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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