Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 2

Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 2

Hello and welcome to “Podium Moments”, a series that discusses the performance of the three athletes or teams that place on the podium after a competition. Today’s article will cover the three teams that finished on the podium for Event 2 of the 2020 Marble League!

The official pictogram for ML20 Halfpipe, designed by the JMRC.

Bronze: Staying Fresh

The Halfpipe is an atypical event, previously appearing only in the 2018 Winter Marble League and both editions of the Hubelino Tournament. The Minty Maniacs, who have turned out to be quite the atypical team, appeared in all three of those tournaments, and their experience in descending the slippery slopes and curves has proven beneficial. The team earned their second medal in the second event, breaking a Marble League record in the process. With a current total of 41 points in first place overall, they show no signs of slowing down.

Although it’s still far too early to tell whether the Maniacs will remain championship contenders throughout the season, there is so far no reason to question their potential and their determination to win. In fact, after speaking to their coach, Minty Hint, we found out one of their key motivators:

            “When the sponsorship with John Rolliver was announced to the public, we were so moved by Rolliver’s pledge to donate money to community food banks. That night, we decided that we were going to do the best that we possibly could so that the funds could be donated on our behalf.”

It’s empowering to hear that the Minty Maniacs are competing for the right reasons. So far, it’s working out about as well as it possibly could for them.

The Minty Maniacs proved right out of the gate that their success in Balancing was not a fluke.

Silver: Crazy Consistence

While the Minty Maniacs are getting the most attention out of the newer teams, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes have also shown up, earning their first silver medal. Either of their Halfpipe successes against the Hornets would have broken the Balls of Chaos’ record, and their first heat would have broken the Maniacs’ record. Green Eye’s performance in their second heat, while not record-breaking, was one of the best among individual marble athletes.

Much like the Midnight Wisps, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes are a team that has not been the most consistent, even after medaling five times in the past two years. Despite being in the top five for much of last season, they finished eleventh overall due to a string of bottom tier finishes in the final three events and other lower-half performances throughout the season. It is reassuring to see that the Cat’s Eyes, after placing second in Qualifiers, have already medaled after placing fifth in Balancing. Consistency is shaping up to be the name of the game in the 2020 Marble League, and if the team can continue to place in the top half, let alone the top five, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes will be able to remain in contention throughout the season.

Green Eye may be shaping up to be one of the strongest athletes on the Crazy Cat's Eyes.

Gold: O’paceway

The beginning of the 2020 season is not looking good for teams that have been in the League since its inception. The teams that podiumed at the end of 2016 are currently the bottom three teams in the overall standings, and the Oceanics and Team Galactic are not far ahead. There is only one team of the “all six” that is within reach of overtaking the Minty Maniacs at this point, and it’s a team that happens to be one of the most popular: the O’rangers.

The O’rangers have a long and storied history in marble sports, from their Fruit Circuit days to placing third in the inaugural season of Marbula One. Their most important tournament yet was the 2017 Marble League, where the team won the championship in the final event, denying the Savage Speeders a repeat championship and cementing their legacy in the League. The O’rangers have never placed outside of the top half of the standings at the end of each season, and their fanbase—as raucous as it may seem—is also one of the most dedicated, staying with the team from its rough start in 2019 through their gold medal in Collision.

After breaking the Maniacs’ Halfpipe record and dominating over the Speeders in both of their heats, it’s clear that the O’rangers are in a much better position at the beginning of this season. In fact, the O’rangers have never been this high in the standings after the second event; they are a team that typically performs well in the second half of the season. Will the team burn out early, or will the O’rangers continue to be a pressing force to be reckoned with throughout the season? Regardless, I am sure we’ll hear O’s reverberating throughout the Andromedome for events to come.

The podium moment at the end of ML2020 Event 2: Halfpipe..

Conclusion: Slow And Steady

The Halfpipe is a very particular event, one that tests varying speeds during different points of the event and factors in balance, collision, and restraint all at the same time. It is a true challenge to do well in not just one heat, but two heats, in order to set the longest combined time down the slope. That these three teams were able to do so well, improving from their 2018 performances and breaking two records, is far from a small feat.

In conclusion, it is indeed a milestone to see three teams at the end of each Marble League event stand above the rest, because they—through months of training in the offseason, working to qualify, and dealing with the unquestionable presence of fortune that affects any sporting event—have preserved and put their best roll forward. They deserve their “podium moment”, but more than anything, they deserve their chance to shine.

Until next time, keep on rolling!

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Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 1

Podium Moments – ML2020 Event 1

Hello and welcome to “Podium Moments”, a new series on the Marble Sports Blog! This series will discuss the performance of the three athletes or teams that place on the podium after a competition. Today’s article will cover the three teams that finished on the podium for Event 1 of the 2020 Marble League!

The official pictogram for ML20 Balancing, designed by the JMRC.

Bronze: A Reason to Fear The Night

The Midnight Wisps, in all honesty, did not have a banner year in the 2019 Marble League. Their best moments in the tournament coincided with their worst: a disqualification followed by a gold medal in Block Pushing, followed by a penultimate finish, another gold medal in Hurdles, a fourteenth place, a fifteenth place, and a silver medal in Rafting. The Wisps finished their 2019 season in tenth place, in a position much less desirable than their tenth place at the end of the Biathlon event in 2018. Their performance was ultimately compounded by their constant grapples with the paradigm of consistency, with several bottom-four placements crippling the team despite winning two of the sixteen events outright.

The Wisps’ Marbula One debut did not help matters, with Wopsy’s fall from the top of the elevator at the O’raceway sealing the team’s fate. Even with Wopsy’s bronze redemption at the Hivedrive and Wispy’s fourth place at the Razzway, the Midnight Wisps couldn’t keep up. They were beginning to seem more and more like a mid-tier team, especially after finishing their season in twelfth overall in their home circuit, the Midnight Bay. Would they be the first Marble League Champion to be relegated to the Showdown?

The “Will of the Wisps” has clearly defied those chances over the past week, with a strong enough placement in Balancing and a repeat of their 2019 success in Block Pushing granting the athletes another chance to strike the dark hour of midnight. And so far, the team has proven that they’re at least here to play—if not to win their second championship. Both Wispy and Wospy reached the green bonus zone, putting on a performance far stronger than the majority of their Marbula One races, and although Wespy and Wuspy fell off the beam just a little too soon, the Midnight Wisps succeeded as a team in providing a strong first impression. The Wisps’ true test over the next fifteen events will be to see if they can remain this consistent and be in the position to make a comeback. They have before.

The Wisps desperately needed a boost to their morale, but they need consistent top-half finishes more than anything.

Silver: A Robust Return

Despite an unimpressive debut in Marbula One, the Raspberry Racers’ skills in the Marble League remain their forte. The Racers’ streak in the top five of the overall standings has not been broken since the beginning of the 2019 Marble League—seventeen events and over a year ago. If anything is for certain right now, it’s that the champions of last year’s tournament, with a silver medal to their name, are already off to a terrific start.

Unlike the Wisps, the Raspberry Racers thrive on consistency, which can easily be seen by their top five streak, be justified by their medals in half of last year’s events, and be further supported by their Friendly Round appearance, where the team placed first twice and second twice. With a silver medal in Balancing, the Racers have not only proven that they have improved since the 2019 season, where they scored an abysmal 190, and the Friendly Round: they’ve also proven that they haven’t run out of energy. Compare that with the Savage Speeders, who dominated during Qualifiers but got fourteenth place in this event, and you begin to realize that the Raspberry Racers are an entirely different beast of a team. They are truly deserving of the hashtag #RaspberryRobust.

It will be very interesting to see how the rest of the team’s season goes. No team has ever secured a repeat championship before, and so far, the Racers are the only team that can do so back-to-back. They are the team that every team wants to be and the team that every team wants to beat. And while the Midnight Wisps got very close with their score of 353, there is only one team that has done that so far this season.

The Raspberry Racers nearly doubled their score from 2019. Was that a result of better training or the event's unpredictable nature?

Gold: A Mint Surprise

Teams that had all medaled before in Balancing were expected to flourish in the first event of this season. The Crazy Cat’s Eyes did well enough, holding a provisional spot on the podium before the Midnight Wisps and Balls of Chaos competed. Team Momo did well enough to place sixth, redeeming themselves from Qualifiers and earning ten points to start off the season. However, the Thunderbolts and Mellow Yellow, along with most other veteran teams, stumbled. Even the Hazers, who set the new Marble League Record of 438 centimeters last season, couldn’t even score within 100 centimeters of that this time.

The team that won Balancing is a team that few, outside of their hardcore fans, anticipated. The Minty Maniacs stunned the competition by scoring 381 centimeters, far below the record but clearly ahead of the Racers’ 355. There’s no doubt that the Maniacs would have exceeded the record had all four of them gotten over 100, but they can hardly complain considering that three.

The Minty Maniacs’ victory may not come as a surprise to fans that have been following them since their Hubelino Tournament days. The team earned a gold medal in the 2018 Catwalk, which, though a far simpler version of Balancing, required many similar skills. Although the Maniacs did not do remarkably well in Balancing during the Showdown, they scored just enough to advance to Qualifiers, where they—in a symbolic twist of fate—earned 347 centimeters, matching the Rojo Rollers’ old record in the event. If that wasn’t an omen to win their first gold medal of the tournament, then what was?

This could either be a one-hit-wonder for the Minty Maniacs, much like their silver medal in 2018 Ice Hockey, or their breakout moment. Regardless, the Minty Maniacs have clearly proven their spot in the Marble League, and fans (especially those pledged to the Snowballs) are beginning to take notice. Only time will tell how their performance here plays into the overall story of the 2020 Marble League.

The podium moment at the end of ML2020 Event 1: Balancing.

Conclusion: Chasing the Green

When they were planning the event structure of the 2020 Marble League, Team Galactic, in cooperation with the JMRC, could think of no better way to begin the fifth edition of the tournament than with the first event in Marble League history: Balancing. Even though they were hosting, Team Galactic opted not to suggest events that played to their strengths, but rather, events that honored past Marble Leagues and events that pushed the limit of what they thought was possible. Balancing fits both criteria: it is not only a classic event, but it also tests the limits of each athlete. As they roll forth, they must control their spin as best as they can to make it to the green bonus zone at the end and not knock their teammates off the beam. It is far from an easy task, but as Greg Woods remarked,

            “And while some marbles dream only of watching the Marble League, those who strive to compete in it find a daunting amount of dedication and difficulty in front of them.”

It is indeed a milestone to see three teams at the end of each Marble League event stand above the rest, because they—through months of training in the offseason, working to qualify, and dealing with the unquestionable presence of fortune that affects any sporting event—have preserved and put their best roll forward. They deserve their “podium moment”, but more than anything, they deserve their chance to shine.

Until next time, keep on rolling!

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The Teams You’ll Miss in the 2020 Marble League

The Teams You’ll Miss in the 2020 Marble League

This post contains spoilers for the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers. Proceed at your own risk!

After months of waiting to see which teams would compete in the 2020 Marble League, we finally know the sixteen teams that have qualified, including the four that prequalified at the end of the 2019 Marble League and the twelve that competed in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers. And now that we know, the 2020 Marble League is just around the corner, premiering tomorrow! All of the teams are already in Polaria, and tomorrow, it will be time to light the torch in the Andromedome.

In our theorizing, meme-making, and hype intensifying, we’ll rally behind at least one of the sixteen teams that have qualified, if not all of them. From the rookie teams, the Hornets and the Bumblebees, to five-time veterans such as Team Galactic, these sixteen teams all have something unique to bring to the games, and they have brought their all in order to secure their spot.

Regardless, there is a certain tragedy that comes with the passing of the Qualifiers each year. There are sixteen spots in the Marble League each year, meaning that if more than twelve teams are seeking to compete, there will be cuts. This has been the case since 2017, when the first Qualifiers were held, and the Kobalts, Snowballs, Balls of Chaos, and Rojo Rollers failed to qualify. In 2018, twelve teams failed to qualify (four from each group), the most in a single season yet. In 2019, the JMRC established the current system of relegation, and in addition to the Limers and Team Momo missing their first Marble League, the Limers, Turtle Sliders, Kobalts, and Shining Swarm did not advance to this year’s Qualifiers from the 2019 Showdown.

This year saw a mixture of teams get cut after the four qualifying events. Some were beloved fan favorites. Others were hoping, after years of being unsuccessful, to finally return to the competition. But none of them can be forgotten. Like the sixteen teams that have qualified, these eight teams all bring something special to the competition. The difference is the effort put in—either it isn’t “their all” or it’s masked by other teams. And so it goes.

Still, as we await the 2020 Marble League, we would like to reflect on these “forbidden eight”, if you will. They deserve to be heard, and their legacies deserve to be honored. Any team could be in their position right now.

A Hail Mary Gone Wrong

"When I find myself in times of trouble, Prim and Mary come to me..."

Although Team Primary improved remarkably from their appearance in 2019 Marble League Qualifiers, they unfortunately will be missing out on the main tournament for their third time in a row. It is an especially difficult revelation considering that Primary placed fourth in the Showdown and seventh in Marbula One’s team championship. They, like the Snowballs, were on the verge of redemption, but they were ultimately squared off by two unfortunate results—an eighteenth place in the Funnel Endurance and a narrow loss to Bonbon of the Chocolatiers in the 5 Meter Sprint. Team Primary failed to qualify despite tying with Team Momo and the Bumblebees in points, due to Mo’s gold medal in the Funnel Endurance and the Bees’ silver in Balancing.

The biggest disappointment surrounding Team Primary, however, is their performance in Funnel Endurance, where Coach Secondary put in the athlete that made the most sense: Mary.

            “Everyone expected me to be the slowest. And yes, I know about all of the memes.” Mary acknowledged. “I’m not turning into a cube.”

“The thing with Funnel Endurance is that you have to keep moving to stay in the funnels,” noted Rima. “Mary wasn’t doing that. She fell pretty easily through the hyperbolic funnels with little momentum to keep her ahead of everyone.”

At the time of writing, rumors are swirling that Team Primary is changing its captain to Prim, who placed fourth in Marbula One’s racer championship. Regardless of what happens, best of luck to them in the 2020 Marble League Showdown.

Jungle Junkers?

At least they weren't oversleeping this time...

The results of this year’s Qualifiers proved to be historic, as they warranted a tiebreaker to determine who would move on to the 2020 Marble League. It wasn’t just a two-way tie, but double that—an unprecedented four-way tie. The tie was broken by counting back the highest placement in the four teams’ individual events. The Jumpers’ highest placement was fourth, just eight thousandths of a second down from the podium and a qualifying spot.

To glorify the Jungle Jumpers’ qualifying performance and claim that the team was “robbed” is arguable. The team was never in a qualifying position, even after a definitive eighth placement in Block Pushing, due to their less-than-impressive fifteenth place in Balancing. However, the true source of controversy surrounds Leap’s fall from the Funnel Endurance course, which caused her to DNF. The JMRC granted the Jumpers two consolation points for what they determined was a track defect, which was consistent with their rulings in the 2019 Marble League. Still, fans questioned whether it was enough—and the team agreed.

            “Thankfully, I only have minor injuries—but it’s the principle that I’m most disappointed about,” Leap stated. “The ‘elite’ of marble sports should be the ‘elite’ of sports safety standards, and the Marble League absolutely needs to do better.”

Best of luck to the Jungle Jumpers in the 2020 Marble League Showdown.

An Avalanche of Disappointment

The Snowballs are one of a few teams in the League that have yet to make it through a Qualifier.

The Snowballs, following an impeccable first season in Marbula One and victory in the 2019 Marble League Showdown, were on the verge of redemption. They were ready to bounce back from their disappointing performance in the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers and return to the main tournament. They were three events into the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, and they were in a comfortable seventh place overall. As far as they were concerned, they had made it.

The starting gate lifted in the 5 meter sprint, but Snowflake lost her balance early on and was out of sorts all the way down. The captain of the Snowballs placed dead last in the event, and the team fell to fourteenth overall.

            “I am so embarrassed,” Snowflake admitted, as her voice began shaking. “It was just like Marbula One…I just couldn’t do as well as Snowy. I know I’m the reason we didn’t qualify this year, and I will never forgive myself for that.”

Will Snowflake relinquish her role as team captain? Will Coach Blizzard be blasted for putting Snowflake into an event she wasn’t suited for? That remains to be seen. Until then, best of luck to the Snowballs in the 2020 Marble League Showdown.

Choking Back Tears

The Chocolatiers, in an attempt to raise the bar, broke it in half.

The Chocolatiers lived up to their name in Qualifiers—and not in a good way. The team didn’t necessarily choke during the four events, but they also didn’t post consistent results after Cocoa did relatively well in the Funnel Endurance. This led to an overall choke, as the team will be missing out on another chance to set new Marble League records…although the door is always open for them to sell their homemade chocolate in the Andromedome.

While the question remains whether the team will consider switching their team captain back to Cocoa for the Showdown, the fact also remains that the Chocolatiers’ mediocrity is not forgiven by Qualifiers. Best of luck to them in the 2020 Marble League Showdown.

Dwarf Stars

A disappointing set of results from a team we all want to shine.

The Indigo Stars did not qualify this season, leaving the Green Ducks as the only team that debuted in 2019 to have perfect attendance. The Stars worked hard during training, but they struggled the most with Balancing, an event that they also did poorly in during the 2019 Marble League. Their score of 270 wasn’t enough to get them the points they needed to qualify, even after earning ten points in the 5 Meter Sprint.

The Stars declined to give an interview, but one can only imagine their disappointment after working so hard to enter the Marble League in the first place. The Indigo Stars will truly be missed, in a space-themed tournament, no less. Best of luck to them in the 2020 Marble League Showdown.

Sugar Crushed

Was King Candy's overhaul of the Jawbreakers even worth it?

The Jawbreakers are a team that continues to have some of the worst team synergy in sports, while Candy continues to carry the team. His fourth place in Funnel Endurance proves that Candy is a quality solo athlete, but the rest of the team really does seem to drag him down.

            “Things just aren’t the same as they were in 2016, and who knows if they will ever be,” Tidbit remarked. “Candy may get along with Sugar, Sweet, and Taffy, but they don’t compete well as a team. There was something about the contrasting personalities of Candy, Mouthful, Tongue-Twister and I that made us want to work harder for the gold.”

Though it’s unlikely that Candy will ever recruit his ex-teammates to return to the team, he may not have a choice, especially if the Jawbreakers cannot get their act together for the Showdown. Regardless, best of luck to them.

Imbalanced

The 2020 Marble League, much like 2018, will not include any Surculo teams in the main tournament.

For a team comprised of former mathematics professors, it’s become very hard to count on the Rojo Rollers in the Marble League. The Rollers debuted in sixth in the first season of the Marble League, and they even earned the first gold medal in the history of the tournament…in an event that they can no longer compete in.

Truth be told, the Rojo Rollers could afford a less-than-desirable result in Balancing as long as they did well in the three other events—but their last place score of 208 killed the team’s momentum. Even with a ninth place in Block Pushing, the Rojo Rollers could not recover in the other two events. Once again, they’ve failed to qualify for their fourth Marble League in a row.

Will their fifth Qualifier be the charm for the team? The Rojo Rollers might be able to count on that, as long as the Showdown or next year’s Qualifiers don’t offer Balancing as an event. The team did very well in the 2019 Marble League Showdown, so best of luck to them this year.

Stinky Power

The Pinkies are, as one fan put it, not in the pink of health.

The Pinkies…are a basement team. This isn’t news. However, they have historically done well at Qualifiers. In fact, the team won the 2017 Marble League Qualifiers despite placing last in the 2016 Marble League, and had yet to miss a Marble League…until now.

Yes, the Pinkies have soiled their perfect attendance record with a demonstration that was anything but perfect. While their last place in Qualifiers this year turned out better points-wise than Team Primary last year…they also never placed above thirteenth. If the Pinkies were putting on a play, it would have been a tragedy in five acts, starting in 2016 and ending here.

There might be a silver lining to this, though. The Pinkies have seldom been successful in the main tournament of the Marble League, but is the Showdown better suited for the team’s strengths in strategy and uncharted territory? It’s quite possible that the Showdown may finally be the opportunity for their pinky power to shine. In that regard, best of luck to the Pinkies in the 2020 Marble League Showdown.

Conclusion: Looking Ahead

The hype that surrounds the Marble League each year often obscures the hardships behind the scenes: the difficulty in training to qualify, the struggle in maintaining strong performances, and the challenge of demonstrating excellence, among others. If it was easy, any group of marbles would team up and casually roll past the competition—but it’s not. It takes determination to be involved in any aspect of the Marble League, let alone participate in the main tournament, and it’s admittedly not for everyone.

Nevertheless, the result has been proven to be worth it; it has been rewarding beyond any marble’s wildest dreams. If these eight teams work hard during the offseason and do well in the Showdown—pushing their capabilities beyond what they have thought possible—they will rediscover those rewards, as they have in Marble Leagues past.

Team Primary, Jungle Jumpers, Snowballs, Chocolatiers, Indigo Stars, Jawbreakers, Rojo Rollers, and Pinkies: we implore you not to give up, but to move forward. Learn from this, grow stronger, and be excellent. We’re looking forward to see you compete again.

Let’s roll.

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RetRollSpective – Bumblebees

RetRollSpective – Bumblebees

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to fly over to the Bumblebees, a team that first appeared in the 2019 Marble League Showdown!

The logo for the Bumblebees, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Bumblebees hail from Buzznya, a subregion in Eastern Europe that borders Herbotamia to the south and Galakonur to the east. Their city of origin, Buzzpig, lies on the eastern border of the region, as far east as Buzzkill, the Hornets’ city of origin, is to the west. The two teams have a legendary rivalry within the region, within the Bug Circuit, and now within the Marble League.

Bumble founded the team ten years ago to compete with the Hornets, who were beginning to build a fanbase in Buzzpig. “Our city didn’t have an official sports team, and I wanted to change that,” she explained. “I knew Bea, Swax, Honey, and Bomble from playing bugby in club sports, and we were all confident enough in our athletics, even though we weren’t really into racing.”

Queen, who was, at the time, an active member of the Royal Family of Buzznya, fully endorsed the establishment of the Bumblebees and deemed them the official sports team of Buzzpig. She would go on to coach the team during the Bug Circuit, drawing from her own experiences in sports playing cricket.

Shortly after the Bumblebees were founded, the Royal Family of Buzznya announced the first annual Bug Circuit to determine the best team in the land. The Bumblebees were selected to host the first season in 2011, and that year, they did so in their newly constructed Buzzbowl. After a season of events in water, dirt, and sand, the Bumblebees finished as runners-up to the Hornets, above the Ladybugs in third.

In all honesty, a bit of a buzzkill for the Bumblebees...

Over the next two years, the Hornets continued to make the podium while the Bumblebees continued to finish in the top five. The Bumblebees earned their first championship at the end of the 2014 Bug Circuit, where they competed at the Snails’ Slowlane. The team dominated, sweeping all of the snow races and placing in the top half of the remaining events. The Hornets struggled throughout the year, and although they placed in the top half, they could not get close to the Cockroaches and Grasshoppers in second and third, respectively.

Revenge came swiftly next year for the Bumblebees, who did poorly during the 2015 Bug Circuit, which the Hornets hosted and won at their Hivedrive. The events that the Hornets offered played to the Bumblebees’ weaknesses as a team, and the team placed outside of the top five for the first time in their history.

            “There was no doubt that they offered the Catwalk to spite us,” insisted Bea. “Before then, we had always seen our rivalry as more symbolic than competitive—even after losing in 2011. 2015 changed everything.”

2016 was a better year for the Bumblebees, as they placed third at the Water Striders’ Stridosphere—although the Hornets followed closely behind in third place. By 2017, the Bumblebees were beginning to lose interest in the Circuit. While they still placed in the top five, the team had come to the conclusion that they were weary of the competition and needed a change.

The Bumblebees found that change in the 2018 Hubelino Tournament, which had an opening following Team Phoenix’s retirement. They applied and were accepted because of their successes in the Bug Circuit and their proximity to Herbotamia; the team was close enough to be considered a regional competitor.

An early victory for the Bees that kept them motivated in the end.

The Bumblebees were excited to compete against a new slate of competitors, even if it was in a tournament that was seen as more of a “friendly”. They debuted as well as they possibly could have in the Swing Wave, earning their first gold medal. The Catwalk was next, however, and the team lost in their heat, placing seventh and allowing the Minty Maniacs to rise to the top of the standings. After another finish in the lower half of the standings in Funnel Spinning, the Bees dropped out of the top three. They would fight to regain first place for the rest of the tournament.

Their second gold medal in the Halfpipes brought them back to second overall, but the Bumblebees’ low score in Block Bumping dropped the team down to fourth again. As the Minty Maniacs reclaimed the top spot following the Relay Race, it seemed as if they were the favorites to win the tournament.

            “I wasn’t going to let that get in the way. We had a job to do,” vowed Swax.

Swax earned the Bumblebees’ third gold medal of the season in the Maze, swindling it away from the Minty Maniacs. The team rose to second overall, six points behind the Maniacs, and knew they needed to give it their all in the Big Tower—and they did. Bumble earned the team’s fourth gold medal of the season in a underdog upset, just a second ahead of the Ruby Rollers to win the 2018 Hubelino Tournament.

2018 was a bad year to be a Green Gang/Momo fan.

Buzzpig welcomed the Bumblebees home, holding a citywide parade to celebrate the team’s victory. Fans of JMR noted the Bees’ exemplary performance in their rookie season, having won half of the eight events, and began calling for them to compete in the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers. The team was flattered, but not interested.

            “We thought it would be too fast,” Honey pondered. “We wanted at least another year of competing before we thought about vying for Qualifiers.”

The announcement of the Marble League Showdown changed the Bumblebees’ plans, but they were okay with the development, as it would still give them a year of competing before a chance to qualify. The Bees accepted their spot in the Showdown, guaranteed to them by their first place finish in the 2018 Hubelino Tournament, and began using pseudonyms such as “Bramble” and “Bromble” to protect their identities, much like the O’rangers in the 2016 Marble League. What the team wasn’t expecting, however, was that their old rivals would also be joining the tournament.

The return of a rivalry that has yet to be matched...

The Hornets, coming off of a second place finish in the 2018 Bug Circuit, were truly looking to bring the sting in the Showdown. Vespa blocked Bea throughout the Sand Rally until halfway through the race, when Bea was finally able to overtake her. However, Bea could never get close enough to Candy, and after briefly passing Vespa again, Bea got caught on the course and could not recover the podium. She finished the Sand Rally in sixth, while Vespa earned the first silver of the four-event tournament.

            “They came back with a vengeance, and we really weren’t prepared,” Bumble, masquerading as “Brumble”, admitted. “As soon as we realized we couldn’t compete against the Hornets, though, we focused as much as we could on qualifying.”

The Bumblebees’ best placement during the Showdown was fourth in Funnel Endurance, which Bomble (Bromble) competed in. The team managed to place ahead of the Hornets in the event and rise into seventh in the standings, a position that would allow them to advance to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers. By placing seventh in Balancing, they were able to maintain exactly that, and will appear in the competition on 18 June.

            “I bee-lieve they have so much potential,” Coach Queen remarked. “And no, I’m not apologizing for that pun. They have grown so much in the past decade, and I am positive that they will thrive in the 2020 Marble League. And if not, they’ll at least do better than the Hornets in Marbula One.”

In RetRollSpective, the Bumblebees may be new to the Marble League, but they have more than enough experience under their wings. If their 2018 Hubelino Tournament showing is anything to go by, you should never count out the Bumblebees—although the team still has much to prove. Best of luck to the Bumblebees in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!

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RetRollSpective – Turtle Sliders

RetRollSpective – Turtle Sliders

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to focus on the Turtle Sliders, a team that debuted in the 2019 Marble League Showdown.

The logo for the Turtle Sliders, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Turtle Sliders are one of the newest teams in the Marble League, but they have an old and storied history competing against the Oceanics in the Seven Seas Circuit. Shelly, the only original member of the team remaining, was key in outsmarting many of the other teams in the circuit and standing up to the Oceanics. Her skills in endurance and longevity helped her to remain active after many of her old teammates retired from sports. But it was also her drive to compete.

            “I’m a visionary and an idealist,” Shelly proudly proclaimed. “It is my creed. I always believe that we’re going to take that next step. That we’re going to be as excellent as we want to be. We will get there.”

The Sliders never beat the Oceanics in the Seven Seas Circuit, but they came close in 2015, placing second in the final race and third overall. When the Oceanics left the Circuit, however, many of the original members lost interest.

            “It made sense to me,” Shelly accepted. “They felt like they had lost a sense of porpoise—I mean, purpose. Sorry. But I never lost that passion, and my hope was that I could inspire other athletes to do the same.”

Shelly began recruiting for new additions to the team in mid-2018, traveling throughout the region to cities like Aslipi, Jamarbla, and Mellacai. She met dozens of athletes who shared her passion to compete on a professional level, perhaps even in the Marble League. In the end, she reformed the team with Crush, Squirt, Dash, Frank, and Splint, the team’s original coach, being the new faces of the Turtle Sliders.

The original logo for the Turtle Sliders, designed by FamousOlSpiced.

Crush, who was recruited from Aslipi, used to compete in the minor league to the Turtle Sliders, the Hatchling Skidders. After retiring from sports, he went into acting and was featured in “a gritty crime documentary about a colorful fish getting kidnapped”, according to the Nondescript Entertainment Company. He was convinced to join the Sliders by his younger brother, Squirt, who had always looked up to Crush’s leadership in the Skidders, and was followed by Frank, who became the team’s reserve.

            When asked what relation he had to the other members of the team, Frank shrugged. “I dunno. I just joined the minor league and I vibe pretty well with Squirt. If I’m going to be frank, though, the reason I really joined is because I love the ocean.”

Dash, who was recruited from Jamarbla, was a key addition to the Sliders, as he was a rising star athlete in the city for his “extreme speed trials” that he would post on MarBook. His huge fanbase translated to the Sliders, who began supporting the revival of the team and requesting their presence in the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers.

Splint, the team’s original coach, was living in Mellacai when Shelly contacted him about the Sliders’ reunion. His response was anything but out-of-character: “It wouldn’t be the first time that I whip some lazy, pizza eating, no good, turtles back into shape. I will turn these turtles into a force to be reckoned with, just you wait.”

We all love a good flowchart, unless we're a fan of one of the bottom four teams.

The Turtle Sliders began training that fall in Aslipi, and were hard at work training for the 2019 Seven Seas Circuit in the spring when they received news of the Marble League Showdown, which featured a fan vote component to determine two of the twelve spots in the tournament. The Sliders received overwhelming support from their fans to apply, and they cited from their previous rivalry with the Oceanics to attract attention.

            “But we are coming for you, we will not stand in your shadow, we are here to take it all. Our goal is to make it to the Marble League and win it all–we made it this far, we aren’t gonna stop now. We WILL make it to the starting line next to you, and when we do, you better be prepared. Your past is catching up to you.”

Their classic logo, used in the Seven Seas Circuit, was praised in addition to the team’s reunion story. There was ultimately no reason why the Turtle Sliders weren’t capable of doing well in the fan vote, and in the end, they finished second, securing a spot in the 2019 Marble League Showdown and a path towards facing off against the Oceanics again.

"We choose what holds us back and what rolls us forward." ~Coach Splint

As they trained for the Showdown, the Turtle Sliders focused on honing their own team synergy for Collision, where they would need to stick together and away from the edges. It was a strategy that worked out for them in performance, as they finished fifth after a quarterfinal loss. The other three events, though, were not as kind to the rookie team. Squirt finished ninth in the Sand Rally, struggling to reach the top four after getting caught behind a gaggle of competitors. Dash fell through the final two funnels after leading for much of Funnel Endurance, placing tenth.

The Turtle Sliders were tied for tenth place with the Kobalts with one event to go—Balancing. Although the Turtle Sliders had trained for Balancing, their nerves got the best of them during the event, and they finished with a score of 207 centimeters. It was not enough.

Sliders fans were understandably disappointed, but they did not abandon their team at their lowest.

“We weren’t ready, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be ready next year,” Crush, the team’s captain, promised. “This year was just a bad year for the seven seas.”

In RetRollSpective, the Turtle Sliders are perhaps too new, which means two things: that they need more training and that the fans should not be quick to judge their potential. With Shelly’s vision and Crush’s leadership, there is hope that they will be shore—I mean, sure—to shock their competition in the future, especially if it’s the Oceanics. Best of luck to the Turtle Sliders in the 2020 Marble League Showdown, keep on rolling!

       Thank you to FamousOlSpiced for creating both the Turtle Sliders and the lore surrounding the team!

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RetRollSpective – Chocolatiers

RetRollSpective – Chocolatiers

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to focus on the Chocolatiers, a team that debuted in the 2016 Marble League. Read on to see how this team has sweetened the competition!

The logo for the Chocolatiers, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Chocolatiers, true to their name, are chocolatiers—simple as that. The team met as confectioners do—in a chocolate festival held in the mountaintop village of Bonsel, known to tourists as the “Sweetest Place On Marblearth”. The Chocolatiers worked in towns surrounding the base of Mt. Bonsel, with Choc from Giradel, Cocoa from Lindel, Mocha from Toblel, and Fudge from Ferrel. Bonbon, fittingly, worked in Bonsel itself and organized the festival, where the goal was to create the longest chocolate bar in the world and set a world record. Over the course of ten days, the confectioners worked day and night to cook and shape the bar, and in the end, they succeeded.  

Shortly after they broke the world record, the chocolatiers celebrated the occasion with an official ceremony and reception. The ceremony was attended by marbles from across the South American region, including several celebrities. The guest speaker of the night was none other than “King” Candy of the Jawbreakers, who had entered the Surculo two years prior.

            “As my career in sports has taught me, you have to do the things you love in life, and when you work really hard at those things, you create something that is bigger than yourself. These chocolatiers have quite literally achieved that, and I congratulate them on this momentous achievement. Keep on rolling.”

After delivering his keynote, Candy introduced himself to Bonbon and the rest of the chocolatiers. They spoke throughout the night, as Candy exchanged stories of his successes in the ELMC and the Surculo and the five confectioners described their process designing and perfecting the recipe for their chocolate bar. It was a night that would forever change their lives.

The next week, the five met up to celebrate, catch-up, and determine what they would do with the leftover part of the chocolate bar, which was being stored in a gymnasium. As they were discussing, Cocoa rolled away from the group and behind the bar. She sprinted towards the bar and leaped off of a ramp, jumping over the piece of chocolate. The four other members of the group, after measuring the bar to be about 30 centimeters long, then took their turns. Each of them landed at around 20-25 centimeters, with Fudge accidentally landing on the strip of chocolate and snapping it in half.

            “That was the most embarrassing moment of my life,” Fudge recalled, shuddering. “I let it get to me a little too much, though. If I could redo my reaction to that, I would have accepted the invitation to join the Chocolatiers from day one.”

The Chocolatiers entered the Surculo just before the application deadline in 2013, and initially did not impress with a mediocre finish in the bottom half of the standings. The team hired a coach, Praline, early in the season to help them train and adjust to the competition, but they did not feel as if they were prepared enough. They debuted in the 2014 Surculo with a new trainer, Coach Truffle, and their results soared, qualifying them for the elite league in sixth. In the 2015 Surculo, the Chocolatiers earned consecutive medals during the first half of the season. They finished in fifth overall, even after a questionable latter half performance.

The Chocolatiers, as photographed in a 2017 photoshoot.

The Chocolatiers had heard of the Marble League from the Jawbreakers, who they were friendly with even in tournament. Candy had heard a rumor that the top three teams from the 2015 Surculo would be delegated to participate, meaning that the Jawbreakers, Rojo Rollers, and Quicksilvers would compete in the 2016 Marble League. The rumor turned out to be partly true—the top three teams would be invited, not forced to compete, and if a team declined, the invitation would be extended to the next best team.

            “We were really hoping that we would be invited,” Choc said. “We didn’t want to participate in the Surculo knowing that we were missing out on a greater opportunity—the opportunity to set world records in the League! When the Quicksilvers and Jungle Jumpers both declined their invitations, that was the most exciting day of my life.”

The Chocolatiers debuted in the 2016 Marble League in Balancing, where they—much to their shock—placed fourteenth. In spite of their dismal debut, the Chocolatiers did much better in the Relay Race, winning the Consolation Round and placing fifth, putting their first three points on the board. What followed for the team, though, was five events of silence. With two penultimate finishes and several others outside of the top eight, the Chocolatiers earned zero points, and they fell from ninth to fourteenth in the overall standings.

A moment where it seemed like the Chocolatiers were raising the bar...

The team experienced a moment of potential revitalization when Choc earned the Chocolatiers’ first medal after placing second in the 10 Meter Sprint, which they followed with two fifth place finishes in Team Pursuit and Quartet Diving. Unfortunately, the Chocolatiers’ fate was already sealed by their tenth place finish in Precision Slalom: they were out of championship contention. The Chocolatiers finished the 2016 Marble League in thirteenth place with 16 points, miring themselves in mediocrity for their inaugural season.

            “There were a lot of factors going into why we did so poorly in 2016. The points system was really harsh, but the simple truth is that we weren’t prepared for the rest of the teams competing,” Cocoa identified. “Especially the Savage Speeders. They set two records!”

The Chocolatiers returned to their villages and started searching for land to build an arena and training facility. They began construction on their Cocoa Arena in late 2016, which would sit at the foot of Mt. Bonsel, just outside of Ferrel. The stadium was completed midway through the 2017 Marble League, and its construction was supervised by Fudge.

In the meantime, the team trained in Jawnair, in a separate facility from the Jawbreakers, and traveled to Knikkegen in June 2017 for the 2017 Marble League Qualifiers. The Chocolatiers qualified in ninth place without any podium-worthy placements, conserving their energy for the main tournament.

A defining moment in Cocoa's career, even if she didn't break a Marble League record.

Mocha started the Chocolatiers’ 2017 season strong, with a sixth place in Funnel Spinning. Cocoa took this momentum and drove it into her performance in the Long Jump, leaping into the sand as if she was leaping over the world’s longest chocolate bar. With a final result of 71,3 centimeters, Cocoa won the event, winning the Chocolatiers’ first gold medal and sending her team to the top of the standings. The team continued to remain close to the top of the standings throughout the first half of the season, helped back up to the top from second with Choc’s fourth-place finish in the 5 Meter Sprint, and only fell to fifth overall after the Relay Run, where they placed tenth.

By this point, though, the Chocolatiers’ shortage of medals, combined with finishes in the bottom eight, was beginning to hurt their place in the standings. The team had earned 54 points during the first third of the 2017 Marble League and would only double their points in the next eight events by earning just one more medal: a silver in Archery. The Chocolatiers finished their 2017 season in eighth place overall, kept in the top half of the standings by Bonbon’s fourth-place finish in the Sand Rally.

Critics of the team began referring to them as the “Choke-latiers” during and after the 2017 season, referring to their tendency to freefall down the rankings after earning one bad result by continuing to fumble in a streak of subpar performances. Needless to say, the team was not in favor.

            “We were complacent,” Mocha admitted, referring to their success early on in the season. “I especially was, after doing so well in Funnel Spinning. Unfortunately, the League’s record in the Underwater Race was just out of my reach!”

"Choc-ing" back tears.

The Chocolatiers returned home without much fanfare, despite bringing two medals back with them. They got together a few times a week to train in anticipation of the 2018 Winter Marble League Draw in December 2017. During the offseason, the Chocolatiers recruited Fudge to join as the team’s reserve, and he accepted without hesitation.

The team was sorted into Group A, along with the Jawbreakers, Quicksilvers, and Rojo Rollers—all alumni from the Surculo—and the Minty Maniacs, one of their consumers from Herbotamia. The stakes were high, and despite placing fourth in Curling, the Chocolatiers were not able to reach them in the other three events. All four of the former Surculo teams, along with the Jungle Jumpers in Group B, failed to qualify for the 2018 Winter Marble League.

By now, you've all seen this infamous picture of the fallen 2018 teams. What will 2020's version look like?

“I can’t say we didn’t see it coming,” Bonbon conceded. “We weren’t confident heading into Qualifiers, and we all knew it! It still really hurt that we didn’t make it to our first Marble League, but that’s where all we need is that confidence. While we watched from the stands, we were already hungry…hungry for the championship in 2019!”

The five were not entirely inactive during the main tournament, though—they helped run concessions in the Arctic Circle and sold their homemade chocolate to fans. By staying in touch with their art, they were able to publicize their annual chocolate festival, which they hosted in Bonsel during the offseason, at the same time as the 100 Meter Water Race.

Although the Chocolatiers skipped the 100 Meter Water Race, they were eligible to participate in the Consolation Race, which featured the teams which did not qualify for the 2018 Winter Marble League. Cocoa finished second after leading for much of the race, an encouraging performance from a team that desperately needed it. The four original members of the team competed in the Amazing Maze Marble Race and lost in their heat with a score of 31.

That said, the question of the Chocolatiers qualifying for the 2019 Marble League was truly a toss-up. The team had reportedly focused more on training since the end of the chocolate festival, according to Coach Truffle:

            “We’ve reorganized our priorities, and we recognize that chocolate will always be there for us. The chance to qualify won’t, and we are determined to return to the main tournament in record time!”

The Chocolatiers were able to do so with four consistent finishes—two in fourth place and two in fifteenth place. They qualified for the 2019 Marble League in twelfth place, just barely making it—but making it.

Every team needs medals. But no team needs medals quite like the Chocolatiers.

In the months leading up to the 2019 Marble League, the Chocolatiers released a special Marble League-branded mint chocolate ice cream flavor named “Mint Chocolate Condition”, but they were otherwise training hard for their return to the limelight. Coach Truffle decided that Choc would compete in the Underwater Race instead of Mocha, which Mocha was relieved to hear. This decision paid off for the team, as the Choc earned the season’s first bronze medal. Much like 2017, the Chocolatiers were off to a good start.

That sentiment quickly shifted after Funnel Endurance and Balancing, where the team placed in the bottom four places and fell from third to eleventh overall. The team pivoted in the Gravitrax Slalom, placing ninth, and Cocoa performed well in the 5 Meter Sprint, placing sixth, but the Chocolatiers stumbled in the next two events. They were sitting in twelfth prior to the Summer Biathlon, which would mark the midpoint of the season.

Bonbon made it through both his heat and his semifinal in second place, advancing to the final and nearly overtaking Hop for the gold medal. In a razor-thin photo finish, Hop won the event by three-thousandths of a second, and Bonbon earned a silver medal for his team.

The Chocolatiers ended the first half of their season in tenth place with 63 points and were determined to keep working hard. In a post-event interview, Mocha stated, “A lot of us aren’t doing the same events that we did in 2017, and that’s because during our training we’ve reevaluated where we’re most comfortable competing. I think that it’s working out well for us, even if we aren’t doing well in team events.”

It's a good thing that Bonbon didn't have to choke on the water portion of the Triathlon.

Mocha proceeded to place sixth in Hurdles, but the team fell to twelfth overall. What followed was yet another streak of the “Choke-latiers”, with Cocoa’s DNF in the Dirt Race looking and feeling the most disappointing of the three.

            “I didn’t have the energy to keep rolling,” Cocoa confessed. “I know it looked so bad on camera, but I knew that if I tired myself out too much, I would injure myself in the final.”

The Chocolatiers began to rise from the abyss too late, even with Bonbon’s sixth place in the Elimination Race and the team’s fourth place in Collision. They finished the 2019 Marble League in twelfth place, a far cry from the beginning of their season in third, and a disappointing end to what could have been a comeback story.

During the offseason, the Chocolatiers became the first, and so far only team, to change their captain. Cocoa relinquished the role in early 2020, with Choc serving throughout the 2020 season. When asked if Cocoa couldn’t handle the pressure as team leader after 2019, she flatly denied it. “The decision wasn’t about how much energy I dedicate to the team. It’s just…Choc’s energy levels are even higher!”

In RetRollSpective, the Chocolatiers are one of the original teams that has showed up but struggled to make a breakthrough. They certainly have the potential to do well and demonstrate their individual talents best, but their scores are as consistent as rocky road. With hope, the team will work on group events and raise the bar for this year. Best of luck to the Chocolatiers in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!

                                                                 Thank you to Foucaulf for helping craft the lore for the Chocolatiers!

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RetRollSpective – Minty Maniacs

RetRollSpective – Minty Maniacs

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to focus on the Minty Maniacs, a team that debuted in the 2018 Winter Marble League.

The logo for the Minty Maniacs, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Minty Maniacs, as their logo suggests, are candy fanatics—with an emphasis on mint, of course. The team met from across the lands of Herbotamia, a region in southwest Asia known for growing herbs and spices. Herbotamia itself has gained the reputation of being the “freshest” place in the world, according to one of the world’s most acclaimed travel guides, Atlas Marbura.

Minty Flav, Minty Drizzel, Minty Fresh, Minty Swirl, and Minty Mint competed together in local “turf tournaments”, which featured a variety of events utilizing the surrounding locale: for example, doing a Catwalk event along a wooden beam, or doing a Quartet Jump from a downhill slope into a lake. It wasn’t long before these tournaments started becoming popular throughout Western Asia as a fun outdoors activity and a potential professional sports league.

These tournaments reverberated through the region as friendly rounds conducted without an audience, due to the hot, dry climate of summertime, when the lands weren’t being planted or harvested. The Minty Maniacs spearheaded the first tournament, which was a trio between the Black Jacks and Golden Wisps. The next season, more teams from around the region competed in what became known as the Herbotamia Tournament.

The Herbotamia Tournament was in its second year when professional marble sports became popular worldwide, punctuated by sand racing, hurdle jumping, and contact sports like lucha marbre. The athletes of the tournament had been contacted to be in the sports featurette that would go viral, but they turned down the request.

            “We always envisioned this as something casual: as something we enjoyed to do for ourselves,” the team’s captain, Minty Flav, reflected. “I personally never anticipated this would get as popular as it has.”

            “We were a little afraid of it at first,” Minty Swirl admitted. “We hesitated, and we shouldn’t have, because this is something we love to do. We were just shy.”

As tournaments like the Knikkegen Marble League ballooned in popularity, tournaments like the Fruit Circuit and Herbotamia Tournament stagnated. The cost of maintaining a tournament without sponsorship began to loom over the Herbotamia athletes like a shadow, even for something so casual—and the announcement of the 2016 Marble League did not help.

The Minty Maniacs were preparing to retire from marble sports and go into the food industry, making homemade mint chocolate chip ice cream, when they were approached by Jelle Bakker. Although Jelle was focused on running the 2016 Marble League, he missed running a regional tournament, and offered the Maniacs a sponsorship for their tournament to continue in 2016. After contacting the other teams, the Maniacs accepted, and the tournament—now rebranded as the Hubelino Tournament—was slated to begin in Herbotamia shortly after the 2016 Marble League.

The first season of the Hubelino Tournament was an experiment for regional tournaments that complemented the Marble League, which was an experiment for international tournaments.

The 2016 Hubelino Tournament differed from the original tournament in that it was recorded for the Internet (a first for a regional tournament) in the hope that it would be appreciated by a wider audience, and that it featured artificial courses using Hubelino tracks, bricks, and other special parts. The tournament was conducted without a live audience to preserve the original “friendly round” atmosphere of the competition, and featured eight teams competing for eternal glory.

The Minty Maniacs may be the first example of the “host’s curse” in Jelle’s Marble Runs history, although they did not seem to be so in the first four events. The Minty Maniacs immediately made a strong impression, podiuming three times with two silvers and one bronze to their name. Minty Fresh’s bronze in the Elimination Maze, pictured below, helped her team rise to second in the overall standings, behind only the Black Jacks.

Minty Fresh's bronze in the Elimination Race kept her team in the top half of the standings throughout the first eight events.

That said, the Minty Maniacs peaked early in the season, and they did not podium in the remaining four events. Still, by the end of the year they placed in a respectable fourth place overall, squarely in the middle of all the Hubelino Tournament teams.

            “We were pretty satisfied, considering how much changed from previous years. It was a challenge and we took it on in mint condition!” remarked Minty Fresh.

The eight teams got close during the tournament and made plans to attend the 2017 Marble League together. They sat to the right of the torch alongside the four unqualified teams, and they were astounded.

            “We’d never seen a sports tournament like that before,” said Minty Drizzel, “and we were inspired. It was a reminder for us to keep doing what we love, and it pushed us to work harder.”

The Hubelino Tournament reconvened for an additional four events after the 2017 Marble League, and it was clear that the Minty Maniacs were focusing their energy elsewhere. They finished seventh overall after placing in the bottom four all four times, but they were not discouraged. They were laser-focused on training for the 2018 Winter Marble League, and they were not alone.

A disappointing conclusion to the team's first season, marred by low-tier finishes in the bottom half of events.

Jelle offered all eight Hubelino teams the chance to compete in the 2018 Marble League Qualifiers. The Minty Maniacs, along with the Black Jacks, Golden Orbs, and Raspberry Racers (formed of members from the Bluefastics and Valiant Violets) accepted his offer, and entered the Draw in December 2017. The Minty Maniacs were placed in Group A with the Chocolatiers—a funny coincidence, considering that the Chocolatiers sourced mint from Herbotamia in creating some of their chocolate delicacies. During Qualifiers, the Maniacs earned a silver and a bronze in the Snow Race and Halfpipe, respectively, and did well enough in the other two events to qualify for the 2018 Winter Marble League. They and the Raspberry Racers were the only Hubelino-based teams to qualify.

The Minty Maniacs debuted with high hopes and a crushingly low beginning, placing last in the 5 Meter Ice Dash. While they were able to recover in the next few events and place in the middle of the pack, the Maniacs were not in mint condition, even with the addition of their reserve, Minty Mint.

            “The competition is so much more intense than anything we’ve ever experienced. It’s a true challenge,” Minty Drizzel realized. “It’s not that we didn’t want to do well, but we certainly questioned ourselves.”

The Maniacs seemed to be on the rise after two consecutive fifth-place finishes in Speed Skating and Team Pursuit, but they stumbled with two consecutive twelfth-place finishes in the next two events, falling to fifteenth overall. The Minty Maniacs, with no medals, were the most underwhelming rookie team in the tournament, and after placing last in the Biathlon, were tied with Mellow Yellow in fifteenth overall. There were two events to go, and the next event, Ice Hockey, was similar to Ball Battle, an event that the team did not do well in during the Hubelino Tournament.

The 2018 Winter Marble League included several unexpected podiums. This was one of them.

The Minty Maniacs shocked everyone, then, when they made it to the finals of Ice Hockey and fell to the Midnight Wisps, earning their first Marble League medal despite falling out of contention for the championship. With this, the team rose to thirteenth place overall and remained there to finish out the 2018 Winter Marble League.

            “I remember Jelle glancing behind himself as he rolled up to the podium, and he warmly smiled at us,” Minty Mint told, with a similar smile on his face. “That made the whole season worth it.”

Nevertheless, the Minty Maniacs were well aware that the Hubelino Tournament had not set them up to do well in the Marble League. The two tournaments required different skills, and after the 100 Meter Water Race, where Minty Drizzel did not finish, the team collectively decided to return to the Hubelino Tournament for its second season. They were joined by the Black Jacks and the Golden Orbs.

The second season of the Hubelino Tournament offered sports fans a classic friendly, but it was not hotly anticipated.

Although experience in the 2016 Hubelino Tournament did not help teams in the Marble League, experience in the Marble League helped teams do well in the 2018 Hubelino Tournament. The Minty Maniacs only placed off of the podium three times, demonstrating consistency that they had never shown in their career before. If they were in mint condition during the beginning of the 2016 season, they were on fire in 2018.

The Minty Maniacs were challenged by the Bumblebees, a rookie team from the Bug Circuit that did not have the Marble League experience, but the energy and the drive to excel. The Minty Maniacs earned two golds, one silver, and one bronze prior to the final event, the Big Tower, and had the lead in the standings—but did not advance to the final. The Bumblebees did, and they won their fourth gold medal and the 2018 Hubelino Tournament in an underdog upset.

The Minty Maniacs just missed out on what would have been redemption for their 2018 Marble League season.

Regardless, the Minty Maniacs had so much to celebrate even without winning the 2018 Hubelino Tournament, with medals from the Catwalk, Funnel Spin, Block Bumping, Relay Race, and Maze as physical embodiments of their achievements. While fans were calling for the Minty Maniacs to return to the Marble League for 2019, the team was looking forward to the third season of the Hubelino Tournament. Unfortunately, that opportunity would not come.

            “It was a combination of teams retiring, such as The Green Gang and Valiant Violets, and a lack of performance. Jelle did everything he could,” assured Minty Swirl, “but it was a lost cause. The lack of ticket revenue and interest from the fans made a third season infeasible.”

            “Everyone just wanted to see the Marble League,” added Minty Flav. “And honestly, we get it.”

The team disbanded shortly after the 2018 Hubelino Tournament, returning to Herbotamia. During this time, they got in contact with the Chocolatiers, who had qualified for the 2019 Marble League, and they collaborated on a special Marble League-branded mint chocolate ice cream flavor named “Mint Chocolate Condition”. The proceeds went to support regional marble sports tournament around the world.

The relegation system used from the 2019 season to the impending 2020 season.

Upon the announcement of the 2019 Marble League Showdown, the Minty Maniacs reunited to decide whether or not to come out of retirement to accept their spot, which was granted to them due to their second place finish in the 2018 Hubelino Tournament. The team, with the encouragement of the Black Jacks and Golden Orbs, decided to reform and compete to either advance to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers or remain in the Showdown league.

The Minty Maniacs were the only team that competed in the Showdown that had competed in the Marble League before and had never failed to qualify, and the only team to come out of retirement. Regardless, the team faced intense competition from Marble League veterans such as the Snowballs and Team Momo, as well as from rookies like the Hornets, known for their rivalry with the Bumblebees. The Minty Maniacs were in eleventh midway through the four event tournament after Minty Drizzel finished the Sand Rally in eighth and the Maniacs placed last in Collision. They desperately needed a good finish to be able to advance.

A hint of a comeback for the Minty Maniacs?

Minty Swirl was tapped to compete in the Funnel Spin, and true to her name, she swirled around the funnels in mint condition, advancing from her heat in third to earn a silver medal in the final. The team rose to sixth in the standings, above the Bumblebees, and became the first to earn a medal in the Marble League, the Marble League Showdown, and the Hubelino Tournament. With their ninth place finish in Balancing, the Minty Maniacs advanced to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers just above the Shining Swarm: two centimeters ahead of them in Balancing and a silver medal tiebreak in the overall standings. They will compete to qualify for the 2020 Marble League on 18 June.

            Minty Hint, the team’s coach as of 2019, is optimistic for their future. “The Maniacs are competing for the right reasons. They would rather be honored by their laurels than contested by their rivals, and that positivity will get them far.”

In RetRollSpective, the Minty Maniacs have one of the most interesting histories competing in tournaments, from friendlies to the Marble League, with varying degrees of success. Although they were once worried about the future of marble sports, their embrace has made the sports better, just by their presence and determination to keep on. With hope, the Minty Maniacs will truly realize their potential and do well in future tournaments. Best of luck to them in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!

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RetRollSpective – Kobalts

RetRollSpective – Kobalts

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to roll over to the Kobalts, a team that originated in the 2016 Marble League and has not qualified since.

The logo for the Kobalts, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Kobalts, true to their name, love the color blue, but there are three things they love as much as the color blue: science, roll-playing games, and marble sports. The four original members of the team came from humble backgrounds and attended university together in Zuro, a city in Central Africa renowned for the sciences, and majored in chemistry. Azure, Cerulean, Royal, and Dodger met while working in a lab exercise with cobalt(II) oxide and alumina, which, when heated, produces the cobalt blue pigment. The four were in their graduating year in 2014 when they first heard about the growing popularity of marble sports—but not on television or the radio.

In the little free time they had as doctorate students, the four friends played Marbles and Monoliths, a popular roll-playing game, online on a chat room called the Marblebase. They were in the thick of a campaign when they saw the off-topic channel light up with a notification. A user named Sapphire had shared a featurette about the Knikkegen Marble League, and the friends watched the video together from their apartment. They were hooked.

            “We were in our final semester, and not once in our five years of study had we ever considered switching away from our career paths in science. Dodger had even switched into chemistry from a history major in his first year,” Azure described. “But this was something else. It felt like a calling.”

After finishing her semester in Spring 2014 and graduating, Azure contacted Sapphire and learned that she was an athletic trainer with connections to Knikkegen. She agreed to train Azure, Cerulean, Royal, and Dodger for competition.

            “They are some of the smartest marbles I have ever met,” Sapphire stated with certainty. “They weren’t athletic when we first started, but they understood anatomy and how to get into form. They have always had that kind of heart and I really admire that.”

The Kobalts’ application for the 2015 Knikkegen Marble League was not accepted, but the team kept training. In 2016, they submitted an application for the rebranded Marble League and were one of the few teams to be accepted, along with the Oceanics and Team Galactic.

Azure earned the first silver medal for the Kobalts in the 2016 Water Race.

The team debuted well in Balancing with a score of 268 centimeters, placing sixth, but did not fare as well in the next three events. The Kobalts earned a point in the Relay Race due to a track defect in the top lane, but they otherwise went scoreless until the fifth event, the Long Jump, where Royal placed fifth with a 92,3 centimeter-long leap. In the next event, the Water Race, Azure won her heat and advanced to the finals, earning her first silver medal for the Kobalts. She remains the only member of the Kobalts to earn an individual medal.

At the midpoint of the 2016 Marble League, the Kobalts were exactly in the middle of the standings, at eighth place overall. The team’s second half of the season was admittedly less eventful than their first half: besides their silver medal in Precision Slalom, the Kobalts went scoreless in the other five events. They finished ninth overall, a welcome start to their Marble League career with room for improvement.

One might say the Kobalts were in their element in 2016.

With two months to go before the 2017 Marble League Qualifiers, the Kobalts’ were experiencing difficulties training. Royal and Dodger were trying to balance their time with their jobs as chemists, and they were weary from long nights in the lab and early mornings training.

            “It wasn’t working out, and it became clear to us that we needed to choose one or the other,” Royal revealed. “While professional sports gave me a sense of fulfillment, I needed the money more than anything.”

            “It was fun while it lasted, but my career was taking me in a different place, away from sports,” explained Dodger. “I knew that if I didn’t take that opportunity, I’d regret it.”

The two left, leaving Azure and Cerulean as an incomplete team. They were understandably disappointed, but determined to compete in Qualifiers:

            “We were fortunate to have a lot of connections on the Marblebase,” Cerulean assured. “Azure, Sapphire, and I reached out to our Marbles & Monoliths party, and both Meepo and Gnome were ecstatic to join the team. They’re brothers from Elsham, which is where they hold lots of M&M conventions.”

From left to right: Azure, Cerulean, Meepo, and Gnome.

Meepo and Gnome quickly headed to Zuro to begin training. Meepo debuted in the 2017 Marble League Qualifiers in the Sand Race, after the team competed in the Relay Race. He placed fourteenth, dropping the team to the bottom of the standings with two events to go. Although the Kobalts were able to regroup in Block Pushing and place second, Cerulean placed twelfth in Funnel Endurance and earned just one point. The team finished with 13 points, tied with the Snowballs, and failed to qualify for the 2017 Marble League.

The Kobalts, while disappointed, understood that the late change in the team’s roster affected their chances of qualifying. During their first offseason, the Kobalts attended the 2017 Marble League and began to train together as a team. They were even able to recruit Royal back to the team as their reserve. By the 2018 Winter Marble League Qualifiers, the team felt prepared to redeem themselves, and they were sorted into Group B.

            “I felt comfortable returning after taking a year off,” disclosed Royal. “And being able to return as their reserve allowed me to better balance my priorities.”

Group B turned out to be the tightest group for qualification, with all four teams qualifying within one point of the threshold. The Kobalts came the closest of the teams that did not qualify, placing third in the 5 Meter Ice Dash and second in the Halfpipe after placing sixth in the first two events. Unfortunately, they would miss the 2018 Winter Marble League as well.

The infamous "teams who missed the 2018 Marble League" cast and crew.

After attending the 2018 Winter Marble League, the Kobalts participated in the three offseason events held for Marble League teams. Meepo finished fifth in the Consolation Race, his best performance yet, but Azure was not able to finish the 100 Meter Water Race. The team did not make it past their initial heat in the Amazing Maze Marble Race and their hosting bid was denied, leaving the fate of the Kobalts hanging in the balance.

This question was answered in the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers, when the Kobalts again failed to qualify for the third time in a row. Meepo and Azure competed again for individual events, and both did not impress, with Meepo placing eighteenth in Funnel Endurance and Azure placing twelfth in the Underwater Race. The team did well in Block Pushing, placing ninth, but the Kobalts stinted their chances of qualifying with a fourteenth place finish in the Relay Race.

The Kobalts declined to comment on their unsuccessful demonstration in the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers. An article on the Marble Sports Blog detailed the team’s struggles: “while the team replaced half of its members in 2017 with Meepo and Gnome, there seems to be no other reason why Kobalts have not been successful in Qualifiers. The team has had seasons to sync up and train together, but it can never seem to synthesize quite right.”

The Kobalts preparing to face off against the Hornets in 2019 Collision.

It was reported that the Kobalts had no plans to attend the 2019 Marble League, and were instead planning to go to a Marbles & Monoliths convention in Elsham when they learned of the new relegation system involving the Marble League Showdown. The friends had already booked the tickets, and they went to the convention anyway, managing to stay unnoticed by Marble League fans. Upon their return, they began training in Zuro.

            “What does it matter if those reports are true or not?” said Gnome, almost defensively. “We’ve been trying to qualify for three years. We’ve dedicated ourselves to watching the professionals and training in the offseason. We deserve a little break.”

Azure and Meepo competed in both individual events of the 2019 Marble League Showdown for the third tournament in a row, with Azure finishing fifth in the Sand Rally and Meepo placing eighth in Funnel Endurance. Although the Kobalts did well in individual events, they were not as successful in team events: placing second-to-last in Collision, an event that they had not officially competed in since the 2016 Marble League. The Kobalts’ fifth place score of 345 centimeters was not enough to dig the team out of tenth place overall, and sealed the team’s fate: they would not advance to the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers.

            “They have heart, and right now, their hearts are broken,” Sapphire lamented. “Both they and the Rojo Rollers haven’t appeared in the Marble League since the beginning, but the Rollers, along with being invited to Marbula One, did well in the Showdown.”

            “The ironic thing about that article on the Blog is that we do well in team events,” Meepo asserted. “Or at least, better than I do in individual events.”

Meepo, left, anticipating the lifting of the starting gate in 2019 Funnel Endurance.

“Stop it, Meepo,” Azure refuted. “You made a breakthrough in Funnel Endurance last year. You’ll get there soon. We will all get there soon.”

            “In all honesty, we don’t have the best funding,” admitted Sapphire during a tour of the Cobalt Circuit, the team’s stadium. “Any other team would have retired during the 2018 offseason, but not us.”

            “Sports has pushed us out of our comfort zones to create something greater than ourselves,” stated Azure, with pride. “No matter what anyone says, I never want to let that go.”

In RetRollSpective, the Kobalts are a team that has not seen success in years, but they keep on. Why do they do so? It seems that they prefer to keep themselves reserved from the public eye, but if you get to know them, they are some of the most intelligent and passionate marbles. They have become stronger through competing professionally, and we hope that the team is training this offseason to become as strong in individual events as they can be in team events. Best of luck to the Kobalts in the 2020 Marble League Showdown, keep on rolling!

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RetRollSpective – Jungle Jumpers

RetRollSpective – Jungle Jumpers

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to leap over to the Jungle Jumpers, a team that debuted in the 2017 Marble League.

The logo for the Jungle Jumpers, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Jungle Jumpers originate from Lewara, a village hidden beyond the South American rainforests, bordered by a river with a lush basin. Hop, Skip, Jump, and Leap grew up admiring the beautiful flora and fauna that lived in the rainforest, and relished in exploring it daily. One of their favorite pastimes was to scale the treetops and jump to the ground using a wingsuit. Their skills in BASE jumping were praised by the village of Lewara, and the village made sure to include a short segment of their talents in an Atlas Marbura featurette about the village. The segment trended on MarBook upon the release of the featurette, and days later, the BASE jumpers were contacted by agents from the Surculo, asking them to compete in an exhibition race in the city of Numerun.

The four, who adopted the “Jungle Jumpers” moniker to compete in the race, traveled outside of the village for the first time in their lives. Upon arriving in Numerun, they attended a dinner with the other competitors as part of the fundraiser for Colina Umerun. They explored the city late into the night and, as a result, nearly overslept the next morning.

            “If the fans weren’t blasting ‘Roll Over and Roll Out’ outside the hotel, we would have skipped the race,” recalled Skip. “That would have been really disappointing, considering how we did.”

The race allowed four members from each team to compete, with a points-based system that rewarded the marbles with points depending on what order they crossed the line in. The Jungle Jumpers won the tournament to everyone’s surprise, as this was their first time competing in professional marble sports. According to Hop, the team’s experiences in BASE jumping had prepared them well for the exhibition:

            “The strategies needed to coordinate our progress down Colina Umerun are similar to the strategies we use in BASE jumping. It all comes down to speed, timing, and precision.”

In celebration of their victory, the Jungle Jumpers were permitted by Numerun officials to go BASE jumping in the modern part of the city. Later that week, they returned home to Lewara, promising fans that they would return.

The next year, the Jungle Jumpers entered the main tournament of the Surculo in the entry league, retiring from BASE jumping. They were joined by the Jawbreakers, Rojo Rollers, Quicksilvers, and Chocolatiers in the coming years, and all five of the teams rose through the ranks to the elite league. In 2015, the Jawbreakers, who considered the Jumpers a formidable rival, won the overall tournament. The Jungle Jumpers placed fourth, and when offered a spot in the 2016 Marble League, they declined in favor of one more shot at the championship.

            “We always knew that we had it in us,” said Jump, the team’s captain. “We had to get there, and we did.”

Despite a rough start to the season, where the team missed the first event due to a power outage resetting their alarm clocks the night before, the Jungle Jumpers came back, winning the 2016 Surculo Championship over the Quicksilvers. Their strength in the second half of the tournament was unprecedented in Surculo history, as they won several medals in a row. Both teams were asked to participate in the 2017 Marble League Qualifiers the next year, and both teams accepted.

The Jungle Jumpers' breakout moment in 2017 Qualifiers.

The Jungle Jumpers struggled in the first two events of Qualifiers but shone in Block Pushing, leading the event with a score of 73,3 centimeters. The Jumpers catapulted into fifth place overall, and despite falling to ninth in Funnel Spinning, had what they needed to qualify for their first Marble League.

Perhaps the Jungle Jumpers had the points they needed to qualify, but for most of the 2017 season, it did not seem like they had the training. Prior to their gold medal in Archery, the team’s highest placement in the first nine events of the season was tenth—a ranking they had only achieved twice. The only team that was as disappointing as the Jungle Jumpers was the Quicksilvers, and even then, they had finished in seventh.

They were the last team to compete in Archery, but the Jungle Jumpers—again, to everyone’s surprise—excelled. Their training in precision and accuracy helped them to stay in the center of the targets, with Hop, Leap, and Skip earning 9,5 and Jump earning 10, cleanly knocking over the bullseye.

The 2017 Marble League was full of surprises, and this was no exception.

Longtime fans of the Jungle Jumpers knew that they wouldn’t stop with just one medal—and they were right. The rest of the marblebase, however, were completely surprised to see Hop advance to the Underwater Race final and make the podium.

            “I wouldn’t root for them again,” a fan named Billy admitted after the closing ceremony. “But it was fun to see them come out of nowhere and get some recognition. Any fan would love to be in their roll-steps.”

Fans from across the marblebase hoped that the Jungle Jumpers would do well in the final event, but unfortunately, this was not the case. After going out to dinner after the Underwater Race, the Jungle Jumpers overslept and missed the official transportation to Doornse Gat for the final event of the 2017 Marble League. The team finished their season in fifteenth with 68 points overall, only above the Quicksilvers in last.

The above picture was made by Jack Ironhide in jest of the Jungle Jumpers going out the night before the final event.

“Overall, 2017 wasn’t the season we wanted to have,” Hop conceded. “Part of the reason we went out that night was to celebrate, and the other part of the reason was because we didn’t see ourselves doing much better. There was a sense that our story had already been written,” he said as the other Jumpers nodded in agreement.

            “If we were the best of the Surculo, we weren’t showing it,” admitted Leap. “We really weren’t handling it well on a personal scale either.”

The team recruited their fifth reserve member, Bounce, from Greshen, a small city known for its studies in ecology and for having the freshest air in the world. The Jumpers trained there in the months leading up to the 2018 Winter Marble League; in the mornings, they would exercise in the rainforest near the city, working on their speed and endurance. In the evenings, they would go out.

Judgement came for the Jungle Jumpers during Qualifiers, where they placed seventh despite Hop’s bronze medal in the Snow Rally. Of the four rookie teams from 2017, the Midnight Wisps were the only team to qualify for the 2018 Winter Marble League. The Jumpers attended the main tournament and sat alongside the Rojo Rollers, their fellow Surculo competitors who had not competed in the Marble League since 2016. It was then that they realized that they needed to make a change.

It did not take long for the Jungle Jumpers to realize how much they hated the higher ground of the standings.

“We realized as soon as the opening ceremony begun that we were not satisfied where we were in the stands,” Jump said. “I didn’t think that we deserved to compete in 2018, but there was no excuse for us to feel that pitiful. We needed to do better.”

Jump got in contact with sports professionals from Numerun, who agreed that the team had potential, but needed an overhaul in training. Tarzan joined the team midway through the 2018 season and agreed to coach them starting after the closing ceremony in 2018. They quickly got to work in preparation for the 2018 Marble League Consolation Race, the first of three offseason events organized specifically for Marble League teams.

Their decision to hire Tarzan saved the Jungle Jumpers’ fate, and they began to shift from a team seen as a burnout to one that could return to the Marble League. After starting in the middle of the pack, Hop fought to the front and finished third overall in the Consolation Race. Skip similarly started in the middle of the 100 Meter Water Race, but vaulted into second place upon Whizzy’s slowdown, and took the lead from Pinky Winky in the second third of the race. In the final quarter of the race, Skip traded the lead back and forth with Sublime, crossing the finish line two tenths of a second ahead of Sublime after one final handoff. The Amazing Maze Marble Race also delivered a close finish for the Jumpers in the semifinals, as they missed out on advancing to the finals by just two points.

Even after doing well in the offseason, the Jungle Jumpers were fully aware of what they had to prove, and it was more than just their ability to compete. “We made a conscious choice in 2018 to stop partying, and it wasn’t as easy as quitting cold turkey. It took real effort,” explained Skip. “But it was so worth it.”

The Jungle Jumpers needed to demonstrate the best of themselves in 2019's Qualifiers, and this picture shows that and more.

The team entered the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers with Skip’s ninth place finish in Funnel Endurance and rose to third overall with the team’s 109,5 centimeter score in Block Pushing. Unlike the previous year, where the Jumpers fell out of contention midway through Qualifiers, the team continued to finish in the top half of the standings, earning double-digits in points, and qualified for their second Marble League in fifth overall.

            “I had doubts about joining the team in 2018,” Bounce admitted. “Jump and the others seemed like a great team, but they weren’t there yet. There were no doubts heading into 2019. We felt on top of our game.”

It was surprising, then, when Skip finished fifteenth in the first event, the Underwater Race, and last in Balancing. There was potential to get on the podium in Funnel Endurance, with Leap leading the finals twice, but a few well-timed bumps against Razzy and the others sent her spiraling down to eighth place. The team sat in fourteenth place heading into the Gravitrax Slalom, where they reached the final and finished in third, earning their first medal in two years. The Jumpers rose to eleventh overall.

The Jungle Jumpers jumped for joy onto the podium!

From then on, the Jungle Jumpers began posting better, if still inconsistent, results. Their strength in team events continued to fluctuate from sixth in the Relay Run to fourteenth in Block Pushing, where they had excelled in Qualifiers. Hop took the reins for the Summer Biathlon, an event unique to 2019, and beat Bonbon of the Chocolatiers in one of the closest photo finishes of the season, at three-thousandths of a second. At the midpoint of the season, the Jumpers rose to ninth overall.

Does anyone else remember that the Chocolatiers got two medals in 2019? Just me? Okay...

They continued to battle with consistency during the latter half of the season, with lower finishes in fourteenth, fifteenth, and twelfth keeping the Jungle Jumpers from reaching the top five. That said, the team had enough strong finishes to warrant a finish in the top half of the standings, with fifth in the Dirt Race and the Elimination Race proving that their training in speed and endurance was working. Even then, the Jumpers were not in the top half of the standings heading into the fourteenth event, Surfing. They already couldn’t win the 2019 Marble League, but, true to their previous history in the tournament, they were not finished yet.

Skip was chosen collectively by the team to compete in Surfing, as his expertise in skipping across the Lewara River to and from the rainforest suited the balance needed to surf and endurance needed to finish the race. In the second heat, Skip’s surfing distance was far stronger than Wospy’s, 33 centimeters to 23 centimeters, and his time bonus of 20,48 seconds led to a score of 53,48. Skip took the provisional lead in the round and the lead overall, earning the team’s second gold medal of the season.

The Oceanics ran a surf shop and couldn't podium in Surfing. The Jungle Jumpers BASE jump and won Surfing. Logic.

The Jungle Jumpers finally skipped into the top half of the standings, and remained there, finishing seventh overall after dropping one spot to the O’rangers in sixth.

            “We did everything that we needed to do last season, and I am so proud of how far the Jungle Jumpers have come,” Tarzan said, applauding his team’s success in the 2019 Marble League. “They proved that they deserved to be there, and when they came off their podium in Surfing, they looked happier than I have ever seen them—happier than any night out has made them.”

In RetRollSpective, the Jungle Jumpers are the comeback kids of the Marble League. They are a team that completely turned their fate around from their disappointing rookie season, commanding respect and redemption in a way that other teams look up to.

            “It’s not easy to come back so strongly when you look like the laughingstock of the League—but the Jungle Jumpers, with a renewed approach to training and a leap of faith, did it. If they can do it, then so can we,” asserted Rojo Tres, with confidence.

Best of luck to the Jungle Jumpers in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!

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RetRollSpective – Indigo Stars

RetRollSpective – Indigo Stars

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, a series that reflects on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re going to focus on the Indigo Stars, a team new to the 2019 Marble League.

The logo for the Indigo Stars, designed by Tim Ritz.

The Indigo Stars hail from the southern tip of the Indian peninsula and from its neighboring island, Isle Hyu. The island is a lush tropical reserve known for its vast array of colored stars, which is a regularly occurring phenomenon unique to the isle. The inhabitants of the region travel frequently to Isle Hyu to hike and bask in its natural beauty, and, at the same time, are sworn to protect the island from over-tourism.

The five Stars and their coach, Ringo, met on a hike on Isle Hyu ten years ago, and have been close friends ever since. They all live in the metropolis across from the island, aptly named Bright Hyu City for its bright and colorful city lights, which were designed to artificially recreate the stars in the sky. They travel to the isle at the end of each and every week, arriving in the evening to see the stars shine in the night sky. In the morning, they embark on a hike around the island and then return to the city.

            “It’s an unspoken tradition for us…no, it’s actually more of a routine,” Diego remarked. “We’ve been doing it ever since we withdrew from the 2017 Marble League Qualifiers.”

This picture, which teased Team Galactic as the host of the 2020 Marble League, was photographed on Isle Hyu.

The team, known as the Purple Stars prior to 2019, had been training for the 2017 Marble League for two years when Coach Ringo abruptly withdrew the team from Qualifiers. In their place, Shining Swarm’s application was admitted, and they were able to qualify for the 2017 Marble League instead.

            “Mental health is so, so important, and we knew that it needed to be taken very seriously. There was no way that the Stars could enter a competitive environment in the state that they were in and perform to the best of their abilities,” explained Ringo. “Our withdrawal was the product of weeks of anxiety and stress for our team.”

            “The first thing we did once we recognized that there was a problem was to seek help. We met with professionals. That was the first step,” the team captain, Indie, recalled. “We adopted a healthier lifestyle and cut away from training for a year. We got sleep. We started doing those weekly hikes that Diego mentioned earlier, so we could check in with each other.”

            “It was never forced, though,” added Bingo. “We all wanted to be with each other, and ultimately compete with each other. But it was clear that we weren’t in a healthy place to do so.”

The Stars posing for a promotional photoshoot in 2017.

When asked if any of the team members were willing to share their personal experiences, Montoya, the team’s reserve member, spoke up:

            “My family has had a history of mental health problems. It’s not something I caught, or something that I can cure myself of. It’s this anxiety that I have to live with, every day. It’s a part of me. When it came to training, I was originally on the main team, but as we got back into training for the 2019 season, I realized that I couldn’t really handle being in the spotlight. I decided to stay on the team as a reserve member so I could participate in big group events and substitute should the team really need me. I love this group of marbles, and I would never want to abandon the chance to compete with them. In this way, I’m doing something that’s the best for me, and ultimately, the best for the team.”

We thank Montoya for sharing her story. Additionally, Gogo decided to share his personal experiences:

            “I was not taking care of myself during training. I tried to eat a lot in order to bulk up, but I wasn’t eating the right foods. I wasn’t sleeping at all and I didn’t come home a lot. Whenever my family called me, they kept asking why I wouldn’t come home. I grew defensive and whenever I did come home, I would get into fights with them. I grew distant from them and I hid this from the team. When they finally did ask me what was going on at home, I broke down in tears.” Gogo breathed in and out, slowly. “The first thing that I did when I got home was to go to bed. I slept for seventeen hours, and when I got up, my mother was standing over my bedside. She didn’t speak, and neither could I. It took months of therapy to sort things out with my family and I, and even now, there’s still a rift. I imagine that they’ll get angry that I shared this, to the whole marblebase, that I’m making them out to look like the bad guys. But they’re not. Maybe I was.”

We thank Gogo for sharing his story.

Shortly after the conclusion of the 2018 Winter Marble League, the Purple Stars were contacted by the IMC and asked if they were looking to compete in the Amazing Maze Marble Race, which would feature all twenty-four teams looking to compete in the 2019 Marble League. After consulting with his team, Coach Ringo took charge and submitted the team’s bid to compete in the exhibition tournament and be considered for hosting the 2019 Marble League. The team was pleasantly surprised to know that they had made it to the final round of consideration, even if they lost the bid to the Oceanics. They would have hosted the tournament in the Bright Hyu Bubble, a stadium that the Stars constructed in 2016.

The Stars competing in their first professional tournament in years.

The Purple Stars competed for the first time in the Amazing Maze Marble Race, using aliases such as “One star” and “Four star” in the tournament. The team competed in Group F against the Raspberry Racers, Hazers, and Chocolatiers, receiving applause upon being shown in the starting gate on the Jumbotron. Although the team got second in the group, it did not move on against the Raspberry Racers due to getting the lowest points of the second place teams. Regardless, the Stars celebrated their debut performance and continued to train for the 2019 Marble League. Months later, the team changed their name from the Purple Stars to the Indigo Stars to match their team uniforms, which were less purple and more blue in color.

On 01 January 2019, the Indigo Stars were accepted into the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers. The next day, the team traveled to the Seven Seas Stadium to prepare for the tournament later that month. On 26 January, they competed for a spot in their first Marble League, a spot they had been craving for four years. Indie began the tournament by placing eleventh in Funnel Spinning, earning eight points. Montoya subbed in for her during the next event, Block Pushing, where the Indigo Stars placed fifth and earned thirteen points, moving up to eighth in the standings. Indie returned to the roster for the Relay Run, where the team finished third in their heat and fourth overall, earning fifteen points.

By the end of that event, the Green Ducks, the other rookie team competing, had already qualified for the 2019 Marble League, but the Stars were not far behind. Gogo’s time of 29,05 seconds in the Underwater Race cemented the team’s sport in the main tournament with 50 points earned overall. Both rookie teams earned their spots in the 2019 Marble League over several veteran teams, and they had done so comfortably with no reason to doubt.

The Indigo Stars made an extremely strong impression in the 2019 Marble League Qualifiers, something that they really needed.

The Indigo Stars returned to Bright Hyu City shortly after Qualifiers to overwhelming support and encouragement from their fans. They trained in their stadium constantly, taking little time off, but nonetheless felt healthy and ready to compete in the competition they had always dreamed of. In the preseason, many fans saw them as the potential “dark horses” of the season, citing the popularity of the Green Ducks as overshadowing the Stars’ abilities in tournament. The team did not pay attention to these theories, instead focusing on what they needed to do. They returned to the Seven Seas Stadium in early April, after taking a short trip to Isle Hyu for good luck.

The Indigo Stars began their 2019 season in the lower middle of the pack during the first three events, placing between tenth and twelfth. The team made it to the semi-finals of the Gravitrax Slalom and finished in seventh place, and just missed the finals for the 5 Meter Sprint with Gogo’s finish in fifth place. The Stars returned to the middle of the pack for the next two events, before Diego bombed in the Summer Biathlon, placing dead last. At the midpoint of the tournament, the team sat in thirteenth place, while the Ducks were not sitting, but in fact standing in second place overall.

The Stars making a "constellation formation" during the 2019 Opening Ceremony.

“It wasn’t anything like we expected it to be,” Indie confessed. “A big part of competing at this level is being the best you can possibly be…but we didn’t expect it to be so competitive.”

            “They make it look so easy,” said Bingo, referring to veteran Marble League athletes. “I can’t help but feel intimidated whenever I’m in a heat with a Speeder, or an O’ranger, because they’re so well established and talented. We felt like the Green Ducks would barely bat an eye to us, and that’s probably not even fair to say. I’m sorry. It was just eye-opening, that’s all.”

The Stars placed twelfth in the next two events before making it to the final of the Dirt Race, where Indie was unfortunately the first DNF after leading the beginning of the race. Montoya subbed in for Diego during Rafting, where the team finished in eighth. Diego competed next in the Elimination Race, where he made it to the last semifinal of the event. On his way down the course, he crashed into a wall, pushing Rezzy ahead of him to move on in the race while he was eliminated.

            “No, before the rumor mill starts up, that was not intentional,” stated Diego. “We have nothing against the Green Ducks, we don’t consider them our rivals, and we’re really happy that they had a spectacular rookie season. During that last race, I really lost control and I spun into the wall. I barely even saw Rezzy there before she streaked ahead of me.”

After just missing out on the podium, the Indigo Stars finally earned their first medal of the Marble League in the fourteenth event, Surfing. In the second round of heats, Bingo was able to hold on to the surfboard a second longer than Speedy, one of the finest athletes in marble sports, and finished with a score of 50,97 and a bronze medal. Bingo invited the rest of the team members (sans Montoya) to join him on the podium, with the other two teams inviting their members in accordance. After a long season, the Indigo Stars had finally entered the limelight, even if they were out of the running for the championship and the podium.

Rumors swirled that the reason why Montoya couldn't make the podium was because she was practicing her fencing...

All five members of the team competed in the penultimate event, Collision, and placed twelfth overall. For the final event, Ringo joined many other Marble League coaches by putting in Indie, the team captain, to race in the Sand Rally. The decision paid off for the Stars, who remained in the top three for most of the race, only falling behind towards the end to place sixth in the event. The Indigo Stars concluded the 2019 Marble League in fourteenth place overall.

            “We agree that this was a less-than-impressive start to our career in the Marble League,” Coach Ringo admitted. “It’s really not what we hoped for, but we’re also not that sad about it. We’re grateful that we at least have the chance to compete, after so many years where it just wasn’t right for us. Now is the time that we’re here, and we’re going to do everything we have to do moving forward to stay in this, because we love it that much.”

In RetRollSpective, the Indigo Stars are a team that is just getting started. They did not have the successful rookie season that their foils, the Green Ducks had, but with hope, the team will have many successful seasons to come. Best of luck to the Indigo Stars in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!

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