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Roller derby raises funds for kids

MANATEE — Anyone wanting to be a roller derby girl needs an intimidating track name.

Then they need months of training to learn the rules of the sport, how to skate forward and backward on a flat track oval, and how to use hips, shoulders and upper arms to send foes flying like bowling pins.

Showmanship, a total lack of self-preservation when it comes to bumps and bruises, and a love for short bursts of intense physical activity come in handy, too.

An appetite for “after parties” also helps.

Sunday, about 300 packed Florida Wheels Skating Center to watch players dressed in mesh stockings, huge knee and elbow pads, derby helmets and white Bradentucky Bomber game jerseys for a bout between a Bomber “B” team called the Nuclear Bombshells and the Gainesville Milltopper Devils.

Gainesville won, 141-119.

The Bradentucky Bombers were founded in 2006 by Gigi RaMoan as an amateur team and the squad has grown to 45 players from age 18 to 50 who comprise several teams, including one that travels.

A portion of the proceeds from Sunday’s gate went to benefit Manatee Children’s Services, a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to breaking the cycle of child abuse.

Players and fans say “derby” is an entire lifestyle and a glance at the crowd before a match hints at what they mean.

Fans come in many ages and walks of life. Some may wear T-shirts depicting their favorite derby skaters while others are dressed in button-down shirts.

Outrageous is OK as is conservatism, said Marck Generous, the Bomber’s announcer.

“It’s a diverse crowd,” Generous said. “What they all seem to like is the nonstop action.”

“We love it,” said Bomber player Julie Wanbaugh. “It’s a lot of friends, a lot of fun and a lot of exercise.”

Wanbaugh goes by the track name Julia Seizeher. Some other derby names include Areal Nightmare, Suzi Bonebreaker, Redneck Ophelia, Rebel Yell Yeah, Bradentucky Psyche Ward and Miss Fitz.

Josh Wanbaugh, Julie’s husband, says it’s fun watching women crashing into each other.

“Julie gets to get her frustrations out,” said Wanbaugh, a mechanic with the Manatee County School Board.

After the bouts, players who have been all business on the floor are hugging, Wanbaugh said.

“Most of these girls are here to win,” Wanbaugh said. “When they lose, it’s not good to be a derby husband. They really take it to heart.”

Bradenton’s Edna Shukis and her son, Jim Smith, were fans at the bout. Shukis’ mother and father met at a roller skating rink.

“If you have never been to derby you are in for a treat,” Shukis said. “We support these girls.”

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