Month: September 2015

Princeton PHSAT XIII Wrap Up 2015

The first action of the season occurred at Princeton’s annual high school tournament, where six teams from four Pennsylvania schools competed. The eventual winner was Bethlehem High of New York. We won’t go over the entire stacked field of this tournament, and instead just sum up the Pennsylvania-on-Pennsylvania games and give some commentary on each team.


#2 State College A 425, #6 Lehigh Valley Academy 250

#6 Lehigh Valley Academy 305, #8 State College B 265

Henderson A 325, #8 State College B 185

#8 State College B 425, Henderson B 25

Team Summaries

State College A finished in 5th place overall. They showed PHENOMENAL periphery statistics: 23 points per bonus, 50% of their buzzers powered, and only a hair over a neg a game. This team is the real deal. Unfortunately they lost a chance at a podium finish by losing a 10 point match to Hunter (NY) B, which is a big egg for them. I’m inclined to think that was kind of a fluke, and that they hopefully got their “whoops” out of the way early. To be putting up stats like that this early in the game is a sign that we are looking at a dangerous team when we’re talking both the State and National tournaments. Watch out for the Lions!

Lehigh Valley Academy finished 9th. Alex Schmidt basically did what he always does, which is score oodles and oodles of points based on superb knowledge in his fields. As was the case basically all of last spring, this led to a bunch of blowouts against lesser teams, but struggles in the playoffs where more seasoned teams can go toe to toe with him on tossups and he has no backup if he has an off round. He did beat State College B, but didn’t get a signature win elsewhere. Alex was the second highest overall scorer for the tournament, with 128 points a game- quite a feat considering the strong field. Is this pattern of prelim domination and playoff struggles the plateau for Alex without teammates? Time will tell.

Henderson A had pound for pound their best performance in eighteen months, with an extraordinarily solid 15th place finish and a 6-4 record. All four players contributed to the campaign, putting up a fair number of buzzes. The tossup rate seems not to have improved too much, but the bonus conversion (up to 19 from last year’s 15-16) has skyrocketed and the negs have gone down. The biggest story here is Henderson beating a GPQB-ranked State College B in the state’s first big upset of the year, and by a healthy triple digit score.

State College B didn’t fair quite as well as the A team, finishing 16th. This team looked a bit shakier than I expected, with north of two negs a game, and middling bonus and power stats. This is probably inexperience and youth to some extent. Though they came up on the short end against LVA and Henderson, they did mix in some quality wins and made a 6-4 record for the day, so I wouldn’t hit the panic button too quickly yet.

Henderson B consisted of mostly players who were new or barely played on Saturdays last year. They downright shocked the world with a 3-2 prelim, scraping by with two one-question wins into 18th place overall. Thier stats showed this was some luck and in the afternoon they got punched around, but that morning is impressive nonetheless. There is some potential here.

Camp Hill rolled up in 25th place. 7th place finishers at last year’s small school nationals, Camp Hill is a tiny enrollment public school outside of Harrisburg and thus at a recruiting disadvantage. They survived that to have 15.16 points per bonus, a solid score, and despite only going 1-4 in the morning, they did much better in the afternoon. While they may not have shown big-time potential to win any events soon, Camp Hill did look better than last year and showed they are still very much in the hunt for any small school titles available. They did not get the chance to play other PA schools at Princeton.

-Ben Herman

Introducing the GPQB Podcast

GPQB is pleased to present the first episode of what we hope to become at least a bi-monthly podcast dedicated to quizbowl in the state of Pennsylvania and beyond. Click here to listen to Episode 1 on

We plan on covering a wide variety of topics like how to run tournaments, recapping tournaments, and interviewing Pennsylvania quizbowl personalities. Our first episode is a preview of the upcoming quizbowl season in Pennsylvania that goes in a bit more depth about our top 10 pre-season rankings and discusses some other upcoming events and up-and-coming teams in the state.

Feel free to post in the comments if you have an idea for a GPQB podcast topic or any feedback on the first episode! We’re looking to keep each episode about 10-15 minutes long and will always want to have at least two people discussing any topic to keep things interesting.

My First Quizbowl Tournament

Fall is upon us and buzzers are ringing in Pennsylvania high schools once again. Many freshman (or older!) players are about to get their first action at a quizbowl tournament. No doubt they will soon understand those unique things no extracurricular can quite obtain: the thrilling reward of a 15 point power buzz on a topic you just learned, the vigorous discussion between teammates as you try to recall who wrote The Glass Menagerie, the frantic quest to outbuzz the ranked team you’ve been pitted against. To help kick off the season, I’ll share my own story as an example of how a lifetime of quizbowl can spiral out of one day.

I did not encounter pyramidal quizbowl until my junior year of high school (2009-2010). West Chester Henderson had a nondescript finish in our non-pyramidal county league the prior year, and hoped to break through and make a real run that season. An e-mail invitation for Princeton’s annual PHSAT tournament happened to make its way into Coach Steve Sobieck’s inbox, and the team decided to enter the contest as a “warm-up” for the County Contest. With me were Senior Mike Spaziani, an excellent player at history with big-time knowledge of theater, Sheila Quintana, a jack-of-all-trades junior, and trigger happy but knowledgeable fellow junior Ryan Mullner.

In that day and age, some of the last vestiges of the pre-modern era of quizbowl events were still around, and Princeton had collected some. This tournament was the only quizbowl event I ever played with computational math, and single-elimination playoffs were to be used. Not knowing any better, we set off for the day… straight into a bye. I don’t remember what we talked about, but the very first round of my very first tournament was spent sitting in a hallway. Once we did get on the buzzers, we had ourselves a long but fruitful day. We finished 5-3, which with hindsight is a minor miracle, considering the schedule we faced- Kellenberg, Pingry, St. Joseph’s, and Wilmington Charter were among the teams we faced that day (A or B team).

Three memories stick out about the matches for me. Two were especially great buzzes. In an early round, I first lined a question on Salvador Dali off of the clue Port Lligat, his hometown and a frequent subject of his paintings. The moderator looked at me in disbelief- for a second it seemed like he was about to accuse me of cheating! I also hammered off an excellent buzz on Joe Biden, a rather sensible get as a former and future Delawarian. The experience of playing Wilmington Charter also left an unforgettable mark on my quizbowl future. Charter was coming off its National Champion season- and despite losing Henry Gorman, were still chock full of great players, including my future teammate and mentor at UD, Alex Gross. We got absolutely decimated- the statistical record shows we somehow managed 110 points but my memory of the match feels like so much less. Every player is going to have to go through this experience once or twice- facing down the title contending team and barely even getting on the scoreboard. Don’t be scared when this happens. With time, those early clues will click and you will get great buzzes in. The reward when it comes is far greater than easy wins from the get-go.

After prelims, we had a two and a half hour wait before playoff seeds were announced, due to some awful statistics mismanagement on the part of the Princeton team. Thankfully this too has atrophied in quiz bowl. We didn’t quite make the cut, finishing as the top team to not get into the playoffs. Tired from the action, we headed home without any sense about playing in the future again. We did end up going back, and in fact our next pyramidal tournament resulted in a third place finish. With the far deeper knowledge we would get from starting to practice on better questions, Ryan and I would be state champions the next year. But those are stories for another time. The seeds were planted at Princeton, and soon I would be completely hooked. As I enter into my seventh year of pyramidal quizbowl as an advocate instead of a player, I have no doubt that I’ll be seeing a few faces live the experience for themselves. And hopefully not getting accused of cheating.

-Ben Herman

Developing as a Player, Part One: How to Study

As we prepare for the beginning of a new quizbowl season, many players would like to know how they can improve and score more points for their teams. As a player who went from never having heard a pyramidal question to regularly scoring 100 ppg on IS sets in the span of a few months, I will share with you some tips and methods that I used to improve myself.

I will start with a disclaimer: I cannot guarantee that my methods will work for you. The overall best advice I can give is to find a way to study that works for you and roll with it. For example, many quizbowlers like using flashcards to learn topics. I do not. But if you decide that you prefer using flashcards to my method, by all means go ahead and use them. Do what suits you.

Here’s the method I used to do in-depth studying of specific topics, step by step.

Figure out what you like: Having an interest in a topic makes it much easier to study. If you like classical music, try to take on learning about it in a quizbowl context. If you’re a history lover, pick some of your favorite historical figures and events and choose to learn more about them. Just about any academic discipline you may like has some representation in quizbowl. Pick what you want to study, and go from there.

Explore your subject’s canon: It’s easy to feel as if quizbowl covers an infinite amount of things and that it’s impossible to learn them all. Fortunately, this is not actually the case. Look through packets used in previous tournaments, and you will find that many answerlines repeat themselves; this is often referred to as the “canon,” and picking up on what these topics are and studying them in depth is the key to quizbowl improvement. So take some time to find what those common topics are. The High School Quizbowl Packet Archive is an excellent resource for you to do this. Once you have a good grip on the canon for your chosen subject, you can move on to more intense studying.

Take notes on old packets: Not only are many of the answerlines the same in quizbowl, many of the clues are as well. Thus, I have found that the best way to improve is to make strong efforts to familiarize yourself with these clues so that you can readily associate them with their respective answerlines in matches. is perhaps the best place to find questions to familiarize yourself with. For example, if you want to learn more about Edgar Allan Poe, simply type his name into the search bar, and set the difficulty to high school (note: if you’re getting into preparing for higher-level stuff like HSNCT, PACE NSC, or NASAT, it may help to look at college clues, but don’t worry about that yet). Read through the results, and see what works of his come up often. See “Masque of the Red Death” a few times? It may be a good idea to try to read that story if you can, or at least look at a plot summary. It’s best to be able to look at the source material whenever possible, but time doesn’t always allow for that, so do what you can.

Another major tip for this part, since I believe it’s the bread and butter of good studying: write notes as you read these old clues. Writing things down has a much longer-lasting effect on memory than simply reading them does, and it will ensure that you’re using your study time wisely.

Use practice methods to reinforce what you’ve learned: Ideally, you’ll be able to do this at team practices so you and your teammates can get used to playing with each other. But if this isn’t possible, or if you want to do some extra work on your own, I recommend Protobowl. Make a room, set the difficulty to high school, and set the category to whatever category you’re studying. There’s a bit of a stigma in the quizbowl world against using Protobowl, but my personal opinion (which you can go with or ignore as you choose) is that it’s a worthwhile tool if you use it correctly. It’s easy to fall into the trap of just using Protobowl all the time instead of doing focused packet study. Don’t do that. Use Protobowl practices to supplement and reinforce the notes you’re taking. It helps keep the material fresh in your mind, and may provide that extra bit of memory you need to get that great buzz on the final tossup.

(Added 10/5/2018) Note: A newly-released tool that you can also use to practice questions by yourself is Quizbug 2. You may have used the original on the former, but this reboot now pulls directly from the QuizDB database, which is constantly being updated with the latest question sets. It does not offer the ability to buzz multiple times like Protobowl does, but that’s OK, sometimes it’s better to only have one shot at a question just like at real tournaments. Make sure to read the info page linked on the site’s main interface. This is another powerful tool that can help you remember those clues you’ve learned!

So, that’s my method. It’s not very fancy, nor is it very hard. It can be time-consuming, depending on how much effort you want to put in, but that decision I leave entirely up to you. I hope this guide is a help, please leave a comment with your thoughts. Good luck this quizbowl season and happy studying!

Ryan Bilger

An Overview of Out-of-State Teams

In tandem with this week’s earlier rankings, it is worth taking a look at some of the great squads in surrounding states Pennsylvania teams will no doubt be squaring off with this coming season. Some of the strongest schools in the country have their home in the mid-atlantic, and thus the competition will be fierce. This won’t be a particular extensive look at any one squad, but will briefly overview them so you know what to expect if you find them on your schedule.

Bergen County Academies (NJ)– Returns the meat of their lineup, including top scorer Rebecca Rosenthal. Finished T-37th at the last NSC. Coached by Jon Pinyan, one of quizbowl’s best statisticians and a longtime proponent of good quizbowl at the national level.

Bethlehem Central (NY)– Led by Eric Wolfsburg, one of the top players in the nation. Strong on history in particular.

Centennial (MD)– Baltimore area squad. Deep team, known for hosting perhaps the largest non-national high school tournament in America every November (80 or more teams is common). Best player is Gary Tse, a humanities specialist.

East Brunswick (NJ)– Loses their best player from last year, Shravan Bajali, to UPenn’s team. Weaker in history, but still a very good team.

Georgetown Day School (DC)– This team will look similar to the B team that placed second at last year’s Blue Hen Invitational. Led by Tajin Rogers, an excellent all around player who make lots of impressive buzzes. GDS loses Noah Cowan, known for buzzing 18 times in the average 20 question match, negging five, and still beating most teams.

Great Neck South (NY)– Team lead by Lucia Geng, an elite humanities player, and Allan Lee, an elite science and history player. Very likely to power a lot of questions. Most of the rest of the A team has graduated.

High Tech (NJ)– The entire A team has graduated, but the B team taking over finished tied for 22nd at last year’s HSNCT. All-around threat, lots of contributing players.

Ithaca (NY)– Top players include Casey Weatherbee and Daniel Xu. Ithaca is strong all around, with history and fine arts being particular strength. They project to be especially strong on mACF style events as opposed to NAQT sets.

Solon (OH)– Far and away strongest team in the State of Ohio. Placed 5th at last year’s HSNCT. They go into the season with the #1 ranking on Fred Morlan’s national rankings, based on bonus conversion.

Richard Montgomery (MD)– One of the marquee quizbowl programs nationally, with two national titles. They are cobbling together a new A team after graduating lots of players. Project to be a better squad on NAQT questions.

Wilmington Charter (DE)– Return 3/4ths of their A team (Mohan Malhotra, Rohan Narayan, Shrayus Sortur). Very good specialist knowledge in history, science, and literature respectively. Likely to have the best B team of squads listed here. If you need more on them, browse our archives from when we were still the Philadelphia Quizbowl Resource.