What Derby on the Rocks, the 2009 Western Regional Roller Derby Tournament.
When: Friday, 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m.; Saturday, 2 p.m.-11:30 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.
Where: Bladium Sports Club, 2400 Central Park Blvd., Denver
Watch online: derbynewsnetwork.com
Roller derby has trumped soccer as the fastest-growing female sport, said Denver Roller Dolls' Tracy "Disco" Akers.
And it's not just a spectacle.
"Fans love the theatrics of it in the beginning," said Akers, of Westminster. "Like the girls beating each other up. Then they come to see that it's a full-contact sport. It's very competitive and really fun to watch."
This weekend, the Denver Roller Dolls and the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls collaborated to host Denver's Derby on the Rocks, the 2009 Western Regional Roller Derby Tournament.
The tournament will have 10 teams battling for a chance to play in November's national championship tournament in Philadelphia.
Teams from the two Denver leagues will bout with teams from Seattle; Olympia, Wash.; Portland, Ore.;, Los Angeles; Tuscon, Ariz.; Albuquerque, N.M.; Oakland, Calif.; and Colorado Springs at the Bladium Sports Club, 2400 Central Park Blvd., Denver, Friday through Sunday.
The sport has gained steam over the years and on Friday it makes a big-screen debut with Drew Barrymore's film, "Whip It," about a teen girl who finds her place in the world through roller derby.
"Roller derby has grown exponentially since the short time I've started playing," said three-year veteran Sharon Bankert, aka "Catholic Cruel Girl," co-captain for the 5280 Fight Club in the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls league. "It has made a huge leap from underground to mainstream. It's pretty remarkable."
The tournament has been in the works for a year, so it's pure coincidence that Barrymore's film is opening Friday, said Bankert, a University of Colorado alum who works as a freelance art consultant, waitress, bartender.
Akers, who will be competing with the Mile High Club in the Denver Roller Dolls league, said she joined the sport four years ago because she likes to "get physical."
"I love that the attitude is so crass and the girls are so competitive," said Akers. "The dynamic of the whole thing is so unbelievable."
Akers and Bankert said competitors run the gamut -- including students, moms, businesswomen, doctors, artists and writers.
"It's such a mixed bag of personalities, interests and backgrounds," said Bankert. "The cool thing is, in my experience, I've interacted and made friends with people I probably never would have met otherwise. It has really opened my eyes to a lot of different people. It helps to remind you not to be so quick to judge."
The women, from their early-20s to mid-40s, roll into a different persona every time they lace up their skates and hit the rink.
"Nothing at all is staged," said Bankert. "We do have fun with our uniforms and our names, but we train extremely hard. Everyone who is involved takes the sport very seriously. So, we can still be athletes and have fun while we do it."
Tickets are available as a one- to three-day pass, ranging from $20-55.
"Our region, in general, is very competitive," said Akers. "There are a lot of really good teams competing for those three spots to go to nationals. It's going to be a great weekend -- it will be very intense."