BY JOHN ENGER
Most people donâ€™t ever get the privilege of having an alter ego. Sammi Jones is a rare exception.
By day, Jones is a master of fine arts major at MSUM. She loves Dickens, writes non-fiction and hangs out in Weld. By night, she dons pads and roller skates and goes by the name of Toni Crush. By night, Jones is a derby girl.
â€œItâ€™s like football on wheels for women â€¦ Itâ€™s full contact, so â€¦ it can be brutal. You get some really nice bruises,â€ Jones said, pointing to a saucer-sized deep green mark above her knee. â€œI fell over somebody at practice. She fell down and I tried to jump over her and I think I hit â€” I donâ€™t know what I hit on her â€” if it was her helmet or what, but it turned out to be a really nice bruise.â€
When imagining a writing student, itâ€™s safe to say, full contact isnâ€™t exactly what springs to mind. But Jonesâ€™s close friends werenâ€™t too surprised when she joined derby.
â€œSheâ€™s pretty laid back,â€ said John Powers, friend of Jones and fellow MFA major, â€œunless you get a few beers in her, then she starts getting physical. Those of us who are Jonesâ€™s friends have gone home with sore arms on many a night from sitting next to her.â€
Since joining the F-M Derby Girls in July 2010, Jones has immersed herself in the sport.
â€œIt seems like it has become a way of life for her. It seems like it might be her career,â€
Powers said. â€œI donâ€™t know. Sheâ€™s really in to it. I mean it seems like as soon as she tried out for it and made the team she seems to have really taken it on as a way of life.â€
She goes to derby practices for 2 hours 4 to 5 times a week. Derby has even found its way into her writing.
â€œI was going to try and graduate this spring,â€ Jones said, â€œand the stuff I had been writing about for the last couple of years had nothing to do with derby. All of a sudden derby started sneaking into it. So Iâ€™m putting the kibosh on the stuff I already had and taking an extra semester to finish this one off. There are so many great characters. I donâ€™t even have to invent them. Theyâ€™re all real people.â€
There is a cost to all the derbying. Besides all the bumps and bruises, Jones suffered a concussion in February.
â€œWe were bouting on February 19 â€¦ I was jamming,â€ Jones said. â€œWhen you jam you are the one who tries to score points â€” so you try and dodge everybody in the pack to get around. And somehow, Iâ€™m still not sure what really happened. But I fell backwards, and I donâ€™t fall backwards much anymore, but I smoked my head. Then it was kind of in and out. The thing is, when there is a big pile up, you canâ€™t really tell who started it or what happened.â€
Jones recovered quickly from the concussion and got back on the rink. Though the experience did aluminate the possible dangers involved in derbying, it did not waver Jonesâ€™s love for the sport.
â€œYou have so much support from these awesome people,â€ Jones said, â€œand you can be whoever you want to be and itâ€™s okay. There are all sorts. Some are stay-at-home moms, some own their own businesses, some are students. Itâ€™s like a support group where you hit people and itâ€™s legal.â€