chaos” took a body slamming spill out of the ring Sunday and spent much of the remaining period icing her shoulder.

Instead of racing around the track Sunday with her 22 teammates in competition, Seemann played host to the media, explaining the roles of jammers, power blockers and pivots during the bout.

“Unless you’ve been on skates in the last 10 years, you don’t understand how much real physical commitment it takes,” Seemann said.

The Santa Fe Community College student started the Gainesville Roller Rebels about six months ago and has led the team to two other competitions. This bout was the first in town and was a mixing of the Gainesville-based team and the Jacksonville RollerGirls.

“We all got each other’s backs pretty well,” said Deviant Behavior, aka Melissa Ludington, of Jacksonville.

Ludington, who has played for Jacksonville for three years, said that hosting a derby bout is a challenge – “like throwing a huge party” – that takes coordination and organization.

“When we’re in the rink we hate each other,” said Ludington, a 26-year-old pharmacist. “When we’re off the rink we’re each others’ sisters.”

A bout consists of three, 20-minute periods. During a period any number of “jams” can be played.

Each jam begins with five members from each team on the oval-shapped rink. The three blockers and the pivot, who wears a striped helmet, start in one pack about 10 feet in front of the jammers from each team.

Points are scored when the jammers, wearing starred helmets, pass members of the opposing team for the second time.

The first whistle sets the pack in motion, and a second whistle releases the jammers from their start line. Whichever jammer can sprint, squeeze and force their way through the mass of skaters first, earns the right to call the “jam” at any point – strategically when that team has earned the most points.

If the jammer doesn’t call off the jam with a somewhat lewd signal to the referees, then the jam continues for a full two minutes.

On Sunday, the speed of the Sinners jammers and the team-work executed by their blockers led them to a victory of 107 to 64.

Megan Rolland can be reached at 338-3104 or