(Story by Brian Ledford for Arch City Media – Pictures by Bob Dunnell)
Sarah Arnosky is no stranger to a pair of skates.
Raised in Michigan, the current St. Louis resident first participated in ice skating at the age of eight and progressed to competitions as she reached her early teens. By nature, the loops, lutzes and jumps that were commonplace for routines resulted in a physical portfolio that was equal parts strength and balance.
Then at 15, Arnosky transitioned into the discipline of ice hockey, where power and endurance was implemented. Cycles in that sport for three seasons punctuated her high school years.
Take those honed skill sets, fast-forward, and apply that to today’s frenzied, and fast-wheeled, sport of flat-track roller derby.
For starters, the booted method of apparel differs between a razor-sharp, bladed steel set-up with no-stop in the former and the quad-based, urethane foot ware with a toe-stop for the latter.
However, a fabric-laced thread exists between the sports when one can perform and execute gracefully, and powerfully, at optimal levels that inevitably lead to success.
Arnosky, who goes by the “nom-de-skate“ Bricktator for locally-based Arch Rival Roller Derby, took the athleticism and work ethic that blossomed as a teen and effectively transitioned into a sport that resulted in praise by her peers and an ultimate accolade achieved this past weekend.
Awarded Most Valuable Player recognition at the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) playoff tournament held this past weekend in A Coruna, Spain, Arnosky, who plays jammer and serves as the team’s co-captain, scored 325 points in the team’s three-game set that resulted in the 13-year old franchise’s first-ever trophy.
“I knew I had a great tournament but I was only one part of our team’s success,” she humbly said. “I was genuinely surprised when they said my name.”
Decided by the governing body’s representatives in attendance, Bricktator topped the list that contained plenty of top-shelf global talent, including high-scoring position rivals Curly Haar from Crime City (Malmo, Sweden) and Mr. 305.Dale! from Angel City (Hollywood, CA) as well as blockers that also had solid weekends of play.
The high-impact all-star was one of 215 overall derby competitors that craved a medal in Spain this past weekend.
“There was an assumption that the MVP would go to Curly Haar,” Bricktator assessed of the competition. “She had two incredible games against Santa Cruz and Angel City that allowed her team to come back from major deficits and win. I was not expecting to be the tournament MVP.”
Arch Rival, the top-seeded league in the twelve-team bracketed tournament, easily claimed the Spanish treasure by outscoring their three respective opponents 999-315. Overall, Bricktator collectively scored ten more points individually (325) during the weekend than ARCH’s three foes combined (315).
With the trifecta, St. Louis – ranked fifth internationally in the WFTDA – delivered on the pre-playoff designation.
“When you go into a tournament as the number one seed, the expectation is that you will win the tournament,” Arnosky said. “That also means that the other teams (and fans) are looking for an upset. We knew we needed to stay focused and play hard through every game.”
As a self-funded franchise, the charter of nineteen skaters and two support personnel were challenged off-track by the physical (over 4,000 one-way miles) and fiscal travel demands necessary in order to compete and inevitably succeed on the track.
“We worked extremely hard to make this trip a reality,” Bricktator reflected on the effort. “The training, fundraising, and planning that went into this Playoffs was beyond anything we have had to do before. Winning the gold medal makes it all worth it.”
She has a habit of collecting roller derby hardware. It was a direct result of the athletic drive that she first cultivated in Michigan.
After completing her undergraduate studies at Kalamazoo College, Arnosky ventured west to California to pursue a career in education and was bit by the derby bug in 2011 while attending a local game of Oakland-based Bay Area Roller Derby. She quickly joined the league when she witnessed the similar attributes of power and grace that she had experienced at the ice rinks in the Great Lakes State.
The sports itself also looked like a lot of fun.
“I joined Bay Area Derby as they were reaching their peak rank of #2 in the world,” Bricktator said. “I was surrounded by supremely talented skaters who taught me how to play at the highest level.”
Her three-season tenure there was highlighted by receiving Most Valuable Player status at the WFTDA 2014 Division 1 playoff round held in Salt Lake City, Utah where she contributed to her travel team’s top-prize triumph.
“My MVP with Bay Area came from following the lead of others and getting the job done,” Bricktator reflected of the moment. “It was an honor to receive the MVP so early in my roller derby career.”
Coincidentally, Arch Rival also competed at the same ten-team tussle four years ago and finished sixth, which matched a previous historical result. However, a future addition to their charter potentially waited in the wings and hopeful optimism ensued.
While finishing up tenure with her prior league at the Salt Lake tourney, Arnosky had already moved to the Gateway City to plant the seeds towards achieving a Master’s Degree in Public Health at Washington University.
“It was hard to leave the Bay Area and move to St. Louis,” she said of the return to the Midwest. “I was leaving behind a community of people who I cared about deeply.”
It came to no one’s surprise that she would put supplant herself into the local derby culture and Arch Rival would reciprocate the admiration.
“I knew very little about St. Louis roller derby beyond Arch Rival’s rank, which was #27 at the time,” Bricktator said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect or if I’d even continue to play. Fortunately, the overwhelmingly positive welcome I received in St. Louis quickly solidified my decision to keep playing and now my cup runneth over.”
In this past weekend’s title game in A Coruna, Bricktator recorded 130 points in Arch Rival’s 342-149 triumph over Crime City. Immediately after the game, and the event’s subsequent medal ceremony, the athlete was revealed as the MVP for the weekend.
Derby wiser since her 2014 triumph, Arnosky sees a difference between individual honors claimed. Whereas she was still improving while in Oakland, the veteran has now progressed to a highly-respected mentor at her current league.
“It is indicative of my growth as skater, but more importantly, it is indicative of my growth as a leader,” she said. “It represents the trust my team has in me to guide them, support them, and make sure they are at their best. I am so appreciative of this team and what we have accomplished together.”
Her teammates quickly recognize her overall impact to the team.
“Between planning our schedule, fostering our positive culture, and dominating on the track, it’s impossible to overstate her contributions to us,” said Arch Rival League President and fellow jammer Annie Swanson. “Her talent (and leadership) made a huge splash when she joined ARCH at the end of 2014.
“The crazy thing is (that) she just keeps getting better. I am so proud to have her as a teammate, a training partner and a close friend whom I can depend on for anything.”
Arnosky and her Arch Rival sistren now prepares for the WFTDA International Championships in New Orleans come November. ARCH has competed at the global finale the past three seasons and has reached Elite Eight status the last two cycles.
In this season’s ten-team bracketed set-up, Arch Rival is slotted to face fourth-seeded Denver in the quarterfinals on Friday, November 9. It’s a re-match with the Mile High Club that saw the Coloradans snare a 178-153 triumph at the Golden Bowl invitational held in mid-June.
“I believe that if the game was five minutes longer, we would have won,” Arnosky reflected on the setback. “We struggled at the beginning of the game to combat their aggressive offense, but once we started to get into our rhythm, the momentum shifted in our favor.”
With victory in the highly-anticipated nail biter, Arch Rival will notch another new milestone and reach their first-ever Final Four. One can expect that Bricktator will be primed to help contribute to the squad’s upward trajectory.
“She has had an outstanding season,” stated team mate Swanson. “For a jammer who has been a singular talent for years, that is scary. I don’t know if Division 1 teams have been afraid of her the way they should be. I can’t wait to take the track with her at champs.”
And in the Big Easy, Bricktator can’t wait to lace up the skates and watch her team win again.
“Following Playoffs, we have a new boost of confidence that we deserve to be in the Final Four and beating Denver is absolutely possible,” she said.
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