News>Feature - Airmen by day, Electric City Roller GrrrlZ by night
Capt. Cindy Tope, 40th Helicopter Squadron UH-1N pilot, left, tries to lap other Electric City Roller GrrrlZ members as she plays the role of a jammer during a practice at Hauers Family Skating Center on June 24. The team focuses on the basics of skating, fitness, drills and practice scrimmages in preparation for each bout. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Electric City Roller GrrrlZ work on their fitness by doing sit-ups to wrap up their 2-hour practice at Hauers Family Skating Center on June 24. More than 25 women practice twice a week, but only 15 members will be selected to compete in a bout. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Airman 1st Class Sarah Watling, 341st Security Forces Group tactical response force member, practices roller skating backwards. Watling has been training with the Electric City Roller GrrrlZ for more than two months and is still considered “fresh meat.” Watling will be assessed on her progression before she can be a competing member of the team. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Moore, 341st Missile Wing command post senior emergency action controller, a member of the Electric City Roller GrrrlZ since January, stretches her legs after practice. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
Members of the Great Falls Electric City Roller GrrrlZ team put their hands together and pump each other up with words of encouragement at the end of practice. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen)
by Airman 1st Class Katrina Heikkinen
341st Missile Wing Public Affairs
7/12/2012 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- They are surgeons, authors, mothers, pilots and security forces members by day.
But by night, they become members of the Electric City Roller GrrrlZ team.
Out come fishnet stockings, colorful spandex, decorated helmets and a whole lot of screaming.
For most Airmen at Malmstrom Air Force Base, their duty day is over on a Tuesday night at 7 p.m. While some have already gotten their physical training done for the day, for Capt. Cindy Tope, 40th Helicopter Squadron UH-1N pilot; Staff Sgt. Jacqueline Moore, 341st Missile Wing command post senior emergency action controller; and Airman 1st Class Sarah Watling, 341st Security Forces Group tactical response force member, their night has just begun.
Complete with mouth guards, helmets and other protective gear, the Great Falls Electric City Roller GrrrlZ, one team in the non-profit Women's Flat-Track Roller Derby League, draws more than 25 players to Hauers Family Skating Center. Practices include scrimmages, sit-ups, squats and other strenuous activities. The team also practices jams and blocking- when one individual tries to maneuver around a group and lap them.
A native of Wichita, Kan., Tope had absolutely no roller skating experience. She first became interested in roller derby after hearing the great things about it from her sister, Erin Tope, who is also a member of the Electric City Roller GrrrlZ.
"After playing soccer throughout high school and then rugby at the Air Force Academy, I missed being part of a team and having something to do outside of work that is athletic," Tope said. "Roller derby is a great aerobic workout as well as a muscle-building workout."
After being a member for more than a year, Tope has earned her a spot on the 15-person roster. Others newer members, such as Watling, are still considered "fresh meat" to the rest of the team and continue to work on skating technique before skating in a game.
"I've always been interested in roller derby, and after I heard about the Great Falls team on the radio two months ago, I've been here ever since," Watling said.
"I have been skating with the Electric City Roller GrrrlZ since January of this year," Moore said. "Even though I haven't skated since I was 10, it's something I've always wanted to do ever since I watched a roller derby team when I was stationed at Charleston Air Force Base, S.C."
While the workout that comes with roller derby is rewarding, "sisterhood" echoes throughout the team as the reason why the ladies continue to make roller derby a part of their life.
"Women join for a variety of reasons, but when they do join the team, they are getting an experience that not only enhances them physically but also gets them some emotional rewards in the fact that they are joining a sisterhood," said Brittney Morris, Electric City Roller GrrrlZ team captain. "For me, the workout is a big reward and I like the competition aspect, but just knowing these women and hearing their stories and getting to know them as people is what I find to be most rewarding."
In addition to the camaraderie that comes with roller derby, the team focuses greatly on giving back to the Great Falls community.
"It's not all about roller derby - it's about giving back to the community, as well," Tope said. "Every time we have a bout, we choose at least one organization to donate partial proceeds to. We've donated to Meals on Wheels, Vets for Vets and Wounded Warrior."
In a sport that has flourished world-wide in recent years, Montana is finally catching up to the game of flat-track roller derby.
The Great Falls Electric City Roller GrrlZ is one of Montana's seven Women's Flat-Track Roller Derby teams. ECRG is always looking for new members and encourages anyone interested in joining to attend practice. Referees for bouts are always needed and do not require any experience. Practices are Sundays from 9 to 11 a.m. and Tuesdays from 7 to 9:15 p.m., at Hauers Family Skating Center located at 1609 12th Ave. N.
For more information, look up Electric City Roller GrrlZ on Facebook, or call ECRG at 231-2676.