Michigan roller derby athletes find camaraderie in group
BATTLE CREEK, Mich. (AP) — Cynthia Rink is a veterinary technician. She draws blood, administers medicine and implants microchips.
On a recent Saturday, the purple-haired Battle Creek native was drawing blood, administering blows and implanting some pain in her opponents under the name Cyn City.
Rink is a Cereal Killer.
And being a member of the Battle Creek Cereal Killer Roller Derby team gives Rink and others like her a chance to put aside their work lives for a few hours each week in favor of tough and gritty personas.
“We don’t get paid to do this. We’re doing this because we love it,” Rink told the Battle Creek Enquirer . “It’s a great way to support your local community, and you get to see really normal people doing amazing things that they never thought they could.”
Roller derby involves not just skating, but skating really fast while trying to knock people over.
Each team gets five players on the track at one time: four blockers and one jammer. The jammer scores points by passing members of the other team. The blockers’ job is to physically prevent the other team’s jammer from passing and to clear the way for their own jammer.
And, with a name like Rink, you’d think ‘Cyn City’ has been on roller skates her entire life. In fact, Rink picked up roller derby just five years ago. She said it completely changed her.
Rink said she originally got into roller derby “because I was going through my ‘mid-life crisis,’” though she’s still in her 20s.
“I was just having a really hard time in life trying to find things. And I found a flyer that said roller derby, and I said, ‘Why not?’” she said. “It’s one of those things where derby saved my soul.”
Rink said she leaves her ‘Cyn City’ alter ego at the track, but there are times when her roller derby lifestyle is all too apparent to her Dickman Road Veterinary Clinic coworkers.
“Depending on how big of a bout it was, it depends on how sore you are,” she said. “There are days when I walked around like I needed a walker. And there are days I walk around feeling great.”
Kylie Dingman is a nurse at Bronson Battle Creek. She has been a member of the Cereal Killers for nearly four years.
“I always loved to skate, whether it was roller skating or skate boarding,” Dingman said. “I met somebody through work who was involved in it, and they hooked me into it.”
Dingman said the dichotomy between her career as a nurturing health professional and her hobby as the Cereal Killers’ ‘Machete Lane’ is what she loves about roller derby.
“You can get your aggression out definitely, stress from your job,” she said. “It’s just great. You meet a lot of new people in derby, and you travel around, meet people from all different lines of work. It’s just a great community.”
Dingman’s passion for the sport is contagious. Her 14-year-old daughter, Isobel, now skates for the Battle Creek Damzel Dollz Junior roller derby team.
“She begged me for a very long time,” Kylie Dingman said. “We lived quite a ways away. ... Then we moved here, and I told her, when we moved, she could join. She’s only been at it for a year.”
While her mother dons the No. 99 jersey, Isobel Dingman wears No. 88, and goes by the derby name ‘Layna Danger.’
“It’s part of our daily lives,” Kylie Dingman said. “We have practices twice a week, sometimes on different days. Sometimes I’ll go to her practices, sometimes she goes to mine. It’s a shared thing we talk about all the time.”
Aimee Carpenter was working out at the gym one day when she was approached with an invitation to try her hand at roller derby.
A mother of three and a government employee at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center, she hadn’t skated since she was 12 but decided to give it a try.
“These ladies taught me how to skate, how to fall safely, how to hit, how to feel strong,” Carpenter said. “I never knew I had it in me to fall and get right back up. It’s just amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it when you just don’t know you can.”
Carpenter — who was given the derby name ‘Maimher’ by her mother — said her kids are proud of her derby lifestyle. But it did take some coworkers by surprise.
“I’m really introverted when it comes to my work life and personal life,” she said. “Out here, it’s an alter ego where you can let loose and get a little aggressive and it’s OK.”
Carpenter said it’s the camaraderie, competitiveness and diversity of personalities that keeps her coming to the track.
“These ladies here are from all different walks of life,” she said. “You have a vet tech. You have a lawyer. You have a nurse. I work for the government. You have a waitress. We all come together as one. And you wouldn’t ever get such an eclectic group of women together ordinarily.
The Cereal Killers are one of the best parts of her life, Carpenter said.
“They have been there for me through thick and thin, not just on the track but off.”
Information from: Battle Creek Enquirer, http://www.battlecreekenquirer.com