Grants Pass students Jane Piper and Jenna Renfro were on the front lines of a brutal all-girl roller derby. And they love it.
BY JEN MINOR
On a Saturday night, Southern Oregon’s own roller derby girls and their team, the Bunnies, laced up their quad skates to battle Coos Bay’s finest Roller derby girls: the Rockin’ Roulettes. The crowd cheered endlessly. Loyal fans waved horns, bells, whistles and clever signs. Loud bellows echoed from the beer garden. Fierce and robust, with glued mustaches, torn fishnet tights, and fire-red sleeveless tank tops, the Rockin’ Roulettes were tanks – eager to pulverize the competition. With their bunny ears poking out from helmets, cotton tails bobbing on shredded black skirts, matching red ripped shirts, lipstick and striped knee-highs of every color, the Southern Oregon Bunnies were smoldering vixens ready to hex some voodoo.
“Eye of the Tiger” blasted from amongst the crowd. Number 1000 B.C., “DinoGirl,” and Number 110, “Jeneralchos,” are Rogue Community College students Jane Piper, 21, and Jenna Renfro, 24, playing for the Southern Oregon Bunnies. They skated shoulder-to-shoulder and sling teammates to the front of the pack. They skate lean, agile and swift. Roller derby is a simple, intense, physical and tactical game with penalties for illegal moves – like an elbow to the face. Renfro, excited and red in the face, proclaimed: “It takes guts and strength. And if you are not falling a little bit, you are not putting enough effort into it.”
The goal of roller derby is to score as many points as possible during a “jam.” If jammers pass all the pivots and blockers first they are lead jammer. When it was Dinogirl’s turn to be jammer, she donned a sparkly helmet for protection as she maneuvered through the pack. Speeding by, she managed to steal the lead spot. Gasping for air, Jane Piper said
“Oh, my gosh!” Piper said, gasping for air. “I can’t even think what it’s like because of all the adrenaline. I just go for it!”
The packs of girls exchanged piercing looks, focusing before the referee blew the whistle. Five girls skated from each team. Four out of five were blockers and one a pivot. The pivot set a fast pace so the enemy jammer couldn’t pass. Once all the girls in the pack passed the starting line the whistle for the jammers blew. The jammers raced off. Dinogirl cut in front with speed and approached the pack. She looked for a helpful push amongst teammate Jeneralchos.
“NoPantsCoco” (playing for the Rockin’ Roulettes) hurdled towards the front but it was too late. Shoved, Dinogirl broke through the pack first and racked up points until she began slapping her hands on her hips, signaling the referees to officially end the jam. Each jam consisted anywhere from two to five minutes, packed into two thirty-minute periods.
This particular Saturday night, Coos Bay was looking for their chance to even the score. Aggressiveness and the desire to win gleamed in the sweat that dripped from the Rockin’ Roulettes’ flushed faces. They leapt 19 points to a score of 33 in the second period. Many bruises later – and thanks to speed, agility, tactics, and a couple of illegal elbows – the Southern Oregon Bunnies won with an outstanding final score of 136 points to 33.
“It’s so much fun and empowering,” Piper exclaimed. “I just love it!”
Next, the girls skate against rivals in Reno and are looking to recruit more skaters who love hard play and travel. Renfro has only been skating for a month and is stoked on the atmosphere. “These girls are like sisters to me or the closest friends I’ve ever had. More girls should just man up and do it!”
If you are interested in joining, contact the girls online at SouthernOregonRollerGirls.com.