Roller derby serves as a fun outlet for Sutton Ballard, Persephone Vogel, Madilyn Morton, Kerri Zumbrunn, and Nicolas Avila.
In the span of a year, veteran competitor Ruth Williams coached the teenage quintet as part of Texas Junior Roller Derby. Williams extolled each skater’s contributions to the Austin area-based team as they “age out” of the youth-oriented program and – with their high school diplomas just conferred to them in the past month – proceed to the next chapter in their lives.
“Everybody has their different personalities [and] they’re competitive,” Williams, who is known in the local circuit as “Peacewar,” told Texas Scorecard.
For the uninitiated, roller derby is a contact sport invented in Chicago a few years before World War II. The action takes place on a circular track, with both teams moving counter-clockwise.
It involves one team member, the jammer, lapping members of the other team in an attempt to score points while the rest of their squad protects them from opposing players.
“Most of my skaters jam and block, which is really cool,” said Williams. “[The] Texas Junior Roller Derby [doesn’t] want specific roles, and they think it builds the team better. That way, everyone is used to jamming, pivoting, and blocking.”
Vogel, or “Pop Roxie” on the track, is a multi-sport athlete with a decade of skating experience under her belt. She will continue with roller derby as a member of the Texas Rollergirls.
Zumbrunn, or “Kick Ashe” to her teammates, helps train the program’s junior skaters and has enlisted in the Navy. Like Vogel, she competes with an adult roller derby squad.
Ballard earned the moniker “Bruiser” because, according to Williams, she “loves to hit people.” She will move to Seattle where she might continue her roller derby career.
Morton AKA “Depeche a la Mode” was the team’s resident funny girl. Williams humorously recalled a time when Morton, a current member of the All-Scar Army roller derby squad, presented her with dog biscuits though the coach did not own a canine.
Avila, who is dubbed “Nacho Friend,” will also participate in roller derby on the adult level. He hails from a family actively involved in the sport, which attributed to him excelling quickly on the track after strapping on a pair of skates a few months ago.
“They’re all really awesome athletes,” said Williams. “I’m really excited for all the hard work they’ve put in all this time. A lot of them have been skating five-plus years. Some of the other ones, ten-plus years. And still maintaining their school grades and other activities besides roller derby. It’s pretty awesome that the parents got them into roller skating to begin with and that they’re continuing to do it as adults. I’m really excited for them and the future of roller derby in general.”