The annual Big O, a flat-track roller derby invitational held in Eugene, Oregon, has historically been beneficial for St. Louis-based franchises Arch Rival Roller Derby (ARCH) and GateKeepers Roller Derby (GKRD).
In fact, last year’s event resulted in early glimpses of how successful both leagues’ primary travel teams would finish their respective interleague campaigns.
Arch Rival, currently ranked seventh globally by the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA), used the opening springboard en route to an 8-5 record and their inevitable third straight appearance at the governing body’s international championship held last November.
Meanwhile, a newfound benchmark for the GateKeepers was launched with a three-game sweep and eventual 11-0 finish that included their third straight Men’s Roller Derby Association (MRDA) title claimed last October.
With success like that, one can see why both squads are ready to take to the polished concrete of the Lane County Events Center beginning this Friday.
At the three-day, three-track event, ARCH has meetings with Victorian Roller Derby, the defending WFTDA Champ, as well as two-time title holders Rose City and international bracket entrant Montreal. Arch Rival looks to maintain the positive trajectory that they have rightly achieved over the past three years.
“We approach the season with confidence,” said ARCH co-captain Bricktator. “Knowing that we are putting in the time on-skates and off-skates, we can be confident that we are ready to take on any opponent. We are a smart and strong team and the combination of those two characteristics is formidable.”
Meanwhile, the GateKeepers have showdowns with 2017 runner-up Bridgetown Menace as well as rapidly-rising Vancouver and Houston slotted in their three-game docket. As the current reigning MRDA kingpin, St. Louis is fully aware that they are within the crosshairs of all men’s leagues over the next six months.
“We’ve had targets on our backs since we won our first one (in 2015),” said GateKeepers’ co-captain Magnum P.I.M.P. “Whether we play in the regular season or at a tournament, people are gunning for us. We’re ready for it.”
Both travel squads have been getting the practices in after their respective leagues concluded their three-team local campaigns at Ballwin’s Midwest Sport Hockey this past weekend.
“Big O seemed so far away but now it’s already here! We’ve had the chance to scrimmage each other, the Lunachix, and the Gatekeepers to help us prepare for this weekend,” said ARCH’s Bricktator. “Our packs are finding their rhythm and our jammers are pulling off some incredible moves to get through the pack.”
For Arch Rival, there is a plethora of experience that returns to the fold with multiple years of championship play on the resume. Alongside the aforementioned Bricktator, Jamming will be paced by veterans Annie Swanson and Bolt Action while returnee PsychoKid D’Freakout will get additional rotations with the star
Top-shelf-blocking will also be at the forefront as returnees Smarty McFly, Shear-Ra Powers, Cloak N’ Drag-Her, Vicious Van GoGo, Jamheiser Bush, Kayla Woodward, Grant and Fletcher are back in the mix. Newly charted-members LuxFurious and Hero-Shima are interleague additions that have high-level rotations logged.
Others that are members of the ARCH 20-skater charter this season are jammers The Jukes on You and Reptar while in the blocking capacity are Pegasass, Splatter and Sue Bob Fight and SheKill O’Neill (injured).
“For the last few years, we have had an incredibly deep charter and that is still the case for 2018,” said Bricktator. “We added some home-grown talent as well as some recent transfers to the mix. The new people bring positive energy and great derby experience that blends well with our existing team.”
Even though the heaviest challenge for ARCH this weekend is projected to be Sunday’s game against Victorian, the top-ranked team of the WFTDA, the team is excited to be facing all their opponents this weekend. According to Bricktator, the competition against the defending champ, #2 Rose City and #9 Montreal are the types of match-ups St. Louis craves.
“Big O changed the structure of the tournament this year such that the teams in the top 10 will only play each other, which means that none of our games will be easy,” the co-captain said. “To have success we will need to take each game at a time, play to our strengths, and take advantage of the other teams’ mistakes. Every point we score will matter.”
Meanwhile for the GateKeepers, a new campaign reveals a majority of the 20-skater travel team charter returning to set the template in place for a four-peat. Alongside Magnum, jamming will be paced this season by Shane Bower, ScreechAround and David Metcalfe while additions Bruno Scars and Last Rites have rotations with the star on their helmets projected.
Blocking is anchored by returnees The Saint, Percy Controll, Spin Diesel, Bled Zeppelin, Hulk, Double Excel, Wrecking Bill, Sir Nixalot, Wrecking Bill as well as Kyle Stark, Lumberjerk, Nate Bower, Michael D’Amaro, Matthew Uttendorf and Monster Jam (injured).
“We’re really lucky that we haven’t been hit too hard with the ‘re-load bug,’” assessed the GateKeepers’ Magnum. “One of the things that have brought us to this level right now is that we don’t have a lot of turnover. All of our guys are veterans, have experience and don’t make the dumb mistakes that rookies make.”
Saturday’s Big O nightcap against Portland-based Bridgetown is a rematch of last season’s MRDA trophy finale. At last October’s title showdown, St. Louis recorded a 25-point win but they will readily admit the victory wasn’t easy and the squad will be need to be at their best in the highly-anticipated men’s showdown.
“Portland is definitely the toughest game that we’re going to face all year,” predicted Magnum. “It’s definitely tough because Portland is close to Eugene, so it’s like going into their house.”
In the end, both St. Louis leagues are aiming to use the weekend trip to log some impressive results that will propel them through their respective travel team timetables.
“Make noise!” said Bricktator of ARCH’s missive. “This has been a mantra for the All-Stars for the last few years. Our goal is to play terrific derby that cannot be ignored. Our ‘wow moments’ and our constant grind will have people talking.”
“We want the number one seed for the (MRDA) playoffs,” added the GateKeepers’ Magnum. “We break each season down to a couple of different stages and the first stage is just getting the number one seed. That’s our goal right now.”
Online coverage for this event can be found by going TO THIS LINK.
Arch City Sports will have a full recap posted on Monday.
BIG O SCHEDULE FOR ST. LOUIS TEAMS (Times listed are Central)
FRIDAY 6 PM – vs. Rose City
SATURDAY 4 PM – vs. Montreal
SUNDAY 2 PM – vs. Victorian
FRIDAY 2 PM – vs. Vancouver
SATURDAY 8 PM – vs. Bridgetown
SUNDAY 6:30 PM – vs. Houston