HUNTINGTON — For the ruthless women of Huntington roller derby, lacing up roller skates a few times a week symbolizes a moment where their fears and anxiety can rest and their suppressed ferocious personalities can shine.
After days of practicing, the Poison Apples, Huntington's flat-track roller derby team, opened its season Sunday against the Silver Bridge Bruisers of Gallipolis, Ohio, on Sunday at Roll-A-Rama in Huntington.
Lacey "Lucille Brawl" Williams is in her first season with the team, but already has the sport down to a T.
"It's skating fast, hitting hard and falling down a lot," she said.
The full-contact, fast-paced sport is simple to comprehend. It involves five members from two teams skating around a small track, with a designated "jammer" on each team scoring points by lapping members of the opposing team.
Elbows and hips are thrown into opponents, leaving women toppling into rails or on the floor, as the jammers attempt to pass. But just as quickly as they fall, the women get back up to reach the jammed pack again.
For the Poison Apples, whose players range from mothers to business owners and teachers, being on the track is their chance to let off a little steam.
Amelia "Daisy Disaster" Beatty, a local social studies teacher, joined the team three or four years ago. She said derby is a great way to get rid of frustrations in a healthy manner.
"You can come and knock the crap out of other people. That's what it is and they don't get mad," she said. "I'm a social studies teacher and teach ninth-graders. I love them, but they drive me batty sometimes. So I can come here and release all my frustrations."
She said she was apprehensive at first because of her petite size, but those fears were quickly squashed.
"They think, 'oh, she's so little, there's no way,'" she said. "But because I'm so little and can get down so much lower than everyone else, they never see me coming."
The Poison Apples hold open practices Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and Beatty said anyone interested should come and take a look. But that's how she got hooked, she warned.
"I said I was just going to watch," she said. "(They said) there's no watching and made me gear up. I went out there and just fell in love with it."
Williams said it's the team that makes it special for her.
"I found this and it was all these eclectic, strange, cool people that never really fit in anywhere else, but just fit in perfectly here," she said. "It's an instant bond."
As a mother, student and business owner, Williams said the team gives her a much-needed break.
"My life is really at home," she said. "I work from home, go to school from home and have a young kid. So this is my break away from everything else, my stress reliever and exercise."
The game might look violent from far away, but Beatty said it's as safe as any other activity.
"Usually the biggest fear is that you're going to get hurt, but in anything you do there is a possibility you are going to get hurt," she said. "We wear so much gear that you don't even feel it."
All the skaters were dressed in safety gear head-to-toe Sunday. The gear is provided by the team, as well as skates.
Practice makes perfect, Williams added.
"Every practice you feel a little bit more confident and a little more comfortable," she said. "I never would think I would be able to stand up in front of people like this."
The Poison Apples' next bout is against the Hell Betties at 7 p.m. May 27 at Roll-a-Rama. Tickets cost $8 in advance or $10 at the door and can be purchased from Poison Apples skaters, at Roll-A-Rama during free skate, or by calling 304-529-0909.
This year, for the first time, season tickets are available for $40, which include entry into the six home bouts from April to September.
Follow reporter Courtney Hessler at Facebook.com/CHesslerHD and via Twitter @HesslerHD.