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 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 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 as high as 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.
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, was 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.
“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,” they 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.
“We realized as soon as the opening ceremony begun that we were not satisfied where we were,” 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 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 them 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.
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 new 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.
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. The Jungle Jumpers 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 their 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 their 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 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 their 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!