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.


  1. Thanks for the preview, Ben, Chris, & company. Honesdale from IU 19 could be a potential semifinal spoiler – they gave Lakeland their toughest game in Scholastic Scrimmage, holding them to 310pts. Lakeland from IU19 would have been a near certain semifinal team, but with SSNCT on Saturday, I’m sure the logistics didn’t fit.

    Berwick will have four of our five experienced players for PSAC, at least for the prelim rounds. At near full strength, we MIGHT be a match for State College’s freshmen – they were a joy to see at Penn State a couple of weeks ago.

    Henderson, LVA, and Manheim should be near locks for the finals with State College’s A team not attending – hopefully the randomness of the format will not affect the results. If any team has to face two or three of those teams, they probably are eliminated from the semis right then.

    Our team is looking forward to a couple of fun matches and sightseeing in the Capitol. Good luck to all attending!


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