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New Female Roller Derby League Brings Competition, Inspiration

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Salisbury Rollergirls founder Eva Paxton, aka Buster Skull (left), receives flowers from a teammate after the first official bout last week.
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Salisbury Rollergirls founder Eva Paxton, aka Buster Skull (left), receives flowers from a teammate after the first official bout last week.

The raucous cheers and over-the-top announcer might sound like any other college basketball game during player introductions, but if you listen closely, you'll quickly realize there won't be any layups or bounce passes tonight at the Crown Sports Center skating rink.

Cinderosa stands a little more than five-feet tall, and wears a tight yellow jersey, with black and yellow polka dotted hotpants pulled over black fishnets. She and some of her fellow old bay bombers -- who boast names like Wonderbrawl, Boomz, Colleen Ostopy, and Smashton Pusher -- are about to face off against the Wicomikazis, a team made up of players with names like Dr. Jekyl'n Hyde, The Notre Dame, Kitty Purry and Acurta Blood.

These are the Salisbury Rollergirls, part of the increasingly popular world of female roller derby.

Roller derby dates all the way back to the 1880s, but back then roller derbies were endurance races, which later evolved into staged theatrical events -- think WWE meets a punk rock concert. That's when the pun-filled derby names came into play.

But the choreographed endings are a thing of the past, as professional leagues and grassroots clubs like the Salisbury Rollergirls are popping up all over the country and attracting rabid fans and curious onlookers by the hundreds -- people like Courtney Taylor.

"I like when they get rough with each other," she says.

And they do get rough. Many of them have had broken bones, dislocated appendages and countless bumps and bruises. But this sport, despite the don't-look-away–cause-you-might-miss-a-trainwreck type action, is very structured. And there are a lot of rules, as Andy Warhol-fanatic and roller derby's self-proclaimed resident hit girl Sarah Lindsey, aka Edie Sledgewick, explains.

"The basic rules are you have 10 people on the track at all times: You'll have eight blockers, four from each team, and two jammers, one from each team," she says.

The jammers are the ones who score the points by skating to the front of the pack. And usually the jammers are the fastest and the smallest, so the full-on bodychecks and NASCAR-like pileups are caused by the blockers trying to stop the jammers from getting past. Because, Lindsey says, "for every blocker they pass on the opposing team, you get a point."

Jamie Taylor is dating the aforementioned Notre Dame of the Wicomikazis, who at age 50 is the oldest member of the Rollergirls. She actually skates alongside her daughter, 18-year-old Kitty Purry. And even though today's bout is the first Taylor has seen, he remembers the year of training the girls endured just to get to this night.

"They didn't have a rink or anything. It was probably like 10 or 15 girls. They started skating together in downtown Salisbury at like an empty bus station, empty parking lot," he says.

But if you ask any of the players, they'll all point to one person as their inspiration for getting into the sport -- and the main reason this entire league started in the first place: 19-year-old Salisbury Rollergirls founder Eva Paxton, or Buster Skull.

But Paxton is just coaching for now, because four months ago she was diagnosed with lymphoma, a type of cancer effecting the immune system. And if not for the telling lack of hair from a recent run of chemotherapy, you'd never know the slender girl with porcelain features and numerous tattoos was anything but 100 percent fit. She's one of the most vibrant and energetic people here at the rink. But even she will admit, she'd rather be out there hitting and jamming.

"Well certainly it was hard. This isn't how I pictured this day. I'll feel better when I'm on skates," she says.

But Paxton says her tumor is all but gone, and when asked if a comeback is possible this season, she replies as if there's only one answer to the question.

"Oh yeah. May 21, our away bout, I'll be back because treatment is done April 28," she says.

As the players celebrate the victory, and the fans file out of the building, many of them pass by Salisbury's favorite son, North American Boxing Federation middleweight champion Fernando Guerrero, who's been watching quietly on the sidelines. Perhaps soon, the champ will be joined by other hometown heroes, and they'll have names like "Thelonious Punk" and "Buster Skull".

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