Skater of the Month: Zootown Throwdown

Zootown Throwdown is the type of skater that exemplifies all the great things about roller derby. When she started, we affectionately referred to her as "Bambi" as we watched her learn to balance her long legs on skates. She was relentless, though, and soon using that long stride to push herself through double-digit jams. She's already racked up two MVP awards this season for the KillaBytes (of which she is co-captain) and has started swingin' and jamming on some Dot.Kamikaze rosters as well. In addition, she took over the incredibly tough job as our league President this year. Whew! And despite all that work, she loves derby so much that she capitalizes on her travel-heavy day job by using it as an opportunity to skate with leagues all around the country. If you're lucky, there may be a Zoo in your town soon!

How did you get into roller derby?

An SVRG skater, Broken BabyDoll, saw my Montana license plate when I walked into a billiard hall after moving down here to CA and asked if I was from there. Turns out, our families know each other and we grew up in the same town. Somehow MT is so big, but soooo small. She invited me to a bout; I walked into the venue and immediately fell in love with the sport.

What kind of skating skills or athletic abilities did you have before starting derby?

I grew up with an athletic background in track, basketball, rock climbing, and golf, but the last time I strapped on skates was when I was 6.  I would pal around the block with my neighbor in our hot pink Barbie skates and pretended I knew how to brake by knee sliding into the grass at full speed. So with derby, I had start from scratch – took me almost 3 months to learn how to brake efficiently.

How did you derive your derby name?

I’m a third generation born and raised in Missoula, MT. The locals call it Zootown, so I had to tie in my roots somehow!

What is your primary position?

Jammer; I think mainly because I have a need for speed…and because I’m a hot mess when I block. When I first started skating, I was extremely intimidated by the position 4 blocker so jamming took me a little while to warm up to, but once I got over that fear, it became my favorite position. (Except during the practice when we do the "first jammer through the pack 5 times" drill…then I wish I were a blocker! )

Zoo jammin'. Photo: Jim Cottingham

What is your greatest strength as a skater?

I would like to think that my greatest strength as a skater is inspiring others. I keep a positive attitude; every time my skate hit the rink, I’m going 110%. I think when skaters step onto the rink with a negative attitude and half assing practice, they are wasting their time. So when I show up at practice, I leave my personal life off the rink and get my head in the game!

Who’s your biggest fan?

Rachel Keirnan, cutest little 9-year-old ever, came to watch us play against CCRD and ended up buying a SVRG shirt and getting ‘Zootown Throwdown’ printed on the back...then she had me autograph it in permanent marker. So. Awesome.

My boyfriend, family and friends are super supportive as well. On bout days, I receive texts from family members wishing me good luck, to not break a leg, and usually include the two words: kick ass. My family is so incredibly fantastic!

Which teammates do you work well with?

Being a jammer, I’m usually flyin’ solo. However, I receive a ton of great advice from my fellow long-legged gazelle-looking jammer, Smack Dahlia. She always gives me pointers in a positive sense like a big sister, instead of saying “you did this wrong, and you did that wrong," etc. Having the same body type as me, she knows my strengths and weaknesses, so she’s been a great mentor for me.

What are you looking forward to the most this season?

What I’m most looking forward to this season is becoming an official WFTDA league so we can rank and compete nationally next season. Watch out ladies, SVRG is movin up!!!

What do you contribute to SVRG *off* the track?

I’m midway through my annual term as league President and I’m also the Co-Captain of the KillaBytes. It’s extremely time-consuming (kudos to all other presidents in the derby world) coordinating all aspects of the league. Within SVRG, we have a full Board of Directors, and over a dozen Committee Heads and Coordinators; without these league members (or my 24/7 synched crackberry), I wouldn’t be able to hold the presidential position because there’s SO MUCH going on. I’m an obsessive organizer and network like crazy (i.e., talk to strangers waaaaay too much). Derby is a sport that I have devoted my life to and I will never quit, so becoming president for me was bound to happen eventually; might as well be during my second year on skates! Someday, I want SVRG to be that league that other teams look at and idolize because A) we’re ranked #1 in the nation and B) we keep it classy and fun. I’m here to help this league grow and develop into a leading team in the derby nation and I’m just excited to be at the cusp of explosion for this amazing sport. Might be 2 years, 10 years or 50 years but this sport WILL blow up...and I’ll be there at the after party poppin' the champagne cork the day we actually get paid to play.

How do you spend the non-derby part of your life?

Outside of derby, I LOVE being outdoors; nature brings me into a meditative state that makes me appreciate Living in the Now. I’m grateful for the opportunity to just sit on the beach with my boyfriend and freeze time by watching the ocean waves and catching my breath from life. I enjoy skiing, hiking, rock climbing, wake-boarding, surfing, everything. There isn’t an outdoor adventure I don’t enjoy.

What’s the one piece of advice you would give women interested in playing roller derby?

It’s intimidating to start playing derby because it’s overwhelming, physically straining, expensive, and time-consuming. When you first start, all you can think about is trying to NOT fall on your ass during your warm-up laps and thinking of excuses for why you can skip practice that night so you can give the quarter-sized blisters on your feet an extra day to heal. But coming from a girl would spent most of her time during the first 3 months with her booty touching the floor more times than not, it IS possible to excel in this sport, and that’s the amazing thing about it. If you put in the time and effort and get involved in the league, it’s guaranteed to pay off in some way or another.

What do you think is the best thing about derby?

It’s the only full-contact sport in the athletic world that women have claimed as their own. Enough said!

4 Responses to “Skater of the Month: Zootown Throwdown”

  1. Jen Kiernan says:

    ZT, congratulations on being Skater of the Month!! You are a wonderful inspiration to Rachel (who goes by her dad's last name, Zawilski). Rachel sees through your example that girls can grow up to be strong, athletic, powerful, beautiful young women who can do anything they set their minds to! Keep on rockin' the track, and we'll see you at the home bout in July! ~ Jen :)

  2. Knuckles$s says:

    WE LOVE YOU ZOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Rachel Zawilski says:

    Awesome! Zootown is my favorite player and my birthdayis in June! :)
    P.S. My derby name is RaeGun

  4. Belle Wringer says: