OHRD at Battle of the All-Stars
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OHRD at Battle of the All-Stars

The Battle of the All-Stars (BOTAS) has taken place in Hatfield, PA, every year since 2011. It is a tournament meant to showcase the best talent from states and provinces across North America. Ohio started fielding a team in 2013 and they haven’t missed a year since. Team Ohio may be comprised of skaters from leagues all over the state, but there are several names on the roster that will be familiar to OHRD fans! Betty or not, Birch Slap, Belle A. Trix, Catch Mikachu, and active alumnus Paige Bleed were all members of Team Ohio for 2020’s tournament. Skaters weren’t the only ones seeing action at BOTAS this year. Each state is also represented by talented volunteers from various leagues. Head Referee Stray Taco and home announcer Final Straw filled those shoes for OHRD.

Team Ohio prepared together all over the state including practices in Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. Playing such a demanding sport can feel daunting and playing with new teammates can be a challenge. However, OHRD’s Paige Bleed says, “It was awesome! We had to attend at least five practices after making the team and learn to skate well together…It’s always been an honor and exciting to play for Team Ohio.” This was Paige Bleed’s third year attending BOTAS.

Catch Mikachu played her first season with OHRD in 2019, but she isn’t new to roller derby, having transferred from Angel City in California. For Catch Mikachu, not only did she enjoy playing for Team Ohio, but she enjoyed the opportunity to settle into her new home state. “I had a former teammate who skated in California the same time I was just starting, so it feels like such a small world. I [feel like I] belong here even though I’m not from here.”

Being able to play for Team Ohio creates an opportunity for growth that many skaters attending BOTAS highlighted. They get a chance to work with skaters that they may not ever have had an opportunity to play with rather than against. Birch Slap notes several great experiences from the tournament: “Seeing us become more of a team unit at BOTAS and hearing all of the the communication on the track; seeing all of my individual teammates rock it with their individual strengths; cheering my teammates on while also being encouraged by my teammates.”

BOTAS in 2020 saw 16 different teams coming from all across the United States and Canada–teams from Maine to Florida, California to Virginia, and even Saskatchewan! “BOTAS is always a fun event because I get to see and skate with a lot of people I have met throughout my derby career. It’s also fun watching the tournament evolve as more teams join each year. And, it’s unsanctioned play and all for funsies, which is a whole different game,” says Betty or not. This sentiment also resonates with Head Referee Stray Taco. “This was the fifth year that I attended BOTAS and I wasn’t sure I wanted to go back this year, ” says Stray Taco. “However, as I reflected on the weekend I realized that BOTAS allows me to ref at a higher level without the stress of worrying about making a mistake.” Because BOTAS is not sanctioned play, these games allow skaters and officials to take more risks. They both take their jobs seriously and the games are competitive, but there’s not the worry that these games could affect a team’s ranking due to a mistake. Stray Taco adds, “This also allows me to ask questions of more experienced refs that I can take back to my league and also help teach other refs.”

For Belle A. Trix, this was her first BOTAS. One of the things that sticks out for her was winning MVP during Team Ohio’s second game of the tournament. She says, “Getting MVP was such a surprise! It can be very chaotic after games, and I actually didn’t know I got it until Birch told me in the parking lot. It’s always nice to be recognized as MVP for one or two memorable moments on the track, but the whole team coming together and playing the way we did means more in the grand scheme of things.” A second MVP during the tournament for an OHRD skater was awarded to Catch Mikachu in the North Carolina game.

Coming together as a team and having fun while playing is really what BOTAS is about. Team Ohio won three out of five games during this tournament. Belle A. Trix says , “I’d be up for a rematch again North Carolina after coming up short by six points.” That would be a great game to see for sure, Ohio: The Birthplace of Aviation versus North Carolina: First in Flight. It is aspects such as this that allow BOTAS to succeed. Each team wants to do the best they can, but also really just enjoy playing and having a great time with each other.

Team Ohio can definitely be proud of how they played in this tournament. The OHRD skaters and officials played hard, reffed well, learned some new skills, and brought home two MVP awards.

Photos by BrutaChris, David Dyte, and Johnny Pepper.

Final Straw