Month: October 2017

Mellon Bowl XV Wrap-Up (10/28/2017)

This year’s incarnation of Mellon Bowl at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh featured some major storylines for the unfolding season. Though the event was, according to our sources, unfortunately marred by significant tournament delays which did affect the outcome of the event, this did not stop the students from kicking off the first of the year’s Pittsburgh events in style.

Stats are here.

Alagar Homeschool won the event. Though a tie between the Homeschoolers and State College A stood at the end of the day, the delays at the event led the latter team to decide not to opt for a final. The Alagars put on a fine showing to defend their place as King of the Hill in Western PA, defeating all the other Pennsylvania teams they faced quite handily. They did take a loss to Boardman High out of the Youngstown, Ohio area. Rajan and Jaya both put up the strong numbers we have come to expect from them, and both exceeded 20 powers on the day. As for runners-up State College, they showed that despite the rash of graduations on the team that finished in the top-5 last year, they are not going away anytime soon. All of their four players put up over 18 points a game, and they were slightly undermanned. State College has asserted themselves as a team which might work its way back into the rankings.

Allderdice A took third, only losing to Alagar and SC and slicing their way to 21+points per bonus and impressive stats. Like State College but even more so, this team is amazingly balanced. Led by Jakobi at 65 ppg, their other 4 players all exceeded 25 points per game. Allderdice reminds one very much of last year’s state champion Winchester Thurston team, and they look to have the parts for a very serious run this season. Speaking of Thurston, the underclassmen that replaced the seniors from last year also made it to the playoffs. Their stats were not as strong as last year’s but this is once again a durable program who continues to pump out enough strong players to be a year-in year-out regional power in Pittsburgh. George Washington from West Virginia and State College B also made the playoffs.

In the consolation zone, teams from circuit regular schools Shady Side, Westmont Hilltop, Indiana, South Side, and Yough got in action, and impressed in a few wins each. Will Davis of Shady Side was the event’s highest scoring Pennsylvanian, with 91 ppg. Chartiers Valley made a return to Mellon Bowl after an absence from the circuit, and Northwest PA Collegiate Academy from Erie, who first played pyramidal late last year, also showed up and finished a respectable 6-5 and got over half their bonus questions. These teams might have some potential in time.

Overall, though there were logistical issues, Mellon Bowl allowed many Western Pennsylvania students the chance to kick off their season with quality quizbowl. The conversation will continue for the Pittsburgh circuit at UPitt next month.


Player Interview: Lily Zhang

This month’s interview is with Lily Zhang (LZ), a senior at State College Area High School. She has been the president of their quizbowl club for two years and is currently the captain of their A team.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

JW: What was State College quizbowl like when you first joined?

LZ: I think State College was in somewhat of an awkward place when I joined because we had a really great coach and a really great team a few years past, which was Julie Gittings and Graham Moyer and them. Then after they left, we still had a bunch of really great players that kept the club going, but practices eventually became reading questions for the most experienced players. I remember coming to my first practice and being overwhelmed because it was basically just reading questions, and we had some really outstanding players. My first year of quizbowl, I didn’t really answer any questions at all. Some other freshmen and I would just sit in the back and watch as the really accomplished people got questions.

JW: How do you make your club more inclusive to newcomers?

LZ: In tenth grade I started doing this thing where I would take the newcomers to a separate practice room. At first, we just read questions, but then eventually, I got to know them better, and I would think of different activities that we could do to help them, to help raise them to this standard where reading questions was a productive form of practice. Just recognizing the struggles of newcomers, recognizing that they’re there and paying attention to them, I think, is really important.

JW: What are some of those activities that you do in practice?

LZ: One thing that I started doing this year was, after each practice, the next practice we’ll do a Kahoot on the different topics covered in a packet we read last time. I think the most important thing with newcomers is making them feel like they’re making progress, so they can feel, like, a sense of accomplishment. That’s the most frustrating thing if you don’t feel like you’re making progress. When we play games like Kahoot, it’s really fun for them because they’re really competitive about it, but they can actually see results from paying attention during practice or studying things on their own time. Another thing I started doing this year is, each week we have a category competition thing. I let the newcomers make their own teams, so each team sends one person to compete in a category. For example, last week we had ballets—no, bodies of water. I think that’s also a really great way to get them to make noticeable steady progress, because we pick narrow topics that are really easy to study, so then they can feel good when they get questions. Before the Penn State Novice tournament, we had two of those [category competitions] on like Russian literature and organs, and whenever those things came up it would be a really proud moment for everyone because they’d be like “wow, I studied this!”

JW: How do you recruit new players?

LZ: A lot of it still has to do with knowing people, because generally, at least in State College, people in quizbowl will know younger kids. Certain clubs at the middle school level also serve as good places to recruit. For example, we usually get the Mathcounts kids in the beginning. And if we make the club fun, then the freshmen will recommend that the incoming freshmen join, which is nice. We also have an activities fair in the beginning of the year, so that usually gets a few signups. Recently, just last year, the middle schools here made teams, so that makes recruiting a lot easier for us because there’s already that middle school participation.

JW: What’s the most important part of being the leader of a team?

LZ: I think the most important part of leading quizbowl is just being in touch with everyone. At least, I think that being the leader doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re the best person at quizbowl, but it means that you’re really invested in quizbowl outside of just how you perform and how your team performs. Something I feel has helped me is just letting loose and having fun with the younger members and not putting yourself above them. Also, just being able to laugh with them and relate with them really helps, because a lot more mutual respect comes that way.

JW: What do you see in the future for your club?

LZ: That’s something I’m pretty nervous about actually, because this is my last year at State High. Our club is very player-focused. Our coaches are more like advisors, and they support us, but it’s really up to the captains or presidents to determine the course of where the club goes. Hopefully our club only continues to grow, and I think that will happen. Over the past few years we have grown a lot—we’ve like doubled in size. And If I do end up going to college nearby, I’ll probably continue coaching at the club. I definitely see State College rising again in the PA scene, because I think we have a lot more potential and a strong membership.

Thank you to Lily for participating in this interview!


Tri-State Tussle III Wrap Up (10/14/17)

24 teams from around Pennsylvania and New York gathered last Saturday in Matamoras for Delaware Valley High School’s annual fall classic. It was a day filled with action, and storylines for the still developing PA quizbowl season.

Full stats are available here.


Delaware Valley A (left) and Lehigh Valley Academy prepare for the second game of the finals, in the school auditorium.

Lehigh Valley Academy, recovering from a slow start, relatively speaking, at UMD Fall, rebounded for perhaps the most dominant Alex Schmidt romp yet. His 178 points per game, 79 powers, and a scant 10 negs (less than one a round) were unbeatable, as LVA won every game by over 170 points and never scored less than 455 in any match. These numbers indicate that perhaps there is an even further gear Alex has not reached, and that prospect is frightening. LVA triumphed over home team Delaware Valley A’s squad, who went 9-2 with losses only to Lehigh. Delaware Valley has shaped into a well rounded team over the summer, indicating some solid studying. Collin remains excellent as ever (46 ppg), though Frani has really emerged as a second high volume scoring threat (42 ppg), and Abhay and Andy have nicely developed into potent co-3rd chairs that add several powers a tournament. Delaware Valley reminds me a lot of last year’s state champion Winchester Thurston team, and they might have a special run in them.

Third place went to Ithaca A of New York, showing that last year’s T-8 team at nationals last year is still a threatening presence. Downingtown STEM split teams at the tournament to give younger players a chance to score more, and Vishwa, playing solo, hit a cool 126 points per game, which I believe is the best non-Schmidt number we’ve seen in Pennsylvania since at least three seasons ago. Vishwa remains a player of the year frontrunner. Troy (NY) took fifth, and the last playoff team was Penn Manor, who had a breakthrough performance and their first pyramidal invitational playoff berth. Connor broke through with a 61 ppg day. The finesse is yet to come (Penn Manor had few powers), but this is a program with strong potential do to some damage in the future.

In lower brackets, Downingtown STEM B finished 7th behind a strong performance from Anish. Lakeland returned to action, and in what’s supposed to be a rebuild year for them, performed very well, with Michael putting up a 20/65/14 line that powered Lakeland to a 7-3 record. Wallenpaupack, Moravian, and Berwick, Northeast PA regulars, also saw their first action of the season. While none looks to have title hopes, these teams still had many solid buzzes all around and continued to build strong quizbowl institutions. I want to make a special shout-out to Berwick B, a team of three freshmen and a sophomore, who put up a scrappy, awesome performance against LVA and managed five powers against a legendary player in a game I got the fortune to moderate. With good coaching and good studying, Berwick might have something really special in a few years.

Pound for pound, Tri-State Tussle gave a lot of teams the chance to play an excellent set and show what they knowed in style. Though one bad room of moderators delayed the morning rounds in one bracket almost an hour, kudos to TDs Paul Nelson and Kevin DeVizia, who fixed the issues so the afternoon went off without a hitch. The ride to the Water Gap is a long one, but one I’m sure these teams are glad they made.



An enthusiastic Delaware Valley D.

Nittany Lion Novice III Wrap-Up (10/7/17)

Eleven teams were on hand this past saturday to kick of the Pennsylvania quizbowl season at Penn State University. The third annual Nittany Lion Novice, an event designed for underclassmen and new-to-quizbowl players, featured a crop of young quizbowlers from four schools ready for action.

Stats are here.


State College A with their book prizes for winning first place at NLN.

The tournament used the DEFT set, which, although advertised as a regular minus set appropriate for a novice field, turned out to be yet another overly difficult housewrite that resulted in many low scores and pitchers duels which were no fault of the players themselves. The fact that so many overcame the difficult set to have big performances makes them all the more impressive.

State College A won the event, going 9-1 during the round robin and beating their own C team in an advantaged final. They looked strong all day, using enthusiasm as a weapon and willing their way to wins despite the occasional mistake. Chris K.’s literature knowledge proved especially useful on the day, as literature can be a hard skill to find in starter quizbowlers. Third place went to Manheim Township A, who lost a half packet tiebreaker of 8-2 teams for the right to join the final. Camp Hill and Huntingdon each sent a team, as well as Manheim Township’s middle school. State College, still flashing their signature depth, managed to field six teams (without any upperclassmen!). I was amazed by the parity of the field, as no team had an average margin of victory or loss greater than 175 points and many students really got to show their stuff. Andrew from Huntingdon was the tournament’s highest scorer for players that were there the whole day, with 63 points per game and a strong 13/50/13 line. Also worth mentioning was Manheim Township Middle’s AZ, who scored 49 points a game despite being one of the tournament’s youngest players.

I saw a lot of raw talent on the field Saturday, and I am excited to see many of these young quizbowlers continue to learn and score as their careers take off.



Manheim Township A during the morning phase of the round-robin.

Rutgers Scarlet Knight Fall (9/23/17), Maryland Fall, and Princeton PHSAT Wrap-Ups (9/30/2017)

On two Saturdays in September, 9/23 and 9/30, seven Pennsylvania schools ventured outside of the borders of our fair state to open their quizbowl seasons. With some impressive showings all around, this year stands poised to be an extremely exciting one in Pennsylvania!

At Rutgers’ Scarlet Knight Fall tournament on 9/23, three teams from Friends Select and two from Delaware Valley began their 2017-18 campaigns. DV A finished the highest of the lot, ending up in the superplayoffs for 3rd place and claiming 5th overall. Colin Kawan-Hemler continued to lead the way with 45.65 points per game, but his teammates all added solid contributions, particlarly Frani King’s 35.22 PPG. They also won a game by the slightest of margins, 335-330, over Friends Select A. FSS A also demonstrated a balanced attack on the day, with 51.36 PPG from Richard Chen, 34.55 from Jake Shapiro, and 29.09 from Rudyard Lynch. Both teams notched key wins against top teams from the New Jersey region, as DV defeated Kellenberg A and Saint Joseph’s A, while FSS downed Princeton A. Both squads justified their preseason rankings nicely, and they look set for strong seasons ahead.

Friends Select B and C and Delaware Valley B also had good days as well, each finishing 4-7. FSS B demonstrated some balance of their own, as each of their players averaged at least a tossup per game. Jonah Taranta put in some impressive work as top scorer with 35.91 PPG. On DV B, Emma Dove led the way with 46.82 PPG, with strong support from Chris Secular. It’s certainly exciting to see programs continue to develop strong players for the future! Full stats for the Scarlet Knight Fall tournament can be found at this link.

Downingtown STEM and Lehigh Valley Academy each went 7-4 and finished 4th and 5th, respectively, against a challenging field on a housewritten set at Maryland Fall at the University of Maryland. STEM’s Vishwa Shanmugam compiled an especially impressive statline, scoring 103.18 points per game on the day, with 59 powers to 33 10s. The team as a whole added a major feather to its cap with a 430-290 win over Maryland power Montgomery Blair A, and they also scored a 435-275 victory over preseason #1 Lehigh Valley Academy. Alex Schmidt played solo on the day and put up nothing less than the spectacular numbers we’ve come to expect from him, going 60/67/8 for 139.09 PPG. Aside from one ten point victory against Thomas Jefferson C, though, his matches had high variance, as he either won big (including getting all 20 tossups against TJ D) or lost by a decent margin. Nonetheless, both teams should be proud of their excellent work at a difficult tournament! Stats for the day can be found here. You can also see an extremely cool breakdown of points by category for teams and players here.

Three more Pennsylvania schools, Downingtown EastHenderson, and “Western Lehigh”, played at Princeton on NAQT IS-168. Downingtown East and Henderson A played in the “competitive” division, while Henderson B and Western Lehigh were in the “standard” division. D-East had a relatively tough go of it, going 2-4 in the morning rounds and 4-6 on the day, but well-deserved plaudits must be given to GPQB contributor Jackie Wu for leading the competitive division in the prelim rounds with 69.17 PPG. Henderson A had a strong day, going 4-2 in the preliminaries and earning a place in the second afternoon bracket. They were led by last year’s GPQB JV Player of the Year, Vijay Anne, with 58.33 PPG in their impressive morning performance, with good support from teammates Aravind and Aidan. Henderson is a team clearly on the up-and-up, making for further excitement in southeastern PA tournaments to come.

In the standard division, Western Lehigh rode a strong performance from Sahil Inaganti (you can find our recent interview with him here) all the way to a third place finish. In many ways, Sahil and his team remind me of myself and my former Emmaus squad. He is clearly a strong generalist already, with further room to grow especially on points per bonus, and if his teammates can hone in on a couple of key categories, they can be a team nobody will want to face. Finally, Henderson B also acquitted themselves well on the day, going 3-3 in the morning rounds and topping their afternoon bracket. Three of their players, Will, Dhanush, and Abheya, all averaged over 20 PPG on the day, showing off their strong potential. Stats for both divisions at Princeton can be found at this link.

A brief note about posting tournament stats: Full stats from Princeton were not released until this afternoon (10/7), thus explaining the timing of this post. Posting stats a full week after the tournament is, quite frankly, not acceptable. When hosting a tournament, you should have a person whose dedicated job is to get stats completed and posted by Sunday evening at the latest. Taking some time to familiarize yourself with SQBS (here is a link to a good guide) can pay great dividends in getting stats published and available for interested teams, parents, and readers!

– Ryan