SPOKANE — Two Inland Northwest teenagers, members of the Pixies Roller Derby team in Spokane, have been selected to represent the United States this summer in the Junior Roller Derby Association World Cup 2023 in France.
After tryouts in Portland in August, Gracie Goodnature, 15, of Hayden, and Brisa Aragon-Ocampo, 16, of Spokane Valley, got word in November they had been selected to join the 40-person Team USA. They’re also friends and team co-captains, practicing regularly at Roller Valley in the Dishman-Mica area.
Both girls said that making the JRDA World Cup is considered a pinnacle in their youth sport. Team USA skates against competitors from Canada, Denmark, Australia and Britain.
“We heard about the World Cup, and it sounded pretty cool to go to France and be on a national team,” Gracie said. “It’s like the top of being in the derby community. We went to champs, but going to Team USA, we thought it would be a bigger step.”
At 4-foot-11, Gracie uses the competitor’s name “Miss Savage,” or “Savi.” She’s a main jammer, meaning a skater who works to pass opposing players on the track to get points.
The 5-6 Brisa is called “Thunder Breeze” as a main blocker, trying to prevent the opponent’s jammer from passing her teammates.
“There are tryouts for Team USA in different locations all over, as in Portland, Chicago, Philadelphia and Tampa, and so we just traveled to Portland,” Brisa said. “The practices for that are like three hours long.”
The session included drills and then a scrimmage for the last two hours as part of the selection of members, Gracie said. Team USA at the World Cup includes two divisions. Gracie was selected to play for the USA coed team, and Brisa was selected for the all-female division.
“There are 20 players on each team, so 40 total were chosen from all over the nation,” Brisa said.
Gracie plans to have family members join her in France, and Brisa said her mom likely will go. Gracie has a GoFundMe toward travel costs, and Brisa has a GoFundMe as well. Both girls said they plan additional fundraiser work this summer, such as car washes. The competition is scheduled for late July and will be held in Valence, in southeastern France about 350 miles from Paris.
A Lake City High School sophomore, Gracie also works at a local restaurant. Roller derby is her only sport, she said.
“I’ve always loved to skate; it was my thing, and then my mom found roller derby and put me into it,” Gracie said. “I thought it was so cool. The format is that there are four blockers and the blockers try to stop the jammer. The jammer is the one trying to race to get the most points.”
A University High School junior, Brisa balances her time in the sport around school, where she’s in Junior ROTC and in a Running Start dental program.
Since starting in roller derby, Brisa said she’s admired the JRDA players on Instagram who made Team USA in past years for World Cup.
“So I looked up how to do that, and since we got an opportunity this year, I thought why not take a shot? It’s in France, so who wouldn’t want to go?”
Brisa, who used to play soccer, started in roller derby at age 12. She described it as, “a whole bunch is going on at one time. You’re racing, but you’re also trying to prevent those racers from getting past you, so you’re doing offense and defense at the same time.
“Yeah, the adrenaline you get and going against bigger people than your size is so much fun.”
The girls said their A-level team practices at least two days a week, and sometimes three if preparing for championship games. Brisa said each practice typically goes for two hours, but it might be three hours ahead of certain competitions.
Alicia Williams, Gracie’s mom, said parents and volunteers do the work to keep kids in roller derby. The Pixies have three divisions, from young beginners to the advanced A-level.
There are rules and protective gear to keep players safe, Gracie said.
“We do get bruises off and on. We wear enough to protect us, and we wear mouth guards.”
“We don’t get serious injuries because there are a whole bunch of rules that prevent that,” Brisa said. “We can’t be tripping or hitting someone in the head or in the spine. There are rules we have to follow to make sure everyone is safe.”
At the JRDA championships in July, Brisa got the most valuable player as a blocker among all at the tournament. Gracie was named most valuable jammer out of the female division.
At age 18, they’ll age out of the junior league, and then possibly move to an adult level. The girls said they plan to play for as long as possible.
Gracie’s grandmother, Shary Shreve, travels to most of their competitions, and she said Brisa is like another granddaughter.
“They’re both very competitive,” Shreve said. “It’s a rough-and-tumble sport, but it’s also very bonding.”