RetRollSpective – Kobalts

Hello and welcome to another RetRollSpective, where we reflect on the history of marble sports teams that have appeared in the tournaments of Jelle’s Marble Runs. This time, we’re going to roll over to the Kobalts, a team that originated in the 2016 Marble League. Read on to find out how this team has outsmarted the competition!

The official 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 & 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 #sports 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 their first year,” Azure described. “But this was something else. It felt like a calling.”

After finishing their semester in Spring 2014 and graduating, Azure contacted Sapphire and learned that they were an athletic trainer with connections to Knikkegen. Sapphire 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 their heat and advanced to the finals, earning their first silver medal for the Kobalts. They remain as the only member of the Kobalts to earn an individual Marble League 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 to 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 the 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 siblings 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. They 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 on points, 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 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 Marble League as well.

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

After attending the 2018 Marble League, the Kobalts participated in the three offseason events held for Marble League teams. Meepo finished fifth in the Consolation Race, their 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 in Balancing 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.”

“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.”

“Hey, at least you’ve competed in an individual event,” Gnome sighed.

“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 Their Element

an addendum by The Emperor

By failing to qualify for the Marble League 2020 Qualifiers, the Kobalts were stuck in the Showdown for the second season in a row, but rather than feeling down on themselves, they were determined to demonstrate their desire to be in the Marble League. After a false start in the gates, the team started out with a fifth-place finish in the Relay Race, which set the team up solidly. Following another midpack finish (sixth) at the Halfpipe, the Kobalts sat in 6th overall, eyeing the podium.

“All we need is a podium here, and we’re set,” Gnome said as Cerulean and Royal lined up in the gate for the Black Hole Funnel; a signature event that the Kobalts had trained on for hours back at their home stadium. And that training would pay off. The Kobalts would blow away the rest of the field with 100.85 seconds; the only team to break into the 100s besides the Savage Speeders.

“I just…wow!” Royal exclaimed on the podium. “I can’t even believe this. This is crazy!!!” Cerulean echoed their teammates’ sentiments as the Kobalts vaulted to second in the standings. The team had secured a spot in the 2021 Qualifiers.

Even with a spot clinched, the Kobalts wanted to give the Sand Moguls their best shot. Azure managed to secure the wild card spot, and advance to the finals. And then, the Captain of the Kobalts won their first-ever gold. 

The final podium of the 2020 Marble League Showdown saw the Kobalts make a statement for the first time in nearly five years.

“It felt amazing. We knew we were practically locked in after Event 3, but we wanted to go out with a bang. And we did just that. Crossing the finish line was the best feeling I’ve had in my career, and that is saying something!”

The Kobalts had just won the Marble League 2020 Showdown.

In celebration of their victory, the team partnered with the Minty Maniacs, fresh off of a Marble League podium themselves, to sell baked goods to raise money for charity. Cerulean led the initiative, stating that it was “wonderful to be giving back to those in need.” The teams managed to raise enough funds to feed over one thousand inhabitants of Zuro and Herbotamia.

“It felt special to be helping those who needed it,” Azure said. 

The team would go on to host another event similar to this after Stynth visited the city on their world tour. Stynth remarked: “Although I had written about Zuro in my RetRollSpective on the Kobalts, I had never had the opportunity to visit the city and was not sure what to expect. I emerged from the train station and my jaw dropped in awe, with glass towers reaching toward the sky decorated with greenery as monorails emerged from the train station, spoking outwards to different neighborhoods. It was a sight I would absolutely dub one of the “wonders of the modern world”.

The promotional poster for the Kobalts in Marbula One Season 2, designed by Jack Ironhide.

Following their Showdown victory, everything changed for the team. A few months later, the Kobalts were invited to Marbula One Season 2. The team heavily considered their decision to accept but ultimately chose to do so, sending Azure, “Brilliant Blue” and Cerulean, “Natural 27” to compete in the tournament.

“Woo! I know we’ll blow the competition away!” Gnome said, ecstatic that the Kobalts would be competing in a major tournament for the first time since 2016. Meepo echoed their sibling’s sentiments: “We’re on a high streak right now, let’s keep it that way!”

Meepo and Gnome, siblings, at a press conference, by Phantasm_Agaric.

The Kobalts applied to host a race for Marbula One, however their track (Electron Expressway) wasn’t built in time for the season, and the spot was given to the Jungle Jumpers instead.

“We’re disappointed that our track wasn’t ready in time,” Dodger said in an official response. “But there’s always next year…”

A map for the Electron Expressway, a proposed Grand Prix for Season 2, illustrated by The Emperor.

The Kobalts would set a low first impression in Marbula One by DNQ’ing at Minty Mania, the first Grand Prix of the season. Cerulean bounced back with a solid sixth-place finish at the O’raceway. Azure would again fail to qualify at the Honeydome, even after having a great start to their lap.

“It’s heartbreaking,” they said, watching the race unfold from the sidelines. “I really want to get out there someday. I know that I have it in me.”

Cerulean continued to impress, however, with a bronze at the Aquamaring, the fourth Grand Prix of the season.

“I’m thrilled to have earned my first ever Marbula One podium,” Cerulean said triumphantly, standing on the third step of the podium. “I have more in the tank for the rest of the season, and I feel like we can make a charge for the lead soon.”

Cerulean received unprecedented praise throughout Season 2 of Marbula One.

Azure would fail to qualify for the third straight time at Tumult Turnpike, this time setting the worst qualifying time of all. Cerulean followed this up with a ninth and fastest lap at the Arctic Circuit, carrying the Kobalts to tenth in the team standings, and seventh in the individuals at the midseason break.

The Kobalts were invited to the Marble League Winter Special, but manager Dodger had already set up an exclusive Marbles & Monoliths Conference in Zuro, and thus the team declined the invite. 

The Kobalts at the Marbles & Monoliths Conference, captured by Laurent Rollon.

“The Marbles & Monolith Community are a huge part of our fanbase, and we wanted to do a quick shout-out and thank you to them for supporting us!” Sapphire said. During the conference, several fans got to have one-on-one interviews with the team. 

King, a Kobalts fan, had a one-on-one with Cerulean. “I’ve liked the team since 2016, but I think I really began to become a ‘fan’ of the team in the 2019 Showdown,” King said. “My favorite moment as a fan of the team would probably be the Black Hole Funnel, in the 2020 Showdown. It felt really great to finally see them win gold for the first time, and I feel like it kickstarted their redemption now.”

“I agree with King, here,” Cerulean remarked. “The Black Hole Funnel is the turning point in our history. It started to right the ship for us, and it’s what we’ve been riding to get here!”

Ramen, another fan, had their one-on-one with the captain; Azure. “Well, they started off [the 2020 Showdown] in the Relay with a false start, and I thought ‘Oh, it’s just going to be typical Kobalts.’”

Azure echoed their fans’ sentiments. “Yeah, I was pretty worried myself.” 

“But the Kobalts turned it around. They had finally done it. They had won gold. This pretty much guaranteed advancement to the Qualifiers. But they weren’t done yet. The captain of the Kobalts seized this opportunity to fly out of the starting gate with a very fast time in the finals, getting the gold for the Kobalts.”

A throwback to Azure in the Sand Moguls Final.

“I was ecstatic.” Ramen said. “The Kobalts had toppled the Jungle Jumpers and won the Showdown.”

The final interview of the conference was with Phantasm, who had their one-on-one with Meepo. “I got into the Marble League in 2018—long after the Kobalts began their tragic streak of missing out from the competition. I only discovered the Kobalts after going back and watching re-recordings of Marble League 2016, and I was instantly enchanted.” Phantasm said. “The Kobalts haven’t made it easy to have a lot of favorite memories! There’s a lot more heartbreak than joy, but that makes the victories all the sweeter!” Meepo shed a tear of joy at that remark. 

Following these passionate interviews with their fans, the Kobalts returned to Marbula One with eyes set forwards. Azure managed to qualify for the first time at the Raceforest and managed a respectable seventh-place finish. Cerulean followed this up with a twelfth place finish at the Momotorway. At Palette Park, Azure once again managed to qualify well and finished the race with their best result of the season; sixth. 

“I’m happy Azure is finally proving themselves here,” Cerulean said after the race. “There were so many people doubting our captain; I’m glad they’re proving them wrong.”

Cerulean would follow up this momentum with a fantastic start at the Misty Mountain Grand Prix, only to have it undone with a red flag following an incident precipitated by Bumble barreling into Cerulean on turn six, and coming to a stop.

“That incident really shook me,” Cerulean said after the race. “I’m glad Bumble is okay, that was scary.” Cerulean would finish the race in fifth place.

Cerulean and Bumble’s incident at the Misty Mountain GP.

“We’re going up right now. We think we have a chance at a strong late-season run. We have been doing great lately, we just need to carry the momentum into the last two races, and into the (2021) Qualifiers.” Azure said, hoping that the team could continue to consistently score. Sadly, however, Azure would earn their fourth DNQ at the Savage Speedway in the next race, knocking the Kobalts out of podium contention. Cerulean, however, would bounce back at Midnight Bay, securing pole for the first time all season for the Kobalts. 

Cerulean on pole at the Midnight Bay GP.

“It was a special moment, that’s for sure,” Cerulean remarked as the race was about to start. “I’ll be sure to keep this lead though, just like Speedy did here last season.” Cerulean would hold on to the lead for a little while, but ultimately fell to second, and would finish the race there.

“It was one of my favorite moments of my career. Sure, it wasn’t gold in the Showdown… but I was standing on a podium with two of the best marble athletes of all time, and I’m never going to forget that moment.” Cerulean said, blushing with pride, on the Midnight Bay podium.

Cerulean earning their silver at the Midnight Bay GP.

The Kobalts finished Marbula One Season 2 in eighth place; the highest finish for a rookie team besides the champions, the Crazy Cat’s Eyes. Cerulean clinched sixth in the individual championship, establishing themselves as an all-around great Marbula One racer. 

The team returned to Zuro for the offseason, where they were greeted by a very excited Dodger. They dropped the news on the team that they would be hosting a fundraiser to help support local residents in need. “I’m so glad to be giving back to the community. We’ve struggled with funds before, and we know what it’s like to need help. It’s not great sometimes. And I want to make sure all the citizens of Zuro have the help that they need.”

The team participated in raising funds daily and used this as a form of teamwork training for the Marble League. They were spotted rolling out moveable balance beams as their primary form of transportation around the city, and often used hoverboards for individual travel to practice balancing on their own.

“In addition to physical balance, I feel like it’s kind of like a metaphor for our lives; trying to balance sports with the community,” Sapphire said. “I’m so proud of the team for everything they’ve done this year; both for themselves and the community. I hope this translates into the 2021 Marble League.”

The team would compete in one more event before the 2021 Qualifiers; the Sand Rally Practice Race. Azure would finish 20th here.

“I feel like it wasn’t my best effort, but it wasn’t my worst either. I want to save it all up for the Qualifiers though, where it counts,” Azure said.

“We’ve had our struggles in prior seasons,” Meepo, the new reserve, said. “But with this new team dynamic we’ve developed, and our recent success, we’re coming for the title in Marble League 2021. I can feel it.”

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 future, keep on rolling!

Special thanks to Phantasm_Agaric for Meepo and Gnome’s designs, and Laurent Rollon for the press conference!

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