Heading into Hellgate High School last Thursday morning, Casey "Chaos" Hammond was nervous.
The senior toted white note cards, a turquoise helmet, roller skates, and an array of protective gear as she hustled toward the upper gym. She was running through all of the points that she needed to cover while presenting her senior project, a graduation requirement.
"My name is Casey, I started Missoula's first junior roller derby league," she told dozens of classmates, a panel of five judges, her mother, and a smattering of friends.
Standing on the toe stops of her roller skates, the tall, dark-haired girl fidgeted a bit while itemizing aspects of her senior project. First, and most importantly, she had to learn how to play roller derby, a high-impact sport. "I got ring rash," she said, showing off a red wound on her upper leg. "You just get your skin peeled off."
Next she solicited donations to get the league rolling. After knocking on doors in a button-down shirt—not her typical attire—a local dentist finally provided the needed $250.
Hammond also researched the sport's history. She found it sprung from endurance races at the turn of the 20th century. When skaters began using elbows and tripping competitors, modern-day roller derby was born.
The Hellgate Rollergirl League is sponsoring Hammond's effort. League members, including Hot Mess, PO'd Box, and M. Kneesya, assisted with the visual element of Hammond's presentation. The women wore red shirts, black shorts, and an array of colorful accessories, including a pink tutu, while speeding around the gym's polished wooden floor.
Gabby Rosier watched. The 16-year-old Hellgate High student joined the league about four weeks ago. At 4' 10" and 100 pounds, she's one of roughly 10 members of the fledgling junior league. She's excited to demonstrate just how tough she is. "Football is a man's sport," she says. "Roller derby is definitely based on women. We're doing the rough and tough stuff."
The Hellgate Junior League, composed of girls ages 12-17, held its first practice May 3. They now meet every Tuesday and Thursday.