Skater Profile

Gotham Girls Roller Derby

Skater Profile: 9KILLAMETER’s Commitment to Excellence

by: Thomas Gerbasi
May 18, 2012

9KILLAMETER and the Bronx Gridlock skate Saturday night against Queens at Hunter College.  Tickets available at ggrdtix.com.

Skater Profile: 9KILLAMETER’s Commitment to Excellence
by Thomas Gerbasi

A recurring theme with many of the skaters of Gotham Girls Roller Derby’s Class of 2012 is the literal lengths the skaters go to in order to practice and play the sport. And while any New Yorker can empathize with commutes from the city to Long Island or Westchester, those trips ain’t got nothin’ on the commute the Bronx Gridlock’s 9KILLAMETER used to make in order to practice with her previous team, Oklahoma’s Green Country Roller Girls.

“Last fall, I flew back every other week from New York to Oklahoma to train with them to finish off the season and to go to Regionals,” said 'Killa,' whose day job prompted a move to New York in the summer of 2011. For most people, that would have been a reasonable explanation to leave a team back home. 9KILLAMETER isn’t most people.

“One trait that I have is if I start something, I’m gonna finish it,” she said. “I’m 40, I’ve done so many things, and I don’t ever want to be perceived as flighty. I want to finish. It is a loyalty thing and I believe in commitment, dedication, devotion, and from the very beginning of the year, we [in Oklahoma] said we are going to Regionals and we are going to do the best we can do. It was the first time we ever went, and we got there. I wasn’t just gonna bail.”

Killa jams for Green Country against Gold Coast at the 2011 WFTDA South Central Playoffs.  Photo: Ziv Kruger

Killa, at right, jams for Green Country against Gold Coast at the 2011 WFTDA South Central Playoffs. 
Photo: Ziv Kruger

So, picture this. While working full-time in New York, Killa signed up for Gotham’s three month visiting skater program so she could stay sharp while also maintaining her required practice attendance for her home team in Tulsa. Then, every two weeks, she was on a plane back to Oklahoma to train with Green Country. That’s dedication, and an exhausting process. But at least when she got home, the team had a cool ride to get around in, as GCRG had its own tour bus.

Killa, at right, with old teammates and the Green Country tour bus.  Photo: TulsaPeople.com

Killa, at right, with old teammates and the Green Country tour bus. 
Photo: TulsaPeople.com

“It looked like a tiger,” laughed Killa. “We put teeth and stripes on it. The girl who started the team had an aunt who passed away and gave her a little inheritance, and she spent it all on that bus for the team. We got lots of attention. Actually, I thought it was a really great way to promote -- to drive around in a derby bus.

“If I had my way, I would have had us a private jet.”

Killa, in her Green Country colors, prepares to skate with the Gotham Girls in last summer's outdoor exhibition at the High Line Rink.  Photo: Manish Gosalia

Killa, in her Green Country colors, prepares to skate with the Gotham Girls in last summer's outdoor exhibition at the High Line Rink. Photo: Manish Gosalia

Even her days in Oklahoma weren’t easy as she pursued her derby passion, which followed a lifetime of competing in everything from inline speed skating and tennis to softball and skydiving. Living in Norman, it took her three hours to get to GCRG practices in Tulsa, but she did it three days a week, and by the tail end of the 2011 season, her team had earned their coveted spot in the WFTDA’s South Central regional playoffs.

Green Country went 2-2 in the tourney, good for seventh place, and it was vindication for 9KILLAMETER, whose derby career began in a much different place in 2006 with Oklahoma City’s Tornado Alley.

“We started out purely theatrically - the makeup, the hair, the outfits,” she recalled. “And even though we were playing the rules of derby, it was just for the shock factor.”

And in Oklahoma at the time, that’s what most people expected from the sport, assuming it was a throwback to the old days of derby they had grown up watching on television.

Killa, still a Green Country skater at the time, clears a hole for Hop Devil at last summer's High Line Rink exhibition.  Photo: Manish Gosalia

Killa, while a Green Country visitor, clears a hole for Hop Devil at last summer's High Line Rink exhibition. 
Photo: Manish Gosalia

"At the time, most Oklahomans thought ‘oh, roller derby. Do you guys clothesline and elbow and beat each other up, and is it a banked track?’ And that was from a lack of promotion. It was very underground and alternative. Of course, we wanted people to come and watch, but most people weren’t educated about the sport, and when people did show up, they were surprised.”

After getting a taste of the Gotham atmosphere last year, Killa knew that once the GCRG season was over, she was going to give the WFTDA champions a shot.

“My ultimate goal has always been to be on the best with the best,” she said. “That’s something in my blood. If I do something, I want to be the best I can be. And toward the end of the year, as I’m moving to New York and going back and forth to Oklahoma and watching Gotham prevail, I was like, this is it, I am here for a reason. I’m going to try out for the team, I’m even gonna try out for the All-Stars, and I want to be there.”

Killa made the league, landing on the Bronx Gridlock. Having worked with the team during her 2011 practice stint, she was hoping to get put on the yellow and black squad, but when the three-time GGRD champs lost several key players in the off-season, there was a brief moment of doubt. Very brief.

Killa fights through a Mayhem wall during her Bronx debut last month.  Photo: Tom Igoe

Killa fights through a Mayhem wall during her Bronx debut last month.  Photo: Tom Igoe

“Last year when they [the Bronx] had the full [veteran] team, I would have said I want to be on the Bronx and to beat Brooklyn in the finals,” she said. “I loved all the girls on the Bronx. I called them the brainiac team. It makes me want to go read a book after I play with them. [Laughs] All the girls on the team have these wonderful backgrounds. But right before the draft, knowing that they lost five really great players, I’m like, this could totally turn on them. But – and not to be partial now that I am on the team – I think we got the best draft picks. I think all of us that got drafted were pretty tight anyway from the fresh meat practices, and I don’t want to be on any other team. I’m pumped.”

In the Gridlock’s opening bout against Manhattan on April 28th, Killa was a key contributor, putting 42 points on the board in nine jams and earning a +4 point differential in six jams as a blocker. Her team fell just short of victory in the closely-contested match, and Saturday’s showdown with the Queens of Pain gives her and the Bronx another chance to get in the 2012 win column.  Expect her usual top-notch effort in search of victory, a commitment she shares with her league mates.

“Gotham trains and plays 10 or 11 months out of the year,” she said. “I’ve been in a ton of sports where the seasons are only four to six months. This is an incredible commitment to a sport, and if you’re gonna be number one, that tells me your heart and soul’s in it. My motto is if it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and that’s how they go about every practice. Here, there are a lot of people focused on the same thing -- getting to be the best and winning -- and the energy of everyone else gets you pumped up and pushes you to get better.”

9KILLAMETER mixes up her sports and goes for a tobaggan ride on Sweet Sherry Pie during last month's bout.  Photo: Chris Chin

9KILLAMETER mixes up her sports and goes for a toboggan ride on Sweet Sherry Pie during last month's bout. 
Photo: Chris Chin

Click here to view a video profile of 9KILLAMETER at GGRD's Vimeo channel.