Since their 2009 foundation, St. Louis-based GateKeepers Roller Derby (GKRD) has seen their franchise evolve from wide-eyed, quad-wheeled conquerors into well-seasoned, gold medal-claiming champions.
They also knew that the upcoming 2019 chapter would contain the same physical and emotional drama that was already experienced.
“Every MRDA season has its own story and feel for the GateKeepers,” recently reflected team captain and founding member Magnum. ”This year, the vibe is definitely different in the league. The last couple years, we turned into the Goliath of the MRDA and it seemed like we were more in a defensive mindset to keep our position.”
GKRD aims for a “five-peat” at the MRDA trophy finale that begins Friday at Foothills Fieldhouse in Denver, Colorado. St. Louis (7-1) meets the winner of the Austin Anarchy vs. Denver Ground Control morning play-in game in a quarterfinal match-up that is set for 5 PM MDT (6 PM Central).
The weekend is pretty important for the locals that have had to endure numerous obstacles over the last four months. For starters, five members of the 2018 titlists retired from the team so restocking the roster was at the forefront. Compounding the overhaul, a pair of veteran blockers that had been members of Team USA in the Men’s Roller Derby World Cup fell to season-ending injuries.
In perhaps the biggest blow that was viewed by worldwide eyes, at their last MRDA sanctioned contest held in June, the GateKeepers saw their 51-game sanctioned winning streak – a stretch launched in August 2015 – get snapped in a 152-144 setback to Florida-based Magic City Misfits.
With the counter now reset to zero, the squad now looks to construct a new victorious ledger with three consecutive wins and snare the coveted five-peat by adopting a work ethic first forged a decade ago.
“Now that we have lost key players to retirement and injury, as well as been given our first loss since 2015, our mindset is back to how it was when we first started,” said Magnum. “We are climbing the mountain of building a Championship level team. The loss put that chip back on our shoulder we had in the early days of the league.”
Heading into the three-day, ten-team tourney, there are numerous St. Louis skaters that have multiple gold medals in their possession. This includes jammers Shane Bower and Metcalfe as well as blockers The Saint, Hulk, Sir Nixalot, Kyle Stark, Wrecking Bill, Monster Jam, Last Rites and Matthew Uttendorf.
“The GateKeepers are comprised of the most competitive people I know,” said Magnum. “Even if there isn’t something on the line, we still battle to prove ourselves. That’s what has brought us to this level as a league. When it comes to Championship weekend, we have been working all year for these games and there is no shortage of motivation to show where we belong in the international derby scene.”
Contributing to the overall success this weekend will be the rollers that are looking to raise their Champs IQ: Shred Astaire, D’Amaro, Jammy Pacquiao, Yoshi Denali, Quadratic Evasion and Dr. Dredd.
“We would be dead in the water if it wasn’t for our B-Keeper call ups, or LowercAse crew, as they are affectionately called,” said Magnum. “The hard work and commitment of our new Travel Team members has put us in a position to make another run at the title.”
The competition has been extremely tight in the governing body’s gold medal game since St. Louis won their inaugural title in 2015. GKRD’s 67-point victory over Your Mom Men’s Derby that season has been followed by decreasing differentials of 36 points in 2016, 25 points in 2017 and a dozen-point nail biter over Champs runner-up Bridgetown twelve months ago.
“This could be the most competitive MRDA Champs we have seen in years,” Magnum projected. “A lot of teams are catching their stride and compiling robust rosters. 2017 was a close game throughout with many lead changes and it wasn’t until the last jam that we really pulled away, whereas in 2018 we had a little more comfortable lead throughout the game but the last jam chipped away at our lead. My guess is that this Championship game will come down to the last jam as well.”
Other contenders vying for the global trophy this weekend include the aforementioned Misfits (4-1), perennial Champs entrants Texas (2-3) and Vancouver (5-0) and Californian newcomer Golden State Heat (5-1).
“Vancouver and New Wheeled Order (Manchester, UK) have strong rosters coming to champs,” added Magnum. “I’m really excited to watch the Golden State compete first hand. They have the attention of a lot of people in St. Louis. We feel fortunate that the three teams I listed are on the other side of the bracket. I’m geeking out about all these great match ups. Champs can’t come soon enough!”
And a fifth nameplate added to the MRDA trophy base that lists the GateKeepers can’t also come soon enough.
For more information on GateKeepers Roller Derby, go to their official website.