Editor’s note: Local journalist and photographer Ellee Achten, who skates for the Appalachian Hellbetties, offers up a nice helping of participatory journalism in this photo story, revealing the high-energy preparation required to prepare for a roller-derby home bout (this Saturday at the Athens Community Center).

The Athens Ohio Roller Derby (AORD) league’s Appalachian Hell Betties and Black Diamond Betties prepared for a hot, humid practice at Dow’s Rollarena near Nelsonville just before the July 4 holiday weekend. Each skater put on knee-pads, elbow pads, wrist guards, and mouth guards, some ignoring old injuries of broken ankles and dislocated fingers – known risks of this high-octane sport. 

Skaters from all professions and backgrounds sat shoulder to shoulder gearing up to sweat. League President Caitlin Gherry (aka Scary Gherry) came to practice right after work at her job as marketing specialist at local business Third Sun Solar. Assistant coach Jasmine Facun (aka Sweet N. Lowdown), an Ohio University graduate student and roller-derby skater of 14 years, laced up nearby. Murmuring voices and the clacking noise of plastic and metal filled the air until Coach Shelly Tracey’s (aka Vodka Tonic) voice cut through: “Three minutes until you’re on the track!” Before they stood up, each skater donned a helmet, some personalized with stickers or a special design, checking the chin straps for a required tight fit. 

Each season the local, grassroots league trains members of all levels to skate, block and jam. The team trained the last few weeks in the heavy summer heat for this season’s first home bout to be held at the Athens Community Center this Saturday, July 13, where the league’s A-team the Appalachian Hell Betties will skate against Gem City’s Lavender Haze, based in Dayton, Ohio. Among those skating will be Gherry and Facun. 

“It feels like the entire season culminates in our home bouts. And I love that,” said Facun, “It takes a huge effort to make these events happen but even so, I think we all look forward to home bouts most of all.”

Also on Saturday’s bout schedule is the reveal of a brand new logo designed by local artist Kevin Morgan, including a first-ever design for the league’s B-team. According to Gherry, “We believe the new logos better match what kind of team we’ve become since 2010. We are an inclusive team that welcomes all bodies, ages and gender identities. We are still hard-hitting people who showcase Appalachian strength wherever we skate,” she said, “It was important to all of our skaters to have logos that represent just that.” 

A second home bout – a doubleheader – is scheduled at the end of October, while the league actively recruits new members.

“I expect to continue growing the league and to really cultivate our newly formed B-team, the Black Diamond Betties,” Facun said, “Both the Hell Betties and the Black Diamond Betties will play in a doubleheader on Oct. 26. And you thought Halloween in Athens couldn’t be any more fun.”

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The Brew Week Brawl Saturday from 4-8 p.m. at the Athens Community Center is being billed as a family-friendly event featuring local music, food by Mauvette’s Caribbean Fusion and other local vendors, including Jackie O’s Brewery and West End Cider House. Tickets are $10 at the door, with kids 10 and under free. To order tickets, go to the event’s Facebook page. 4-8 p.m., Athens Community Center, East State Street, Athens.

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