Month: April 2017

2017 Pennsylvania State Academic Competition Wrap-Up

On Friday, April 28, 2017, 24 teams from most corners of the state of Pennsylvania gathered in Harrisburg to participate in the annual Pennsylvania State Academic Competition (PSAC). It was a rather exciting day of several intriguing storylines including a surprise but worthy champion. We saw some great buzzes from teams all throughout the day, as well as some items for improvement that remain embedded the structure of the competition just like last year’s PSAC. All told, it was a fascinating day that very, very slowly (and often repetitively, given PSAC’s insistance on needless complete re-readings of questions) unfolded in the chambers of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives and Senate.

In a fairly shocking upset, Lincoln IU #12 representative Spring Grove, out of York County, took home the title of PSAC champion. Spring Grove, even though we have not seen them attend a Saturday pyramidal tournament, showed a great aptitude for the rigors of the NAQT questions used from the beginning of the day for the tossups. They claimed the #1 overall seed heading into the playoffs, albeit with a fairly easy schedule that featured only one eventual playoff team. After a rough semifinal, in the final match they defeated two of the top 100 teams in the country, defending champions Lehigh Valley Academy and Great Valley, with a series of extremely impressive buzzes. In that final match they demonstrated great real knowledge to pull away from their competitors and claim a 5 point victory. Congratulations go out to Spring Grove for their victory, and we hope to see them come out to play in some weekend pyramidal tournaments going forward!

Though they may have lost in the finals, Lehigh Valley Academy and Great Valley both looked very impressive on the day. Alex Schmidt continued his incredible play this season, especially in LVA’s win in the semifinal-of-death over Manheim Township and Friends Select. Great Valley also played very well on their road to the finals with a real team effort, certainly earning their berth in the final three.

Outside of the regular pyramidal tournament attendees, some newer schools also did well in showcasing their knowledge. Upper Dublin (Montgomery County), Haverford (Delaware County), Blue Mountain (Schuylkill County), and Bethlehem Catholic (Northampton County) all qualified for the playoffs, with Burrell (Westmoreland County) missing out on the final spot in a tiebreaker. Seeing these teams perform well on difficult questions is great to watch, and like Spring Grove, we’d love to see all of them more in the future (Haverford has already attended at least one pyramidal tournament and Blue Mountain competes on pyramidal questions in the Schuylkill League).

Though it was indeed great to watch the incredible depths of knowledge on display from the players today, issues with the overall format of the tournament continue to plague PSAC. The insistence on teams playing only two matches of three teams each based on a completely random draw led to great imbalances in the playoff matchups since the playoff seedings were based on total points scored. In addition, the fact that drawing a slip of paper determined who ended up in a semifinal with Lehigh Valley Academy and Manheim Township, arguably the two best teams in Pennsylvania this year, is simply unfair. The best teams in PA deserve more than just two preliminary rounds that are extremely dependent on the luck of the draw for matchups; every team deserves more of an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge against a greater variety of opponents and over a larger sample space of questions (example: teams that do not make the playoffs hear a grand total of 40 tossup questions for the whole tournament!).

The setup of rounds themselves also continues to maintain too great a degree of randomness. The imbalanced difficulties of fanfare rounds meant that in several cases games and scores were determined by which team got the more forgiving set of questions, which seemed to alternate between standard fair knowledge parts and bizarrely verbose current events and trivia. As a former 3-time PSAC player, I can attest to how frustrating it is to see your shot at the championship washed away. If fanfare rounds are to remain in place, which is possible, greater care must be taken to ensure that difficulty is standardized across them.

A true state championship should be about providing fair and fun competition to determine the best team. Format gimmicks and question imbalances actively detract from this mission, and it is these issues that PSAC must overcome to become a tournament that fulfills its potential for the state of Pennsylvania. Unfortunately, it is clear that only pressure from coaches and students may lead to changes in the structure of the tournament that will bring about a fair and fulfilling experience for all teams present. We hope that they will do so in the future to make Pennsylvania’s state competition the fairest and most rewarding opportunity possible for academic teams in PA.

-Ryan 

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Pennsylvania State Academic Competition Unofficial Preview and Chat 2017

pennsylvania_state_capitol_house_chamber

PSAC takes place within the chambers of the PA General Assembly (pictured here) and Senate. Photo credit: Wikipedia.

Welcome to GPQB’s unofficial (we are completely unaffiliated with PSAC or any of the organizers) preview and coverage of the 2017 PSAC!

[Edit: We are updating unofficial scores in this Google Document; you can watch matches beginning again after lunch at 12:45 PM EST via the House stream here; we are continuing to update on Twitter and discuss in the chatroom here.]

Where else will you find a golden-voiced emcee read quality NAQT IS-level tossups alongside random “fanfare” bonus rounds of wildly varying difficulty within the beautifully furnished Pennsylvania House chambers? Where else will you find completely randomly generated schedules for each team’s two (usually!) prelim rounds that lead to extraordinarily unbalanced prelim schedules and playoff matchups based on points scored? Did we mention it’s 3 teams playing at once?

For randomness and ironic amusement value, PSAC is hard to top. Alas, it’s not ideal from a fairness perspective for a number of reasons that we detailed in our wrap-up from last year. But at least thanks to some recent reforms there aren’t tossups from the 1990s still being asked.

The format is…unique. 3 teams compete at once and first play a series of toss-up questions (which will be pyramidal NAQT IS-level questions), then each team gets a series of directed bonuses called “fanfares” that differ for each team. There’s a toss-up round, a fanfare round for each team, another toss-up round, and then a final fanfare round. And then that’s the match. The top 9 teams based on points scored in the prelims advance to the semifinals and the winners of those semis advance to the finals. Again, this is unique.

Thanks to the magic of PCN-TV, the whole competition should be streamable on video for anyone to watch (at least, that’s how it’s been in the past). Check here on Friday morning starting at 9 AM EST for hopefully a link to the video.

[Edit: PCN TV seems to be pay-only now, but you can watch a stream of the matches on the PA House stream here.]

We will be live-chatting over in the #paquizbowl chatroom and live-tweeting via @phillyquizbowl throughout the day on Friday as well starting at 9 AM.  Feel free to join us and send us any tips about match scores and such! We will update this post with a schedule if we can get one.

For newbies, PSAC is sponsored by the Chester County Intermediate Unit and allows each IU from around the state to send one representative to compete for the state title in addition to the defending champion returning from last year (which was Lehigh Valley Academy, who will return to defend their title this year). They decide the representatives in a number of ways, but usually with some kind of tournament–sometimes using pyramidal questions and other best practices, sometimes not.

Who’s representing whom this year? Well, we don’t exactly know yet! Please feel free to comment if you have information on teams competing. But here’s our best guess based on available information (read: searching Twitter and recent news articles):

[Note that some IUs just don’t send representatives sometimes; when not clear how a team got to state, we don’t say]

IU 1: Canon-McMillan

IU 2, Pittsburgh, does not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 3: Gateway

IUs 4-5, MidWest and NWPA, do not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 6 (Riverview): Rocky Grove
How They Got Here: Won the Riverview IU Academic Bowl.

IU 7 (Westmoreland): Burrell 

IU 8 (Appalachia): Hollidaysburg Area

IU 9, Seneca Highlands, does not appear to have a representative [this ought to be fixed, posthaste!]

IU 10 (Centre): West Branch
Hot They Got Here: Won a draw

IU 12 (Lincoln): Spring Grove
How They Got Here: Won the IU 12 Academic Competition

IU 13 (Lancaster-Lebanon): Manheim Township
How They Got Here: Won the Lancaster-Lebanon League

IU 14 (Berks County): Wyomissing Area
How They Got Here: Won the Berks IU Academic Challenge

IU 15 (Capital Area): Cedar Cliff 
How They Got Here: Won the Capital Area IU Academic Competition

IUs 16: Lewisburg Area

IU 17:  No Info Found

IU 18: Wyoming Area 

IU 19: Lakeland 

IU 20 (Colonial): Bethlehem Catholic
How They Got Here: Won the Colonial IU Academic Competition 

IU 21 (Carbon-Lehigh): Whitehall
How They Got Here: Won the Carbon-Lehigh Academic Competition

IU 22 (Bucks County): Council Rock North

IU 23 (Montgomery County): Upper Dublin
How They Got Here: Won the Montgomery County IU Academic Competition

IU 24 (Chester County): Great Valley
How They Got Here: Won the Chester County Intermediate IU’s Academic Competition

IU 25 (Delaware County): Haverford
How They Got Here: Won the Delaware Hi-Q Competition

IU 26 (Philadelphia): Friends Select
How They Got Here: Won the Philadelphia City Championships 

IU 27: No Info Found

IU 28: Armstrong 
How They Got Here: Won the Indiana County Academic League

IU 29 (Schuylkill League): Blue Mountain 
How They Got Here: Won the Schuylkill League Academic Bowl

How will these teams do at PSAC? Well, with the uncertainty (many of these teams rarely, if ever, play pyramidal quizbowl tournaments outside of their league) and randomness in the scheduling it’s basically anyone’s game. Here are the teams that we know of competing who are ranked in the Morlan national rankings and/or in our GPQB mid-season poll (note that 6 of the top 10 teams in the GPQB poll are not competing at PSAC):

Lehigh Valley Academy: 12th nationally, 2nd in PA
Manheim Township: 43rd nationally, 1st in PA
Great Valley: 94th nationally, 3rd in PA
Friends Select: 162nd nationally, 9th in PA
Lakeland: 11th in PA

That said, Blue Mountain always trains hard and finished a surprising 3rd last year at PSAC (wish they would come to some more tournaments!) and Haverford did quite well earlier this year in the JV division at Great Valley’s tournament. We don’t have very good data on the other teams for the most part, but anyone could surprise. We hope that all these teams from areas outside of the centers of quizbowl around the state will come to more weekend tournaments next year–we’d absolutely love to welcome y’all and answer any questions about the wider world of quizbowl!

GPQB Awards Announcement, 2016-2017

Friends,

It is with great honor that the GPQB voting panel announces the recipients of our 3rd 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 Sam Scarfone of Great Valley for winning Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season, in recognition of multiple high scoring finishes, team leadership, and a steady buzzing presence across categories.
  • Congratulations to Vijay Anne of Henderson High School for winning JV Player of the Year for the 2016-17 season, in recognition for repeated high power performances to buoy continued success of the Henderson program.
  • Congratulations to  Andrew Gianelli of Camp Hill High School for winning Coach of the Year for the 2016-17 Season, in recognition of his school’s repeated national contention at SSNCT (six straight top 11 finishes), as well as several high tournament placements at Pennsylvania invitationals this season,

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. Students my not win each of the two awards more than once in their playing career.

GPQB All-State Teams, 2016-2017

Dear Readers,

It is with pleasure that our panel presents you our selections for our All-State Teams for the 2016-2017 season. These players have put in countless hours of study, impressed with killer buzzes across the distribution, and distinguished themselves with excellent knowledge in academic material. They represent many of our best ambassadors for playing good quizbowl on the invitational and national circuit. 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. In order to receive mention, a player must have appeared at at least three all-subject quizbowl tournaments during the season. To all these players, as well as their parents, families, teachers, coaches, and friends, well done. The 2016-2017 All-Star Teams are as follows:

First Team All-State

Shayar Bhattacharjee, Manheim Township
Colton Sanden, Camp Hill
Sam Scarfone, Great Valley
Alex Schmidt, Lehigh Valley Academy
Vishwa Shanmugam, Downingtown STEM Academy

Second Team All-State

Dan Chen, Great Valley
Rudyard Lynch, Friends Select
Ahan Patel, Manheim Township
Brandon Roe, Lancaster Mennonite
Jackie Wu, Downingtown East

Honorable Mentions

Richard Chen, Friends Select
Jacob Dubner, Winchester Thurston
Collin Kawan-Hemler, Delaware Valley
Sebastien La Duca, Wallenpaupack

We once again congratulate all these players on their stellar play!

The panelists for this selection were: Paul Birch, Ryan Bilger, Chris Chiego, Ben Herman, Brian McNamara, Victor Prieto, Alex Sankaran, Steven Silverman, and Bill Tressler.

D-East’s HFT Mirror Wrap-Up [4/8]

12 teams gathered in Exton on April 8th to play a full round-robin tournament on one of the toughest sets in quizbowl, the Harvard Fall Tournament, at the first spring tournament hosted by Downingtown East HS. After a full 11 rounds, D-STEM won the final over Wilmington Charter B, with Friends Select A finishing in 3rd.

Full stats are available here.

This tournament was quite competitive at the top, with the top 5 teams all within 20 points-per-game of each other (319-339 PPG). D-STEM adopted a decidedly aggressive buzzing strategy, finishing with 42 negs (well above any other team), but also grabbing the tournament win. Paced by Vishwa’s 81 PPG, STEM hung on to emerge with the victory despite some very close matches. Charter B, a power trio with all members averaging at least 35 PPG, had surprisingly easy victories over all the PA teams except for STEM, but did drop a game to in-state rival Concord. Not quite sure who will be back next year for Charter, but it’s never a good idea to count Charter out for too long in quizbowl–they’ll likely be back and active in the SEPA region next year.

Friends Select A notched the highest number of powers of any team at the tournament with 27, but struggled a bit on the bonuses with only a 15.6 PPB (though it looks like that stat could influenced by a stat error in their match against Wallenpaupack that led to unusually low PPB that round). They were followed by a less-than-full-strength State College A, who dropped a surprising match early on to Penn Manor before recovering for a 4th-place finish. Wallenpaupack had perhaps the most interesting statline of the tournament: their PPB was the highest of the tournament at 18.17, but they only amassed 5 powers over the course of the day. This is a particularly unusual difference between depth on the bonuses compared to the tossups.

Charter A followed the top teams with a solid effort that fell just short in several close games and then there was a bit of a drop-off as Concord and Friends Select B both adopted fairly aggressive buzzing strategies that didn’t quite pay off for either. Penn Manor, in one of the very rare appearances outside the Lancaster-Lebanon League, put together a respectable effort highlighted by their win over State College A. A smattering of B teams and a house fill-in team rounded out the field and should be applauded for playing such a challenging set in what was essentially a pre-nationals tournament; the top 8 teams here are all registered for at least one national championship tournament.

Hopefully this experience will come in handy as the local teams prepare for nationals in less than two months. Plenty of time to keep practicing on tougher questions to get in shape for nats!