WALLA WALLA - Crazy Mary may still need help lacing up her skates, but you wouldn't want to get in her way once she's on her wheels. With a streak of pinky-red hair and a set of multi-colored wheels, the skater known off the floor as Mary Bella Betts is in full-on pursuit of becoming who she wants to be.
"She lives in roller skates," explained Crazy's mom, Becky Betts. "She once told me she wished her feet were skates."
The 9-year-old shares her dream with a number of girls, judging by this day's skating class in an upper gym at the YMCA. Taught by Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls founder and president, Kimi Schroeder, the twice-weekly class is called "Wild Scallions."
Peel that saucy name back and you've got junior derby girls, pre- and teen versions of Walla Walla's own roller queens.
On Saturday, the Wild Scallions will participate in their grown-up derby sisters' bout, scrimmaging with the Atomic Pixies from Spokane as the event's halftime entertainment.
The bout - titled "Luv Hurtz" - begins at 6:30 p.m. at the YMCA when the Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls' Twisted Vines take on the Lilac City Roller Girls.
The skate sizes may be the most junior thing about these aspiring derby dolls. With names to live up to like "60 Second Sonia," "Best Shot Bianca" and "Hot Mess," the girls are a whirl of striped socks and hunkered down knees as they practice cornering and sling-shotting each other to the front of the pack.
Her junior derby girls range in age from 7 to 18, Schroeder said. While not an official league entity, the Y class has the potential to be a feeder for the adult derby girls.
That would be just fine with her, Amber Clark said. A professional photographer, Clark has set up a studio area this day to take pictures of the young onions for lobby posters. She's also a proud mother and supporter of 7-year-old daughter, Abby Clark.
"Scabby Road," Abby's skater alter-ego, is soaking up the experience, Amber said. Unlike other sports Abby has tried on for size, there is no need to coax her into getting her derby on. "She can't wait."
Surprising to her, not everyone shares the love, Clark noted. "I hate how people say ‘The derby girls? You want your daughter hanging out with them?' To me it's the best thing ever."
The sport offers a two-pronged advantage, she believes. Not only does it offer positive female relationships, but it's a way to promote exercise that has staying power. "Most of us think (exercise) is a treadmill and we don't stick with it because it's boring."
Abby's enthusiasm is catching. Her dad, Shawn Clark, recently became a team referee. At the moment he is on the floor-slash-rink, gliding with a pack of Wild Scallions as they work on form and speed.
Milissa Johnson and "Hot Mess" Hailey Kerbs are also creating a family tradition. Johnson has been with the Sweets since its inception. "I'm the one who didn't know how to skate," she said with a laugh.
Hailey, 14, came on board this winter as a seasoned roller skater and the mom-child relationship gained a new dimension. "We have a sisterhood," Johnson explained. "We share shorts, we share tights."
She is No. 83 and Hailey is No. 38, Johnson said. "They call her Mini Reck," she said, referencing her own skater name - "Reckless Abandon."
Johnson credits derby skating with keeping her kid grounded. "She can have that punk rocker side, then go to school and be a normal kid."
Perhaps the take-home benefit from being raised as a Wild Scallion is the new confidence in her daughter and a growing camaraderie among the members, Becky Betts said, watching Crazy Mary - whom Betts dubs "54 pounds of fury" - zip by in a swirl of fish nets and girl power. "They've all become fast friends. She's pretty proud of her team."
If You Go:
The Walla Walla Sweets Roller Girls will take on the Lilac City Roller Girls in "Luv Hurtz" at the YMCA, 340 S. Park St., on Saturday. Doors open at 5:30 p.m., bout starts at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets are $8 in advance sales at the YMCA, $10 at the door. Concessions and merchandise will be available for sale.