Manheim Township Academic Challenge 2016 Wrapup (3/19)

In one of the strangest and most intensely fought tournaments in some time, Manheim Township continued their dominant run at the top of the state while hosting their annual spring tournament. This was one of the more interesting days I’ve been at. No one escaped without a loss, and the statistics at the top of the field were very, very close. Plaudits go out coach Missy Doll and Lancaster-Lebanon League commissioner Chris Manning for directing another exemplary run event that got all teams plenty of excellent matches in a timely and efficient way, and the all around great moderating staff Manheim Township provided.

Full stats can be found here.

Varsity Bracket

The oddest thing about this tournament’s varsity bracket was that almost every single major team was missing critical players, which lead to lots of close bouts and generally depressed scores. Manheim Township itself fielded a team of players who had not already played IS-152, which worked out to be their regular A team, except Nathan Johnson came up from the B squad to replace Jake. They went 8-1, with the loss coming playing as a split squad to cover for a late team. Runners up Lehigh Valley Academy looked stellar, with another dominant Alex Schmidt performance. His 54 powers alone made LVA the tournament’s highest powering team, and with some steady contributing help on bonuses from his teammates Lucas, Ethan, and Nicholas, put up points galore. Still filled with young players and a bit raw, LVA looks like they will be a scary team by the upcoming 2016-17 season.

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The final between Lehigh Valley Academy (left) and Manheim Township (right) about to start.

State College A and Great Valley A tied for third with matching 7-2 records. Great Valley took the head to head matchup, while State College pulled a thrilling last question victory over LVA 290-285 in the most exciting match I personally read. Both teams were down key players (Mahima and Mia for State College; Sam for Great Valley), but still turned in some of their best performances this season. SCHS’s Joey Feffer and GV’s Deakon McCurdy lead their teams well, with 70 and 62 points per game respectively for 2nd and 4th in the tournament. Both squads put in solid attacks with no glaring weaknesses in terms of subject coverage and have firmed up their status as top-5 teams in Pennsylvania and top-100 teams nationally. Great Valley did, however, put up an absurd 35 negs in 9 rounds, which is possibly a Pennsylvania record for negs per game. I’m not sure why this anomalous performance happened but it may have cost them a tournament win.

Henderson took 5th. Missing David, Suraj Joshi came up from the B team and proved a stabilizing presence on this otherwise volatile lineup. Henderson played the sharpest they’ve been in a long time, with 28 powers to 16 negs. I was impressed by many of Suraj’s music and philosophy buzzes, and Alex Sankaran added dominating geography knowledge in matches I read. PALCS finished a disappointing 6th, despite having their whole lineup in tow. They suffered a bad break with a wonky buzzer, and lost a close 85 point match to Henderson at the end of the day. With all of the lineup chaos and such, it’s hard to fault PALCS for this finish, and they still got over 330 points per game, and are a group to be reckoned with.

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Downingtown East celebrates a solid win in the prelim rounds.

Lower on in the Varsity brackets, Cedar Crest A landed in 7th with one of their patented balanced attacks. Downingtown East finished a respectable 8th, looking their best in a while. This team doesn’t play on Saturday as much as some of the other teams in this field, so while iffy on some “quizbowl” topics I thought D-East showed lots of real knowledge and good buzzes based on classroom and independent interest material. Jackie Wu’s dominance on literature was a treat to watch. Camp Hill kept on keeping on, taking a lot of losses in such a tough field, but showing good statistics. Many teams also challenged themselves in new ways with this tournament. Lancaster Mennonite‘s Brandon Roe played the event solo, going 2-5. No one in Pennsylvania has as much lock-down knowledge of Religion questions as he does, and it was good to seem him challenge himself and come away with a couple wins. Carver HSES and Huntingdon, two new squads to the PA circuit this season, moved up to try regular difficulty questions for the first time. While both struggled yesterday and will need time to adjust, it’s good to see these teams challenging themselves and continuing to get better while approaching matches with enthusiasm as their programs become more established.

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Cedar Crest B. From L to R: Tatyana, Erik, and Joe.

Junior Varsity Bracket

I didn’t get the chance to see any of these teams in action, so I apologize for the terseness of this wrap-up. Central A, at last marshaling their power players onto one squad, came away with their first tournament win in dominant fashion. They did lose the first game of an advantaged final to Downingtown East B, but behind a double barreled attack from Gabe Gluskin-Braun and Owen Knight (whom finished 1st and 2nd in ppg in the JV bracket) and significant support performances from Ella Comberg and Albert Tanjaya, Central triumphed. I’m glad that this senior-heavy team got to come out with at least one tournament win, and it would be great to see if the get the chance to play anything else. Otherwise the JV provided a nice opportunity for B, C, and D squads from various schools to get in lots of good buzzes and continue to learn.

Overall, the growing diversity and size of these fields reflects the hard work and dedication of the many students and coaches (and parents!) who value this game and continue to support it. I can truly see a change for the better not only in kids I’ve had the pleasure to have read for across several years, but also in the opportunities available for all students.

-Ben Herman

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Teams await their afternoon seeds after round seven.

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