Alumna Makes History With Gold Medal for Team USA Roller Derby

Monday, October 30, 2017
Team USA women's roller derby team

At Rockhurst University, Casey Honeywell, ’09, studied history. So it’s only fitting that she has now made some history of her own.

In September, Team USA captured gold in the first-ever roller derby championship at the World Roller Games in Nanjing, China, the culmination of years of training and a sign of the growing global popularity of the sports Honeywell’s grown to love.

But she said her journey to global gold started by chance. She had recently graduated from Rockhurst University in 2009 and was at an event with her father, when a woman on roller skates approached them.

“Her (roller) derby name was Oucho Marx, and she said ‘You look like a derby girl,’” Honeywell said.

The flyer she placed in Honeywell’s hand was first met with confusion — though she had grown up roller-skating in her native California, she said she had no idea what roller derby was or why she would be such a good fit for it.

But Honeywell, who had been a swimmer in high school and a collegiate golfer, said she did miss organized competition after graduating. So she took a chance, and came to the rink for tryouts. It didn’t take long for her to take to it.

“There was a lot of contact — it was aggressive in a way that girl don’t normally get to be,” she said of the appeal.

Honeywell said her roller-skating skills did come in handy in those tryouts, although she also had to learn a whole new set of skills.

“You’ve got to get hit, that’s one of the first things they teach you,” she said. “The first time was a little scary, because obviously in roller skating, falling is the thing you’re trying to avoid.”

In spite of the bruises, Honeywell said roller derby felt like home immediately. She became a jammer, a position for those with speed and agility to fly around the track racking up points, on the Dreadnought Dorothys in the local KC Roller Warriors league. She adopted her own derby name, a tradition that goes back to the sport’s earliest days — “Case Closed.”

As Honeywell continued to compete, her love of roller derby grew. Soon, she was looking into joining one of the nation’s best teams, Team United in Des Moines, Iowa.

As roller derby has grown again in popularity in recent years, so too has the push for a global competition. And so in the background of Honeywell’s decision to join the Des Moines squad was the possibility of competing for Team USA in what was planned to be the first-ever world championship at the World Roller Games.

“I really just wanted some more competition, and it just sort of became my life,” she said. “I thought it would be amazing to be on Team USA — that was the dream, just to get there.”

The tryout and training for Team USA started in 2015 and lasted two years. After numerous rounds of cuts, Honeywell found herself on the 14-player roster.

Because the sport was relatively new to the global spotlight, no one knew exactly what to expect as they arrived in China.

“It was really surreal to be there,” Honeywell said. “The first day of the tournament, they have all the skaters skate out to the rink and they play the national anthem for those countries. That moment was overwhelming — realizing that it took two years of just focusing on that one goal, but we finally got there.”

There were four teams in the inaugural tournament — Australia, Japan, the U.S., and Spain. There was also a lot of anticipation and a fair amount of uncertainty before the tournament began. In each round, Team USA cruised to victory, eventually claiming the first-ever gold medal in international roller derby competition. It was a proud moment, Honeywell said, and one that makes her hopeful for more expansion of the sport that she’s come to love so much.

“It think the first World Roller Games was a great sign of what could happen,” she said. “I would love to see derby keep growing on the international level — the ultimate goal is to eventually become part of the Olympic games.”