Members of the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association, the Black-n-Bluegrass Rollergirls celebrate the independent spirit of women by hunting as a pack. During high-energy bouts, the team circles around a short track, pushing and shoving as the jammer attempts to score points by skating past the throng. Founded in 2006, the Rollergirls spent one and a half years recruiting and training before completing their first full season, today siccing two competitive teams on other leagues throughout the Midwest’s flat hardwood plains. Though the Rollergirls offer no mercy in the rink, they dedicate their time outside it to helping others within the community. The squad regularly volunteers for activities and events throughout northern Kentucky and help raise funds for local charities. To raise awareness for the sport, the team was also the focus of a 2009 documentary titled Black-n-Bluegrass, which chronicled the players’ regular lives and addressed misconceptions surrounding their beloved pastime.
With 10 national championships to their name and another 76 conference titles to boot, the Cincinnati Bearcats boast more than century of athletic tradition. Though the student athletes thrive in many different sports, the basketball program—which won back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1961 and 1962—is the school's crown jewel. Before embarking on a professional career that earned him a spot among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, The Big O cut his hard-court skills for the Bearcats, averaging a staggering 33.8 points per game in his three years at UC. In more recent years, the Bearcats football team has enjoyed its own run as a true contender, earning bowl berths in 2009, 2011, and 2012. In both 2011 and 2012, the squad pounced on their postseason opponents, taking home glittering trophies to use as tackling dummies in training camp.
Now in its third year, the Kentucky Reining Cup gallops back into Alltech Arena for two days of equine competition. Riders from across the globe descend upon Lexington, each vying for more than $100,000 in total prize money and a taste of the golden salt lick during Friday's three-star reining contest and Saturday's freestyle championship. Grammy-winning country-music legend and horse breeder Lyle Lovett is set to compete for the third straight year, and rider Tim McQuay hopes to add another first-place finish to his iconic career. A judged event designed to showcase the athletic abilities of horses on a larger stage, reining calls for riders and their steeds to perform in a series of patterns, from small, slow circles and 360-degree spins to the elusive galloping moonwalk. In freestyle riding, man-and-beast duos trot in choreographed moves set to music. Meanwhile, from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. each day, a large gathering of merchants sells goods, clothing, jewelry and art at the Sponsor Village and Trade Fair.
When the Legends first stepped onto the field at Whitaker Bank Ballpark in 2001, they broke a nearly half-century dry spell of pro baseball in the city of Lexington. That first season, they made their presence known by winning the South Atlantic League championship and trying to rename City Hall after themselves. Since their inauguration in '01, the Legends have sent more than three-dozen players to the majors, fulfilling the promise of their name and creating their own legacy.
Crossing the Ohio River on the north side of Louisville, it’s impossible not to notice the glassy façade of the KFC Yum! Center right on the river, a gleaming, $238 million cathedral to the University of Louisville’s flagship sport: basketball. Perennial powerhouses in both the men’s and women’s competition, Louisville showcases its fast-paced brand of basketball to one of the most loyal fanbases and student bodies in the country. While hoops may be king—the men’s basketball squad has won the school its two only NCAA Championships—the Cardinals take pride in a host of distinguished sports, including a football team that won both the Big East Conference and the Orange Bowl in 2006, leading the basketball team to briefly experiment with wearing helmets and cleats.
Baseball in Louisville dates back to 1876 when the Louisville Grays began playing as part of the National League. Soon after the turn of the 20th century, minor league baseball arrived in Derby City and for 70 years, the Louisville Colonels commanded it. Their departure in 1972, however, led to a period of inactivity, as well as a period of unemployed umpires roaming the city shouting "SAFE!" at landing birds. Ten years later, baseball returned with the arrival of the Louisville Redbirds, who eventually became the RiverBats in 1998, and simply the Bats in 2002. Over the years this franchise has spent time as the affiliate of three big league teams: the St. Louis Cardinals, the Milwaukee Brewers, and its current affiliate, the Cincinnati Reds.