Roller derby competition to determine newlyweds’ last names
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(L-r) Samara Pepperell and Hillary Buscovick are pictured following a recent win. This coming weekend, the couple will go toe-to-toe to determine whose last name they’ll keep upon marrying.
(L-r) Samara Pepperell and Hillary Buscovick are pictured following a recent win. This coming weekend, the couple will go toe-to-toe to determine whose last name they’ll keep upon marrying.

Nobody knows the name of the game better than power couple Hillary Buscovick and her partner Samara Pepperell. Both women are eager to put their athletic prowess to the test for their upcoming live roller derby event, Altar’cation at Elevation.

The stakes are high, and winner takes all — except for one thing. In this case, the loser takes a new last name.

Buscovick and Pepperell are set to be married this coming weekend. But before the brides-to-be walk down the aisle, they’re lacing up their skates for a battle unlike any other.

The all-star event, hosted by Gunnison Roller Derby this coming Saturday, Sept. 28, includes a full-length Women’s Flat Track Derby Association (WFTDA) bout. The WFTDA is the international governing body of women's flat track roller derby, representing more than 470 member leagues on six continents.

“This game is kind of the perfect tiebreaker,” joked Buscovick.

What began as a game of good fun among friends soon evolved into a highstakes competition and official bridal brawl.

“Since we are both very competitive, as we were both discussing the idea, we realized we needed actual stakes to win,” explained Pepperell.

After mulling over everything from pies to the face to big trophies and bragging rights, the couple came up with a clever idea.

“Sam had the great idea to battle for last-name rights,” laughed Buscovick.

The same-sex couple, unlike most “hetero” pairs, had to make a choice when it came to picking a last name upon being married.

Those in the Gunnison Valley might know Buscovick best from her days playing for the Gunnison Blades or Red Ladies. After graduating from Western Colorado University in 2010, Buscovick made her way to the big city of Portland, Ore.

“I found roller derby two weeks later,” said Buscovick.

These days, Buscovick is better known as “Scald Eagle” once she hits the track. Buscovick has represented Team USA at two world cups and plays locally for Denver Roller Derby alongside Pepperell.

Pepperell, who hails from Auckland, New Zealand, has represented roller derby teams in three countries as “Lady Trample.”

“What’s really fun about the bout this weekend is that we get to be rivals again,” explained Buscovick.

However, the roller derby duo wasn't familiar with the sport until nearly a decade ago. The film “Whip It,” featuring Ellen Page and Drew Barrymore, sparked interest.

The women of the “‘Whip It’ generation” — as Buscovick and Pepperell put it — had a sneaking suspicion they’d be good at the sport.

“We kind of didn't realize that it was a real thing — but soon discovered that it was,” said Pepperell. “I just kind of fell in love with it.”

The game itself, sometimes called a “bout,” involves two 30-minute periods. Throughout the periods, there are an indeterminate number of “jams” lasting two minutes or less during which five people on each team race around the track.

Each team is made up of four “blockers” and one “jammer” — identified by a large star on the player’s helmet. It’s the jammer’s job to pass the opposing team for points, while players on both sides work to both protect and block the jammer.

For Buscovick, besides the fun of fierce competition, roller derby has been a hub for inclusivity among athletes. Maybe more than any other sport, there is an element of gender inclusivity that permeates the community.

“It’s been super impactful to the trans community,” said Buscovick. “Because of that, every team out there has a variety of different skaters.”

The couple’s skirmish this coming weekend should bring high-caliber athletes from across the globe to the Gunnison Valley.

“It really is an all-star match,” added Pepperell. “There should be big hits, big spins and big jumps.”

Whistles will blow for the duel between Scald Eagle's "BuscoVicktors," and Lady Trample's "Red Hot Chili Pepperells" as teams duke it out to determine whose last name will remain.


(Kate Gienapp can be reached at 970.641.1414 or .)


What: Altar’cation at Elevation live roller derby event 

Where: Jorgensen Ice Rink 

When: Sept. 28; doors open at 5 p.m. and first whistle at 6 p.m. 

What else: Tickets online are $15 for adults and $10 for 12 and under. They can be purchased at or are $20 for adults and $15 for 12 and under at the door.