Month: April 2016

PA State Academic Competition Wrap-Up: Congrats to Lehigh Valley Academy!

The PA State Academic Competition took place yesterday in Harrisburg, PA on an interesting combination of NAQT tossups and CCIU format/rules. Lehigh Valley Academy emerged as the champion, with Henderson as the runner-up and Blue Mountain rounding out the finalists.

We have compiled the scores of the matches on a spreadsheet that you can view here and see a copy of the prelim schedule here. (Again, this is all unofficial–GPQB is not affiliated with any of the organizers of PSAC)

The Good:
The Tossup Questions. The NAQT tossup questions were excellent and of appropriate difficulty for the field, even for the teams that came from non-pyramidal circuits. This was the single biggest improvement from last year and one that went a long way towards increasing the legitimacy of PSAC.

Outstanding Knowledge. Given the opportunity to compete on fair, challenging pyramidal questions, the PA teams were more than up to the task, with some very impressive buzzes across categories, but particularly in History and Literature. While our state isn’t quite to the level of Illinois or even New Jersey yet in terms of nationally competitive teams, we have excellent depth and a lot of strong players (who will hopefully continue on to play in college!). Lehigh Valley Academy is certainly a worthy champion and it was neat to see some schools that we haven’t seen play much like Spring Grove and Blue Mountain show off their considerable knowledge.

Geographic Diversity. PSAC featured a geographically diverse field (although not from all corners) with some schools we haven’t yet seen on the regular quizbowl tournament circuit. We’d love to see schools like Blue Mountain, Allentown Catholic, Spring Grove, Garnet Valley, Souderton, AltoonaHonesdale, and all the others attend quizbowl tournaments throughout the year.

The Readers. Jim Stoddard is quite an enjoyable reader. Apart from a few accidental reveals of the answers to some questions and some interesting pronunciations, he was encouraging, enthusiastic, and often hilarious. Although we only had the audio intermittently from the Senate chamber, the quiz-master in there, Kate Campbell, there was also quite good, especially at pronouncing some tough words.

The Bad:
The Fanfare Rounds. The fanfare rounds were still highly uneven, with a mix of what seemed like NAQT-style lightning round questions and some very obvious CCIU-style holdovers. The current events questions were particularly problematic, managing to be both overly vague and meandering. There were also a large number of specific answers repeated within the fanfare rounds; some answerlines came up 3-4 times.

Repeating the Whole Question on Tossups. There’s no need with pyramidal tossup questions to repeat the entire question over again after a team guesses incorrectly. Since the clues get easier and there’s always a clear pronoun specifying what’s being looked for, in the future PSAC should do away with this rule and would save probably 5+ minutes per match.

The Ugly:
The Unbalanced Scheduling and Seeding. The random scheduling and tiny number of matches once again left several teams unfairly penalized while benefiting others. Given that playoff advancement and seeding came only based on total points scored and that the matches had 3 teams at once, a team’s advancement and seed was highly dependent on who its opponents were. This was particularly obvious in the 3 semifinal matches when the three teams combined for 230 in the first and 235 in the second, but only 175 in the third.

This also affected who made the playoffs. DuBois for instance had to play Lehigh Valley (1st in total points), Spring Grove (3rd), and Allentown Catholic (10th) in its 2 prelim matches while Honesdale didn’t play any team higher than 12th in total points in its 2 matches. Yet Honesdale made the playoffs while DuBois didn’t because of the total points criterion. And although Lehigh Valley triumphed in the final, they never had to play Manheim Township, who lost in a narrow heartbreaker to Henderson in the semifinals. This is why most quizbowl tournaments seed the prelim matches, play full round-robins in the playoffs, and use non-opponent-dependent tiebreakers like points-per-bonus for seeding.

In an even more bizarre instance to fill out the schedule, the final prelim round featured two teams competing for points that counted while a third team whose points would not count was also playing. This creates all kinds of imbalances and unfairness, much of it going back to the issues with the 3-teams-at-a-time schedule.

Suggestions for Improvement

  • Seed the prelim matches. Quizbowl tournament results are readily available from around the state; why not at least consider using them to separate the top teams?
  •  No more 3-team matches. They introduce too many variables that make it harder to distinguish between teams and make one’s opponents more important than one’s own ability. Two-team matches would be much more fair to the teams.
  • Increase the number of prelim matches. You need to give teams the opportunity to compete and see how they stack up against each other before seeding them into the playoffs. Going from the current 2 prelim matches to 4-5 would be much more fair to the teams. Winners and runner-ups from the prelim pools plus wildcards based on points-per-bonus could then make the playoffs.
  • No need to repeat the whole question after an incorrect guess.
  • Be sure to write the current events questions to make them both pithy and specific.
  • Double-check the fanfare rounds for repeats.

We at GPQB are encouraged by the switch to NAQT questions this year and hope to see the trend continue in future years. Congratulations to all the teams who competed this year and we hope to see all of them on the quizbowl circuit around the state next year.

The Staff

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Pennsylvania State Academic Competition (PSAC) Preview

This Friday, April 29th, the Pennsylvania State Academic Competition–sponsored by the Chester County Intermediate Unit and supported by the Pennsylvania State Education Association–will be held in the state capital building in Harrisburg. 22 schools representing various intermediate units from around the state will compete for what is essentially the state quizbowl championship.

(Note: GPQB is not affiliated with any of the organizers of PSAC, so please consider this preview fully “unofficial”)

We at GPQB had some issues with last year’s PSAC, but this year some of our major concerns looked to be ameliorated through the use of NAQT’s IS-156 question set for the tossups. This is a major, major improvement that makes the competition more fair and more academically rewarding to all participants, and we salute the CCIU organizers for making the change.

PSAC will still use the CCIU format though for its matches. For those not familiar with this format, each match consists of 3 teams playing at once through 2 rounds total. Each round contains 10 standard quizbowl-style “tossup” questions that all teams can buzz in on and this is followed by “fanfare” questions directed at each team. Fanfare questions are similar to the “60-second rounds” that you might see at History Bowl, basically a series of bonus questions that an individual team has to respond to within a minute. Teams play only 2 prelim matches (since the matches are held in the Senate and House chambers) and then get placed into 3 semifinals of 3 teams each based on their total points, with the winners of those semifinals advancing to a final.

While the tossups will be pyramidal questions, we’re still not sure to what degree the fanfare questions will be effectively balanced in terms of difficulty. As we pointed out in our coverage of last year’s PSAC, imbalances in the fanfare rounds are a problem because getting an unusually hard or easy set of fanfare questions can have a huge influence on the outcome as teams each get a separate fanfare round and each fanfare question counts as much as a tossup.

The 3-way matches, randomized schedule (there’s no seeding), unique scoring system, and relatively few matches all combine to introduce a strong amount of randomness to the results at PSAC, much more so than a standard quizbowl tournament that uses seeded pools and matched round-robins.

Nevertheless, this is the largest all-state field of the year and given that the tossups should be pyramidal, we’re going to be rooting for all the teams to do well and showcase the best of PA’s secondary education.

Last year’s competition streamed live on PCN TV. We’re not sure if it will happen again this year, but you can check this link to see on Friday.

Also follow us on Twitter @phillyquizbowl for updates throughout the day.

Team-by-Team Preview:

We’re primarily basing this preview on the information that we could find on quizbowl tournament attendance and results, since stats like points-per-bonus allow us to compare teams across fields in a way that other types of tournaments like many local IU competitions don’t when they just report points.

Feel free to comment with any info or your own predictions. We’d love to hear more about your teams! Of course, we’d also love to see all of these schools at more quizbowl tournaments next year across the state.

Each of the teams represents a different part of the state defined by Pennsylvania’s Intermediate Units. Here’s a map of the state IU system for reference.

IU-1: Canon-McMillan (Canonsburg)
No quizbowl record.

IU-3: Gateway High School (Monroeville)
No quizbowl record.

IU-6: DuBois Area
A rapidly improving team lead by GPQB Second Team All-Stater Eli Kirk from Northwest PA. Though not the strongest team on pyramidal questions, they’re definitely a threat to make the semifinals and could play spoiler on the right questions to any other team in the field.

IU-8: Altoona Area
Back in 2012, Altoona played several quizbowl tournaments at both the high school and middle school levels, but their attendance has dropped off since then, so they’re coming in as a bit of a mystery. Some of their players may still have that experience though.

IU-10: State College Area
Normally, Pennsylvania’s resident quizbowl dynasty would be the favorites to win. But our sources say that this won’t be State College’s A team or even their B, C, or D team–this is basically their E team (which is still quite good) of freshmen.

IU-12: Spring Grove Area
No quizbowl record. 

IU-13: Manheim Township (Lancaster)
When your team has 2 First-Team All-Staters and 1 Second-Team All-Stater, you’re probably the favorite to win the tournament. But with the random scheduling and fanfare rounds, who knows what might happen?

IU-14: Wyomissing Area (Reading)
No recent quizbowl record.

IU-15: Dauphin County Tech (Harrisburg)
No quizbowl record.

IU-16: Berwick
An enthusiastic newcomer to the quizbowl circuit in the past few years, Berwick is a team on the upswing, but could use a bit more seasoning. Probably not a semifinalist, but not a pushover either.

IU-18: Wyoming Area (Exeter)
Plays History Bowl and also competed at Tri-State Tussle and Brainbusters earlier this year, but struggled a bit at both.

IU-19: Honesdale.
Plays WVIA Scholastic Scrimmage, but otherwise not much info.

IU-20: Lehigh Valley Academy (Bethlehem)
Last year’s JV player of the year and this year’s overall player of the year, Alex Schmidt, will make his PSAC debut this year before heading off to Chicago to compete at the Small School National Championships this weekend. LVA may be the only team in the field capable of taking down Manheim under normal quizbowl conditions, but these aren’t normal quizbowl conditions so anything could happen. LVA still has an excellent shot at the final though so long as they can adapt to the CCIU-style.

IU-21: Allentown Central Catholic (Allentown)
No recent quizbowl records.

IU-22: Central Bucks East (Doylestown)
The CB East team is stronger than ever this year, with solid performances on pyramidal questions at QFO in December and Great Valley in February. They’ve got a good shot at a semifinal if they get manageable matches, but probably not into the finals this year.

IU-23: Souderton Area
Last year’s Souderton team had a remarkably strong debut in their first quizbowl tournaments ever. They disappeared from the quizbowl circuit this year though, so we don’t have much info on them other than that they won their local IU competition in MontCo. Likely a strong team though and potentially a semifinalist.

IU-24: Henderson (West Chester)
This veteran team  is perhaps the team most prepared to adjust to the competition’s changes this year thanks to their years of competing on both CCIU in their local league and in quizbowl tournaments. Along with Manheim Township and LVA, they have a good shot at making the finals this year.

IU-24: Downingtown East
A solid team that’s been competing in more quizbowl tournaments throughout the year, but has struggled a bit against the top teams. They made it back to PSAC this year by virtue of being the defending champion. Could make a semifinal run, especially given the rapid improvement of their lead scorer Jackie, but not likely to defend their title.

IU-25: Garnet Valley (Glen Mills)
The champions of DelCo Hi-Q venture out of their county for the first time this year. Although both test academic knowledge, quizbowl is a very different format from Hi-Q, which remains more similar to its roots as a radio quiz show. A bit of a wild card, but good to see them and hope they’ll come to more quizbowl tournaments throughout the year next year.

IU-26: Friends Select (Philadelphia)
New to quizbowl entirely this year, but have improved a good bit over the year and they’ve got the raw firepower to hang with some of the top teams here. The CCIU format will be something new for them and they haven’t played much on IS-level questions, so while they’re a likely semifinalist they’ll need a few breaks for a shot at the final.

IU-28: Indiana Area
Also competed in a number of pyramidal tournaments this year and will be heading to HSNCT in May. Increasingly strong results throughout the year, capped off by a win at UPitt in March. Good bet for a semifinal berth.

IU-29: Blue Mountain (Schuykill Haven)
Took down perennial league champ Schuykill Haven to earn the bid to states. Not much other information about them, but they seem to have competed on pyramidal questions in the past as part of their league.

IU-2, 4, 5, 9, 11,17, and 27 are not listed as sending representatives.

Pennsylvania Player and Coach Awards, 2015-2016

Friends,

It is with great honor that the GPQB voting panel announces the recipients of our 2nd annual awards for Player of the Year, JV Player of the Year*, and Coach of the Year. These individuals have been dedicated, hard working, and exemplary quizbowl citizens in their pursuit of excellence for this extra-curricular activity. Their achievements deserve commemoration in the rapidly growing annals of pyramidal Quizbowl history in Pennsylvania. Without further ado:

  • Congratulations to Alex Schmidt of Lehigh Valley Academy for winning Player of the Year for the 2015-16 season, in recognition for his streak of scoring titles perpetually in excess of 130 points a game, dominance in the category of history, significant improvement in his weak categories this season, and in recognition for his rising status as one of the nation’s most respected players. We must note that Alex has done all of this as a sophomore.†
  • Congratulations to Sam Scarfone of Great Valley High School for winning JV Player of the Year for the 2015-16 Season, in recognition for his high scores despite strong competition within his own team, continued scoring improvement, and leadership potential.
  • Congratulations to  Bern McCauley of Great Valley High School for winning Coach of the Year for the 2015-16 Season, in recognition of his Great Valley squad’s rise to among the State’s best in the last 18 months, as well as his consistently excellent tournament direction and willingness to assist other coaches in launching their own programs.

All recipients of the GPQB awards will be awarded a plaque for their achievement. We are honored to have all these individuals as part of the Pennsylvania quizbowl community and wish them continued success, both on and off the buzzer.

*Students are eligible to win the JV Player of the Year Award if they are currently enrolled in the 9th or 10th grade.
† Alex also received our JV Player of the Year Award last season.

Announcement: 2015-2016 Season GPQB All-Star Teams

Dear readers,

It is with pleasure that we inaugurate a new annual tradition here at GPQB: selecting our picks for the top ten players in the state to receive the honor of 1st and 2nd team All-Star. These players have put in countless hours of study, impressed with many great buzzes, and distinguished themselves with excellent knowledge across academia. We also have chosen a few other players for honorable mention. The selection process involved nomination by those who have moderated and watched countless matches in the state, debate by the panel, and an AP Poll style vote. To all these players, as well as their parents, families, teachers, coaches, and friends, well done. The 2015-2016 All-Star Teams are as follows:

First Team All-State

  • Jake Deerin, Manheim Township High School
  • Gianni Manginelli, Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School
  • Ahan Patel, Manheim Township High School
  • Alex Schmidt, Lehigh Valley Academy
  • Saimun Shahee, Delaware Valley High School

Second Team All-State

  • Shayar Bhattarcharjee, Manheim Township High School
  • Jack Chaillet, Winchester Thurston School
  • Joey Feffer, State College High School
  • Eli Kirk, DuBois High School
  • Mahima Kumara, State College High School

Honorable Mentions

  • Jordan Abbott, Allderdice High School
  • Rajan Alagar, Alagar Homeschool
  • Drake Eshleman, Delaware Valley High School
  • Deakon McCurdy, Great Valley High School
  • Sam Scarfone, Great Valley High School

Penn State Spring Academic Bowl 2016 Wrap-Up

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State College A with their 1st place trophy. From L to R: Joey, Lars, Mahima, and Mia.

Pennsylvania’s final invitational of the 2015-2016 season was a small one but a good one. With 12 teams from seven schools on the docket, Penn State hosted a full round robin of action on April 16th. Stats for the event are available here.

Playing at full strength for the first time all season, State College‘s extraordinary A team of Mahima Kumara, Joey Feffer, Lars De Lorenzi, and Mia Cavener walloped the field, combining for almost 500 points a game, putting together over 23 points per bonus, and winning every match by at least 195 points. I only got to read for them once, but in a 600 point showing against their E team they impressed with powers galore and immaculate teamwork on bonuses. I could tell these players really work together well, and I anticipate a high nationals finish.

Henderson took home 2nd place, going 9-2 and also clearing 400 points a game. Strong performances on regular difficulty sets have validated their big win at Manheim Township Fall this year, and show that they have the depth to perform on harder questions. This is another team where all four members (David, Alex, Ashish, and Nick) contribute significant points on the tossups. They’re probably not a playoff lock at nationals next month, but it’s not off the table either.

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Penn State players Bruce McAnnich and Paul Birch read the first half of a tiebreaker to take home the 3rd place trophy.

DuBois, Great Valley, and State College B ended up in a tie with 8-3 records for the 3rd place trophy. This was played off with half-packet matches, with State College emerging with the hardware. State College B had a bit of a sluggish start to their day, but came out like lightning after lunch and proved tough to stop. DuBois saved one of their best performances for last, with the strongest stats out of this group. Eli Kirk’s monster 82 ppg led the tournament by a large margin. His teammates also chipped in, with everyone on DuBois powering at least twice. Great Valley once again played undermanned, with sophomores Sam Scarfone and Daniel Chen leading the way this time. Though they didn’t quite win a tournament this year, Great Valley showed time and again they deserve respect in this rapidly improving state and will be able to reload for next year.

After these, State College C, D, and E, piled up in the middle. State College is ridiculously deep, with an E team that can put up 16 points a bonus! They won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, that’s for sure, and look to continue their run as one of the most venerable quality quizbowl programs in the country. Central took the drive up from Philadelphia with two teams to get in one last tournament this season, and while they didn’t win as many games as I’m sure they would have liked, they seemed to be having a blast and were refreshing to read for every time. The Susquehanna Valley sent Berwick and first time Saturday-tournament entrant Milton to compete. Though neither team came away with more than a win, it was great to see them compete and we hope we can bring more pyramidal quizbowl to their area of Central PA in the near future.

Thanks to all teams for a smooth ride. 12 rounds were played in 7 hours, and it takes a full team effort on the part of both moderators and players to make this happen. We wish all seniors the best of luck next year in college or otherwise, and hope to see all underclassmen back next year.

Ben Herman

Next stop on the GPQB schedule: Awards Season, States, and Nationals!

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Central B and Berwick shake hands after their match.

Around the State: Odds and Ends

Several local tournaments we have not covered in the state deserve a brief mention.

At the one invitational we have not yet written up, Indiana A defeated Ohio’s Fisher Catholic A for a win at the University of Pittsburgh’s Battle of the Burgh XIX on March 19th. Many of the best players in Western PA were unable to play the event. This led to remarkable parity, with 5 teams in a 12 team field finishing either 6-5 or 5-6 in a round robin event.

Here are some local league results. The winners of all the leagues will be representing their teams at states:

  • In Pennsylvania’s top local league that uses Pyramidal questions, Manheim Township topped Cedar Crest in a close final. This marks Manheim Townships’s 5th Lanc-Leb title in the past 7 years.
  • Carlise came out on top in the Capitol Area League.
  • Blue Mountain claimed victory in the Schyulkill IU competition.
  • DuBois cruised to victory in the Riverside IU competition.
  • In non-pyramidal contests, Henderson triumphed in Chester County, Souderton three-peated in Montgomery County, Central Bucks East won in Bucks County, Lehigh Valley Academy rode to the title in the Colonial IU, Allentown Catholic claimed the prize in the Lehigh-Carbon IU, and Altoona came up on top in IU-8’s various leagues.