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Gotcha! scores on, off the derby rink
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More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Carrie De Crane is 'Lady Gotcha' for the Quad City Rollers.
More photos from this shoot
Photo: Gary Krambeck
Roller Derby skater Carrie DeCrane as 'Lady Gotcha' with the Quad City Rollers comes around one of the turns at the River Center in Davenport.
DAVENPORT -- Carrie De Crane lives up to her nickname, "Lady Gotcha.'' The Quad City Rollers member is a real go-getter on or off eight wheels.

The 21-year-old displays natural ability to juke left or right, or hockey-stop on a dime, to get by other women for the local roller derby team. That makes Ms. De Crane one of the Rollers' top jammers -- those skaters that wear a star cover on their helmet, signifying they alone are allowed to score points.

So naturally, Ms. De Crane is living a dream as the star of a team, the one who gets approached for post-game pictures and autographs. But she also is a hero away from the rink as a caretaker of adults with disabilities at Bettendorf's New Choices.

"I have no hobbies,'' Ms. De Crane said about navigating through those two vastly different worlds. "I don't do art. I don't play other sports. I don't do coffee. All I have is derby."

She found her calling two years ago when co-worker Hannah "Hannibal" Nickelsen persuaded her to come to her derby practice. Ms. De Crane watched that night, "super-jealous,'' she said because she did not have the proper equipment yet to join the fun.

Outfitted by a former Roller, Ms. De Crane skated at the next practice, "but was afraid to get hit,'' she said. "I was on stock wheels, the floor was slippery and as a newbie, had to skate outside the track. But just from that night I knew I had to do this."

Actually, in a way, Ms. De Crane was born for the sport.

Her fancy footwork stems from years ago, when she was known as No. 4 -- her shoe size at what used to be Kimberly Pines Skate Rink, where she spent almost every Friday and Saturday night of her childhood racing in rental skates.

"My dad bought me passes for every weekend," Ms. DeCrane said. "I literally lived there. I never thought I would be playing roller derby back then. I was just into the boys."

Now, the crowd is into her.

While able to pull off the juke-and-dash with the best of them, "Gotcha'' prefers to go through blockers on the inside of the track, a high-impact strategy that thrills fans and makes her the team's focal point. Her flamboyant style and nickname are a perfect marriage, a nod to her favorite singer, the outrageous Lady Gaga, whose music inspires additional energy on a jam when Ms. De Crane claims lead status.

She is known to skate back-to-back jams and has shown she can handle the pressure of overtime jams, where the inital pass is a scoring opportunity for either jammer. She's comfortable in that spotlight, but she also makes it clear that the Rollers are far from a one-woman show on or off the track, which endears her to teammates.

"I hate jams, where every pass accumulates points,'' Ms. De Crane said. "They are the full two minutes, and that is a long time out there, when you are working hard and trying to not get penalties. The training I do outside of derby helps in those situations for sure."

Ms. De Crane's continued excellence comes down to the barest of essentials – she simply works as hard as she can. But that type of work ethic can wear on you, especially while juggling a day job that requires one to think of others so acutely.

So it was nice this season when others thought of her.

With Ms. De Crane in need of a new pair of roller skates, former skater-turned-referee Erika Adamson posted an idea on Facebook for teammates to donate money toward a new set of high-end Bont skates for their prized jammer.

"Newbies who did not know me gave money,'' said Ms. De Crane. "I still am flattered that people would just care that much about me."

But then, Ms. De Crane shows plenty of passion for the people she cares for at New Choices, people dealing with mental and physical disabilities.

The Rollers donate a portion of every home gate to a selected skater's hand-picked charity. For one event, "Gotcha" tabbed the Spartan Sparkles -- the cheerleading group for special-needs girls in the Pleasant Valley School District -- to receive more than $500.

"The best part of our team is that we give back to the community,'' Ms. De Crane said. "The Sparkles really work hard to be integrated into situations that are deemed normal, and the fact that an American classic sport, cheerleading, is paving the way locally to make this happen, is so awesome.''

The Quad City Rollers will open the 2012 season with an all star roller derby double header Feb. 25 at the RiverCenter, Davenport. Doors open at 5 p.m. with bouts at 6 and 7 p.m. Tickets will be sold by Quad City Rollers skaters or can be purchased at the door.

Living the dream

Who: Carrie De Crane, a.k.a. "Lady Gotcha'' for the Quad City Rollers

Quote: "I don't do art. I don't play other sports. I don't do coffee. All I have is derby."

Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Sept. 17, the 260th day of 2014. There are 105 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: We are told league merchants have paid no attention to the prohibition on selling ammunition, but continue to sell just as before the order was issued.
1889 -- 125 years ago: The Rev. R.F. Sweet, rector of Trinity Episcopal Parish, left for the East to visit his boyhood home in Boston before attending the general convention of the Episcopal Church in New York.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Dr. E.A. Anderson was named to succeed Dr. E.L. Kerns as head physician of the Modern Woodmen of America, and moved to Rock Island from Holdingford, Minn.
1939 -- 75 years ago: One week late, because of the outbreak of war, Dr. E.L. Beyer resumed his work as professor of romance languages at Augustana College. Dr. and Mrs. Beyer left Germany on the last train to the Belgian border.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Employees in Turnstyle stores in Moline and Davenport will vote Oct. 2 in an election set up by the Chicago regional office of the National Labor Relations Board. Employees will vote either for the Retail Clerk International or for no union.
1989 -- 25 years ago: Rock Island High School is considering a step to help teen moms stay in school and get their diploma. The school board is expected to vote tonight on instituting an on-site child care center.

(More History)