Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where I reflect on the history of marble athletes. This time, we’re igniting discussion about the history of the Midnight Wisps, the champions of the 2018 Winter Marble League. Read on to see how the team engulfed and changed the course of the competition forever…
“It may seem like we came out of nowhere,” Wispy, the team captain, remarked. “That’s funny. Harva isn’t nowhere. It’s somewhere special: a place we are proud to call our home.”
The Midnight Wisps hail from the Scandinavian taiga, east of Helarve. The five met on a bus tour to Harva National Park and got into a deep conversation about the upcoming 2016 Marble League. Midway through the tour, the five decided not to finish the tour, instead opting to race through the forest. The marbles were caught trespassing and banned permanently from the park.
“Yeah…that wasn’t the smartest decision we made, at least in the legal sense,” Wospy chuckled. “But I wouldn’t take that day back. I would’ve never met my friends if it wasn’t for that, and so on. I guess it was a blessing in disguise.”
Upon paying off their fine, Wispy, Wespy, Wospy, and Wuspy decided to form a team to train for the following year’s Marble League, which, according to rumors, was taking applicants from around the world. The team’s name was inspired by the renowned Helarve Clock Tower and by the region’s legendary “Willow Wisps”:
“I hadn’t yet hit the age requirement to join the Marble League, so I helped the four of them out with training,” Waspy, the Wisps’ reserve member, stated. “We found a valley in the forest to train in, equidistant to where we were all from. One night, Wuspy thought she saw blue lights in the trees, just like those wisps. Wespy thought she was crazy. Wispy ignored her and decided to make a name out of it.”
The team’s application was accepted in early 2017, much to their own surprise. They trained so frequently and so vigorously that they didn’t even know which four teams had prequalified until their arrival in Knikkegen that summer.
Admittedly, the Wisps did not perform strongly in the Qualifiers. It was only with a first place finish in Funnel Spinning that the team was able to qualify for the 2017 Marble League, in seventh out of the sixteen teams. The Midnight Wisps debuted poorly in the main tournament’s version of Funnel Spinning, placing thirteenth, but earned a silver medal with Wespy’s performance in the Long Jump. A sixth place finish in the Fidget Spinner Collision event brought the Wisps to fifth place overall, but their performance during the event caused more conflict than celebration.
“I had no idea what had happened until the Instant Replay showed. I was already off the arena at that point, but I could hear the screaming.” Wuspy shuddered. “It’s one of the most painful things I’ve ever seen. I wouldn’t ever wish that on anyone.”
“Everyone thought that I hit him on purpose. I don’t think the fans understand, not even the fan who infiltrated the arena. None of us were prepared for the fidget spinners—they threw us out of control, ricocheting across the arena like pinballs. I don’t know how the rules committee at the time approved of that. And, despite all of that, I could not feel more guilty for what happened to Momomomo. It’s something I will carry with me for the rest of my career,” Wispy added.
After the event ended, the Wisps tried to reach Team Momo, but the doctors forbade fans and marble athletes from visiting. The team donated money and other resources to Momomomo and the rest of the team for the remainder of the season.
The Midnight Wisps continued to place in the middle of the standings until the ninth event, Steeplechase, where they earned a bronze medal. In the Underwater Race, they pulled an upset over the O’rangers, who had set a new Marble League record in the event, to win the event and their first gold medal.
Although the Midnight Wisps rose five spots in the standings to fourth place overall, they did not have enough points to challenge the O’rangers and Savage Speeders for the championship. In the final event, Sand Rally, Midnight Wisps finished in seventh, accumulating nine points and remaining in fourth place overall at the end of the 2017 Marble League. Had they gained two more points, the team would have ended in third place overall and prequalified for the 2018 Winter Marble League.
Though the marblebase may not remember how close the team was to getting on the podium—in their rookie year—the Wisps certainly remembered, especially when they found themselves in a similar situation after the Ice Hockey event in 2018. They made sure to rectify what needed to be improved, and, overall, hoped for the best.
Indeed, they were given the perfect opportunity to strike in the 2018 season. Though they were not chosen as hosts for the winter-themed Marble League, the Wisps made sure to prove their worth in Qualifiers, placing second twice—once in their group, and once overall. They qualified in Group B with the twenty points necessary, and entered the 2018 Winter Marble League.
Similar to the previous season, the Midnight Wisps performed in the lower half of the standings during the first two events but performed strongly in the next two, earning bronze medals in Halfpipe and Bobsleigh. They finished last in the sixth event, Team Pursuit, but earned a bronze medal in the Snow Rally, sharing the podium with Team Momo (then Momary) and the Savage Speeders—in a way, telling of their past as well as their future.
Despite finishing fourth in the Biathlon, the Midnight Wisps fell to tenth place in the standings as the Oceanics, O’rangers, and Savage Speeders rounded out the top three. For the fans, it seemed clear that one of these teams would take the championship in 2018, or perhaps a team like the Balls of Chaos, who were in fourth, or the Hazers, who were in seventh. The Midnight Wisps seemed like a dashed hope.
“We had other plans,” said Waspy, glancing at the gold medal the team had earned in Ice Hockey. “We did some calculations. With the points we had, we needed two gold medals to approximate an overall win in the 2018 Winter Marble League, provided the Savage Speeders got a bronze medal or lower in Ice Hockey. So, we did everything we could to train for that event. We flew home for a week after the Biathlon and skated across the river in our valley, getting the best control we could possibly get on the ice. We huddled around each other as if we were the ball bearings.”
“Their training was magnificent. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Coach Wyspy mused. “I could tell they wanted that gold so, so badly. When the Minty Maniacs advanced to the finals, I saw a new team rise against them and claim the gold medal. From then on, I knew the Midnight Wisps would win the 2018 Winter Marble League.”
Truth be told, the Wisps could not have been any more irrelevant prior to this event. The season had centered around the rookie success of the Hazers, the dominance of the Oceanics, the relentlessness of the Savage Speeders, and the O’rangers surprise in the Biathlon, not the mention the fall from grace that Mellow Yellow experienced and the formation of Team Momary. 2018 had been full of twists and turns, and the final event was no exception: fans and Marble athletes alike were on the edges of their seats until the very end.
As the O’rangers failed to move on to the semifinals and as the Oceanics failed to move on to the finals, the question remained whether the Savage Speeders could win their second Marble League, the Oceanics could maintain their top spot and win their first, or the Midnight Wisps could pull off arguably the biggest upset in Marble League history in the span of just two events. This question was not answered in the semifinals race, as both the Wisps and the Speeders advanced to the final race:
“Savage Speeders out to an early lead,” commentated Greg Woods. “Midnight Wisps up into second, they fend off a challenge. Can they get up there? Midnight Wisps take the win and they will advance. They could’ve stayed there; they didn’t have to make that last-second lunge to get up into first place, you will still advance into the finals since it’s the top two…”
But the answer became clear as soon as the starting gate was released. There was no challenge. Whizzy of the Savage Speeders could not catch up to Wispy of the Midnight Wisps as she sprinted towards the light at the end of the tunnel. Neither could their total point count: the Savage Speeders finished the season one point short of the championship.
The Midnight Wisps had won the 2018 Winter Marble League.
True to Greg Woods’ commentary, the Midnight Wisps and their fans partied until the break of dawn that night and throughout the next week. Their victory tour around the world started and ended in Harva due to popular demand from fans, with a surprise appearance by Willow Wisps themselves gathering around the Helarve Clock Tower to celebrate their homecoming. Two months had passed before the Midnight Wisps were able to regain their private life, and begin training for the 2019 Marble League and its Friendly Round.
The Wisps surprised fans during the 100m Water Race when they were unable to finish, getting caught up earlier on the track with other teams. In the Amazing Maze Marble Race, the team was eliminated during the first heat in Group E, even though they got second place in the heat. Their score was not enough to compete against the O’rangers and Savage Speeders, two second place teams that did move on to the semi-finals, and then, the finals.
The Friendly Round for the 2019 Marble League, which featured the four prequalified teams, fared better for the team. The team got second place in all events except for Underwater Race, where they finished third. The team finished in third place overall, in a comfortable five-point margin above the Savage Speeders and two points behind the O’rangers in second.
The Midnight Wisps entered the main tournament as the team to beat, but began the season disappointingly as they placed in the middle of the pack during the first four events. The Savage Speeders dominated in contrast, holding a steady lead at the top of the standings until the fifth event, where they placed dead last in the 5 Meter Sprint. The Wisps placed second-to-last, earning just one point, and in the next event, the Midnight Wisps’ disqualification for pushing the relay block in the other lane denied them from scoring any points. They fell to thirteenth place overall.
“The stakes were really high for the next few events, and I made that known to them,” Wyspy disclosed. “It’s one thing for our team to make comebacks like we did in 2018. Comebacks like those are dependent on a series of early victories that give the team the spark it needs. That spark will eventually ignite a flame that grows into a serious force to be reckoned with. We didn’t have that spark yet.”
The team finally earned its first gold medal in the Block Pushing event, an event which they had performed mediocre in during the 2017 Marble League. The team breathed a huge sigh of relief, and followed swiftly in the next event by placing second to last in the Summer Biathlon.
Thankfully, their low finish was offset by two consolation points, which were granted to the team due to an equipment failure on the starting gate. Wuspy came back as strongly as she could in the next event, Hurdles, and earned the Wisps a second gold medal with a time of 8.744 seconds. Could the Wisps mount another comeback in the second half of a season?
The answer? A resounding “no”. The Wisps tied for fifteenth in the Hubelino Maze, earning just one point alongside Team Galactic, and continued to place in the bottom half of the remaining events. The team’s only saving grace was their silver medal in Rafting, which raised them to fifth in the standings, their highest point of the 2019 Marble League. The Midnight Wisps finished the season in tenth place with 128 points, a place which they had been able to rise out of in previous games. It was simply not to be this time.
In RetRollSpective, the Midnight Wisps are the dark horses of the Marble League—they have finished in no less than the top ten at the end of each Marble League, and they have proven themselves as staples of the competition, especially with their comeback in 2018. Time will tell if the team can remain consistent and remain relevant in future seasons, especially as two of their members, Wispy and Wospy, will be appearing in the first season of Marbula One. If their performance is anything like what we witnessed in 2018, we should never count them out. Best of luck to the Midnight Wisps in the 2020 Marble League Qualifiers, keep on rolling!