GPQB Pre-Season Rankings [Opinion]

School is kicking into high gear and bringing with it yet another exciting quizbowl season in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey. This year already features a strong slate of scheduled weekend tournaments and will hopefully see more added in the coming weeks. (Want to host your own? Check out our guide to hosting a tournament here) Last season saw more active participation than ever and strong Nationals finishes for a few area programs, but many seniors have graduated and coaches moved around, so the landscape is a bit reshuffled. Surprises always happen, so each team’s ranking will no doubt change as the year goes on, with new teams cropping up in our mid and post season rankings. (Want to see your team up here in the rankings? Check out our tips for improvement here).

Pre-Season Rankings:

1) Wilmington Charter A– After a gradual decline/rebuild phase following their 2009 victories at both national tournaments, Charter finished a commendable Ninth at last year’s PACE NSC, their highest since their championship. They lose excellent generalist Jaimie Carlson and Science Specialist Naman Agrawal to graduation, but maintain a fine and varied core of players. Returning senior Varun Wadha leads the pack as a top Social Studies player, and he will be backed on various areas of the distribution by some combination of Mabel D’Souza, Mohan Malhotra, Shrayus Sortur, Rohan Narayan, and Jared Saquing. An extraordinarily deep team, with strong specialists that can be expected to buzz in early in their fields.

2) Manheim Township A- The perennial contenders from Lancaster are back again, and ready to make some noise. A rather young team, they will be led by Juniors Jake Deerin and Aaron Zuo and sophomore Ahan Patel, and have several other good players to further their coverage. Looking to improve upon a nationals near-playoff performance at HSNCT and a 73rd place finish at PACE, Manheim is poised to continue to be a winning team. Holding them back is the lack of a top-tier science player.

3) Wilmington Charter B- Known historically for fielding a deep bench, those that can’t make the A team will still be quite competitive and the regional and even national level. Those players will be joined by top rising middle school player Sohan Shah, who adds a big heap of history and geography knowledge.

4) Conestoga- Though they only showed up at two quizbowl tournaments last season, they put up impressive scoring performances, including a 25 points per bonus showing at Agnes Irwin’s tournament. They appear to be returning top scorer Robert Tang and a few other A-team players. If they start coming to more tournaments, they could well turn into a big threat.

5) Henderson- In the past four years, this team saw multiple high finishes, took two Eastern PA History Bowl titles, and topped out with a runner up showing at last year’s Great Valley Tournament. They took a big hit this offseason with the loss of six players to graduation. They do return excellent senior generalist Neil Seoni, and exiting junior Alex Sankaran who can get many power buzzes. It will be up to them to carry on the mantle. Yet to be seen is how the players behind them develop, and if they can contribute some much needed depth to shore up this squad’s math, science, and religion/philosophy weaknesses. [Full disclosure: this post’s author, Ben Herman, is an alum of Henderson] 

6) Manheim Township B- We’re still not sure who will make up Manheim B yet, but as they often trail their A team closely, I’d never count these guys out. Howe far and how close to the top they go will be an interesting development this season.

7) Downingtown East– Perhaps the biggest story in Greater Philadelphia quizbowl last season was the out of nowhere emergence of Downingtown East, and especially Neil Vinjamuri. In their first year of quizbowl invitationals, D-East won both the Agnes Irwin and Great Valley Tournaments, and Neil shocked quizbowl with a truly phenomenal performance at PACE NSC, where he finished fourth in the nation in scoring. He graduated, leaving behind a big gap to fill. They had a solid B team last season, so I expect them to remain a playoff team.

8) Unionville- I confess I know little about how this team will be made up in the current season. However, by year’s end they managed a fine third place finish at Great Valley, clearing 20 points per bonus. Their B and C teams did well at Phoenixville also, having high finishes in lower afternoon brackets. Assuming they lose a typical 2-3 players to graduation, they should still be in the hunt.

Honorable Mentions

Phoenixville- Phoenixville had a great season last year, which included runner-up finishes at Haverford’s BISB, Agnes Irwin, and the NAQT Eastern Pennylvania State Championship, and a near-playoff appearance at HSNCT Nationals. Unfortunately, they not only graduate over a half-dozen core players, they also have a coaching change as Ron McColl steps down. They have a good track record, so it will be interesting to see if and how they adjust.

Archmere- A team that hasn’t played often the past couple years, but shows a bit of promise. They finished 5-4 at last year’s CSWIFT, but every loss was close. Excellent Middle School player Ashish Mahuli joins high scorer Caleb Wang this season. If they start showing up for things, we shall see if they make for a surprise contender.

Lancaster Mennonite– They finished second in the Lancaster-Lebanon League last season behind a tour-de-force performance by Charlotte Shreyer. She’ll be back next year, leaving this team in good position to do secure high finishes if they start coming to invitationals.

-Ben Herman

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