The double lives of the Hazard County Hellions roller derby team

  • Sarah Bacon, from left, Bridget Gallion, Tessie Ragan and Jennifer Lotz, four members of the Hazard County Hellions roller derby team.
Sarah Bacon, from left, Bridget Gallion, Tessie Ragan and Jennifer… (Kenneth K. Lam / Baltimore…)
October 07, 2014|By Linda Burkins | For The Baltimore Sun

In roller derby, a name says it all. The Hazard County Hellions, Harford County’s only roller derby team, chose a name that seems wild and mischievous, a stark contrast to the responsible citizens who form the team. In this sport, theatrics are just as much a part of a match as athletics, and its players, no matter how shy or timid they seem by day, take on sassy, aggressive alter egos when they lace up their skates.

Formed in 2013, the co-ed team is part of MADE (Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor), an organization formed to promote roller derby as an athletic experience, and hosted its first match Aug. 2. We talked with four of the Hellions to find out how they balance their everyday lives with their roller derby personas.

 

Tessie Ragan, preschool teacher
Also known as...
Misshown, blocker 

“Someone came to the door the other day and asked if they could talk to my mom!” says Tessie Ragan, 31. 

The owner of Perfect Start Preschool in Edgewood, Ragan had to convince the visitor that she was the grown-up in the house. With a perky, girlish voice and a mischievous smile, Ragan looks and sounds far younger than she is. It’s understandable why her mother thinks of her as “a prissy girly-girl.” She seems nothing at all like her alter ego, Misshown, who skates for the Hellions.

The name Misshown is Ragan’s nod to Michonne, the popular zombie-fighting heroine of “Walking Dead” fame. 

“There are so few strong, positive role models for black women,” she explains. “But if I were in a zombie apocalypse, I’d want to be Michonne.”

While she hasn’t been called on to battle zombies, Ragan does show off her more aggressive side as a blocker for the Hellions. 

“I found out I have more force behind me than I realize,” she says with a look of surprise. 

An Air Force veteran and experienced skater, Ragan previously organized a roller derby team while stationed in Germany. 

She holds a degree in early childhood education, and her days are spent building robot dinosaurs and organizing mini-Olympics. Roller derby is a welcome contrast. 

“I’m allowed to be tough and a woman while I’m there,” she says.

Her double life does have its dangers. On one occasion, her young son told parents of a prospective preschool student: “My mom hits people for a living!” She has since explained to the parents and to her son that she teaches for a living. 

“I only hit people for fun, when I’m at roller derby,” she adds with a grin.

  

Sarah Bacon, jewelry designer
Also known as... 
The Baconator, blocker/pivot 

At 4 a.m., Sarah Bacon is often already up and at work. Getting up early also affords the 36-year-old mother of two a chance to spend time with her son and daughter before they head off to school. Once they’re out of the house, Bacon spends her days creating one-of-a-kind jewelry for her business, The Custom Jewelry Find. Bacon sells her jewelry at area shops and festivals and online. She also designs themed jewelry as fundraisers for area nonprofits, including a line especially for Pathfinders for Autism. 

“I love getting plugged into local nonprofits,” Bacon says, adding that she donates a portion of the money she makes from these specialty lines back to the charity. 

Although Bacon has only played with the Hellions since March, she spent three years playing ice hockey in college.

“Even though the skates are different, I think it probably helped me pick up roller-skating. But I still fall a lot,” she adds cheerfully.

Like several players on the team, Bacon toyed with the idea of roller derby in the past but was put off by lengthy commutes. When she learned about the Hazard County Hellions, she decided to take the plunge. The team practices at North Deen Park, just a few minutes away from her home on the base at Aberdeen Proving Ground. It was too convenient to resist.

“I figured I’d regret it more if I didn’t try it,” she says. 

Of her roller derby persona, The Baconator, Sarah Bacon says: “There’s an aggressive, physical, even sexy vibe to her. I don’t feel that way when I’m in my pajamas at home making jewelry.”

 

Bridget Gallion, stay-at-home mom
Also known as...
Ann U. Rysm, blocker/jammer 

One of Sarah Bacon’s clients wears a delicate custom-designed silver bracelet in memory of her recently deceased father. The client, Bridget Gallion, 34, is also one of Sarah’s teammates.

Gallion says that before his death, her father worried about his petite daughter’s involvement in roller derby.

“He felt better when I showed him all the padding I would be wearing,” she says.

But some family members are still concerned. At a recent exhibition bout, an aunt pointed out that Gallion was “the smallest person out there.”

But her family needn’t worry. Known in the rink as “Ann U. Rysm,” Gallion has only skated with the Hellions since spring, but she has a lifetime of roller-skating experience.

“I used to be a ‘rink rat,’ ” she says with a  laugh. “I hung out at the old Bel Air Roller Rink all the time.”

Gallion once tried out for Charm City Roller Girls and made the team. But commuting back and forth from her home in Abingdon to practices in Dundalk became exhausting, and she dropped out. 

A stay-at-home mother of 10-month-old twins, Gallion was looking for a way to get back into shape. Adult conversation was also something she sorely missed.

“I spend my days doing the Chicken Dance to keep babies from crying,” she says. “But I feel bigger and tougher in roller derby.  I’ve learned a lot, made wonderful friends, and I don’t have to travel far to participate.”

 

Jennifer Lotz, veterinary technician
Also known as...
Hedda Chopper, founder/jammer 

The desire to skate closer to home is also what led to the founding of the team by its most experienced member, Jennifer Lotz. Known in the rink as “Hedda Chopper,” Lotz, 46, has been involved in roller derby since 2007. She skated with Charm City Roller Girls for three years, but the distance from her Forest Hill home took its toll. 

“I posted something on Facebook to the effect of, ‘Why can’t there be a league in Harford County?’ And I started getting all these replies saying, ‘Why don’t you start one?’ ”

She didn’t want to compete directly with Charm City Roller Girls, who are members of an all-women’s league, so she was pleased when she learned about Modern Athletic Derby Endeavor (MADE), the organization to which the Hazard County Hellions team belongs.

“The rules are simpler,” she explains, adding that MADE also encourages co-ed teams. While the majority of the Hazard County Hellions are female, there are a few male players, and Lotz hopes to attract more.

A tech at Hickory Veterinary Hospital in real life, Lotz loves helping animals and believes that by helping the animals, she’s helping people too. 

“The animals are such an important part of the family,” she says. 

Lotz describes herself as shy and introverted.

“But I do feel like my attitude is different when I lace up my skates,” she adds, describing Hedda as braver and bolder than her everyday personality. Lotz also finds herself feeling more outgoing when speaking about the Hellions to prospective new members.

“I guess it has more to do with loving the sport, and all that is a part of it,” she says. “I just want to ensure that everyone is part of a league that is happy and has fun.”  

 

Join in:

The Hazard County Hellions team is recruiting new members. For information, visit: 

facebook.com/hazardcountyhellions

hazardcountyhellions.com

 

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