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Santa Cruz teen looking to represent Team USA at roller derby world cup

SANTA CRUZ - Santa Cruz has itself a champion in the making who is receiving national recognition. She plays a particularly unique and aggressive sport, too. 

Harbor High School Senior, Kylee Onken-Merrell, also known by her derby name KROM BOMB, fell in love with the sport of roller derby at a young age while attending a roller derby competition with her girl scout troop. 

“I've always been a little bit more aggressive than normal,” Kylee said. “And I just kind of found it super fascinating and interesting. I was like, I really want to try that.” 

After that field trip, Kylee decided to go try out for her local roller derby team in Santa Cruz but found out she needed some practice. 

Kylee’s coach, Shana Kerr, also known by her derby name Ima Hotmess, said that Kylee wasn’t quite ready to put on the skates yet. 

“Unfortunately, it didn't go great, and we sent her home,” Kerr said. “And we told her to work on her comfort and skates and come back the next year. And she came back the next year, and she was ready. So she came out and she was 10 or 11. I think that she finally made it.” 

Last year, Kylee decided to try out for the national team on a whim after her competition for fun. And as it turned out, she was good enough to skate for Team USA. 

Roller derby not only helped Kylee grow as an athlete but also helped her grow as a person. Her mother, Kimberly Merrell has seen the positive changes in her daughter. 

“Kylie has really become more of an open independent kind of headstrong, in a good way, individual,” Merrell said. “She's really found her voice and I think she has been empowered to kind of just do greater things by being here.”

Roller derby has also been a major stress reliever for Kylee throughout growing up. 

“It's definitely given me an outlet to relax or let out any stress, ignoring the stress for the time being,” Kylee said. “I get to be around people that I trust and can work with and talk with, even if it's not about the sport. It's just kind of always been my outlet from everything else.” 

Kylee will be competing at the end of July with the USA national roller derby team in France against other countries. Kylee will also be graduating from Harbor High School very soon and will be attending community college locally so she can participate in her last year of eligibility in roller derby. 

Here’s a link to the GoFund Me to support Kylee’s Journey to France with Team U.S.A.:

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Lindsey Selzer


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