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DALLAS � It was that same feeling of edgy anticipation that Hays County Assistant District Attorney Heather Youree got before going to trial. She knew she had done everything she could to prepare, and was ready to do battle � physically, mentally, even spiritually. She paced back and forth, mulling over the game plan, strategizing in her mind how she could win. But there was only one thing that could release the flow of nervous energy building within her. No, it wasn’t the calming sound of her own voice, asking those first few questions to potential jurors during voir dire. Rather for Youree, it was the shrill sound of the referee’s whistle, urging her to skate her heart out, as she engaged her alter ego in a rough and tumble bout of amateur roller derby in San Antonio’s Alamo City Rollergirls league. “Whether it’s a trial or a bout, that kind of nervous energy is very helpful,” says Youree, who on game days morphs into her derby persona, Electra Cuter, a co-captain for the Dragon Divas. “It gets me to the point where I am feeling, “OK, I’m ready to kick ass.’” Also ready to kick ass on Aug. 20 were San Marcos criminal-defense attorney and Dragon Divas co-captain Cathy Compton, aka Nita Spankin, and Bexar County Assistant District Attorney Anna Lisa Garcia, aka Hot Purrsuit, a member of the Violations team. With their 4-1 record, the Violations were in first place and had clinched a playoff berth for the September title bout that would determine the league’s first champion. This was a must-win match for Spankin and her Divas. If they got whipped by the Violations, they risked losing a playoff slot to the pugnacious Prim Reapers. The Reapers, also playing this evening, were heavily favored to defeat the MissyFits whose 0-5 record makes them the league’s bottom dwellers. About 450 adoring fans streamed into the Rollercade in central San Antonio to watch what has become part of the grassroots revival of roller derby, which had all but died out in its banked-track form by the early 1970s. But thanks in large part to some enterprising Austin women who formed the Texas Rollergirls league in 2003, the current all-female incarnation of flat-track roller derby has taken root in some 30 venues across the country. Although it lacks some of the injury-inducing spills of its predecessor, flat-track is eclipsing banked-track in popularity because it speeds up the game, puts the crowd closer to the action, and is more economical to set up and maintain. Dallas has two flat-track leagues � Assassination City Derby and Dallas Derby Devils. Tyler hosts the East Texas Bombers and Houston has the Houston Roller Derby, which features Gardere Wynne Sewell associate Amy Dinn. Each of these leagues belongs to the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, which was established in 2004 as the governing body to set up uniform rules and safety guidelines for its member leagues. Some vestiges of the original game remain � quad skates, an oval-shaped track and a large dose of showbiz camp. Flat-trackers downplay the theatricality of their brand of roller derby, yet its cat-fight spectacle and rough-girl rowdiness remain part of its draw. “Come and watch us and you won’t have any doubt that these women are athletes � believe me,” Compton insists in an interview. “There is nothing scripted or fake about it.” The rules envision two teams of five players, all women, skating in circles. A player called a jammer is the only one who can score, which she does by lapping opposing players. Acting as a human puck, the jammer must skate furiously past three blockers whose job it is to knock her to the ground. Getting laid out makes scoring unlikely. The jammer also must lap the pivot, the lead blocker who calls the plays and sets the pack’s pace. “Like a criminal-defense attorney, the pivot is the last line of defense to keep the jammer from getting through,” Compton says. The jammer uses her own blockers to open lanes or whip her forward. If she manages to slice through the pack before the other jammer can, she will gain “lead jammer” status, which enables her, when strategically advisable, to call off a jam. Otherwise a jam lasts two minutes. Only during her second run at the pack can she rack up points, scoring one point for every opposing blocker she passes. “It’s a position sport, like basketball,” says Ziv Kruger, a St. Mary’s University School of Law graduate and derby photographer who has followed the sport since its Austin rebirth. “You have key match-ups between position players, and both teams play offense and defense simultaneously, which is extremely difficult.” Bouts are rough and fights are common. Helmets and knee and wrist guards are standard issue for players, but so are fishnet stockings and racy costumes, which punctuate the punk rock ethic and high camp the sport cultivates. “There is something a little subversive and very feminist about it,” says Compton. “It is a league created by women [skaters] and run by women, and that, by itself, is a significant thing for me.” For her “second annual 40th birthday party,” Compton attended her first Texas Rollergirls bout and fell in love with the sport. She thought about trying out for the Austin league but as a full-time attorney, a single mother, and a part-time painter, sculptor and writer, “I had a pretty full plate,” she says. Because the commute wasn’t feasible, she decided to start a league of her own. “My friends thought I was completely nuts. But I found another nut like me and we founded the league together,” says Compton, referring to a veterinary assistant who became the Violation’s Kitty Glitter. Even though Compton hadn’t roller-skated since high school, she never doubted her ability to roller derby. “As a trial attorney, people describe me as a pit bull in mother hen’s clothing,” says Compton, who before going solo worked for six years as a prosecutor, also in Hays County. “I am compassionate about my clients, but I also have a killer instinct that serves me well in trial and as a roller girl.” Mark Donald is a reporter with Texas Lawyer , a Recorder affiliate based in Dallas.

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