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Westchester's Suburbia Roller Derby League ready for season opener
In ripped tights, her dyed black hair pulled into a side braid sticking out of her safety helmet, Aileen Walsh, a 34-year-old pediatric physical therapist from Stony Point, tightened her roller skates and prepared for battle.
"There's more to suburbia than white picket fences and housewives," said Walsh, a skater for Westchester County's Suburbia Roller Derby League, which has about 60 players.
Meeting two nights per week for practice sessions at the Yonkers Police Athletic League gymnasium, Walsh (known as "AWOL" when skating) and her team, the Suburban Brawl, are gearing up for their season opener on Saturday.
"We've got some really rough and tough girls that are great athletes," she said of her team of 16.
Roller derby is a contact team sport; the matches are called bouts. To score points during bouts, skaters compete in a series of matchups -- called "jams" -- in which a designated "jammer" scores points by skating her way through members of the opposing team as they all make speedy laps around a circular track. "Jammers" are known to push, shove and elbow their way to the front the pack. Injuries are commonplace, and many of the skaters spend the season covered in bruises from falling during competition.
League referee Cesar Castillo, known as Cez So, says it takes a special brand of athlete to compete in roller derby. "[A roller derby player] would have to be tough -- mentally tough, physically tough," he said. "They take a lot of hits; there are a lot of injuries."
Indeed, in only the first hour of what would be a five-hour practice session, many skaters already had been knocked to the floor by their teammates in practice speed bouts. But nobody seems to take the pushing and shoving personally.
Kristin West, a 34-year-old urban farmer from Brooklyn known in the league as Miso Viscious, explained. "When you join the league, you instantly have about 60 sisters. But when we get on the track, you know, all bets are off, and I'm going to hit you as hard as I can."
IF YOU GO
What: Suburbia's All-Stars, known as Suburban Brawl, play their opening bout against the Black Rose Rollers of Hanover, Pa.
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, March 16 (doors open at 6 p.m.)
Info: Yonkers Police Athletic League (Irish and Martin Walshin Center), 127 N. Broadway (Route 9), Yonkers; www.suburbiarollerderby.com; $15 general admission, $20 VIP trackside seating, kids under 8 admitted free with paying adult admission