Roller derby builds pride

Haley Galvin

DeKALB — Racing around the track by the name of Killer Kewpie, Carissa Hartwig dedicates much of her life to roller derby and has developed a lifestyle around her passion on the rink.

Hartwig, a senior communication major at NIU, said each player on the roller derby team picks a unique name to be known by among their teammates, adding a personality to the sport unlike any other. She is part of the Aurora 88s, a roller derby team based out of Aurora, and has been involved in the derby for just over a year now.

“I wanted to challenge myself; I had never played a sport before,” Hartwig said. “I wanted to do something new and outside of my comfort zone.”

Hartwig said she plans to keep doing roller derby as long as her body will let her. Since it is a pretty physical sport, she said she must maintain her health and is aware she could be forced to stop at any time.

Roller derby games are played in bouts where one player from each team, the jammer, has to get through the opposing team’s four blockers. This is all done while on roller skates going around a track. Hartwig said it is a game of strategy, which most people may not realize.

“I love the sport,” Hartwig said. “It is so multi-faceted, you’re meeting people and getting a workout, and the overall attitude of roller derby is something I really love.”

When joining the team she said her biggest inspiration was proving to herself and to others she could do it. She said she has a petite build, and the derby can be very physical and hard to play with such a small figure. However, Hartwig does not let her size get in the way of her playing abilities.

“Do not judge a book by its cover,” Jennifer Wehrs, Hartwig’s teammate, said. “[Hartwig] is small but fierce.”

Hartwig spends a lot of her time working at improving her skills and training for the derby. She practices twice a week, skates outside of practice, as well as working out in order to stay in shape.

In addition to being a full time student and having to balance 18 credit hours with the derby, Hartwig can often be found volunteering her time at the Egyptian Theater, 135 N. Second St. Balance is key in Hartwig’s life as she said she must find time for all of these important activities.

Hartwig said being part of the team for just one year and already in jammer rotation is an accomplishment she is proud of.

“She has natural skating ability,” Angelica Matczuk, Hartwig’s teammate said. “From not knowing derby to being in jammer rotation, she is a huge asset to the team.”

Hartwig said she was looking for something to belong to, and she found it with the roller derby. From her teammates to her nickname, Hartwig found a family and a sport to put her heart into.

Skating around the rink thinking only of her next move, Hartwig competes with everything she’s got.

“[Roller derby] builds confidence, and it changed my life,” Hartwig said.