Nationals

2019 SSNCT Wrap-Up

This year’s Small School National Championship Tournament saw over 152 teams from across the country gather outside of Chicago for a weekend of quizbowl competition between small schools. Despite upsets along the way, the favorites in both the Traditional Public and Open division took home the gold. Congratulations to Glasgow (KY) and Miami Valley (OH) on their SSNCT titles for public and open, respectively.

Stats for the tournament are here. If you need a refresher on the format, see my preview post from earlier this week. For this post, I’m going to summarize some of the major headlines regarding the Pennsylvania teams.

Friends Select and Winchester Thurston Shine, Build Friendly Rivalry

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Friends Select, on the way back to the airport, did quite well at SSNCT with several strong wins.

In terms of finish, the Pennsylvanians that scaled the highest were Philadelphia’s Friends Select and Pittsburgh’s Winchester Thurston, both finishing T-11th in the Open Division. They did well against a stacked field, but also worked to build what’s becoming one of the state’s most enjoyable quizbowl rivalries. The card system pitted them together twice in the prelim rounds. In Round 3, Thurston pulled out the last tossup to win a hard-fought squeaker, 360-355, in what all involved said was a great match. Friends Select avenged themselves 345-240 in the afternoon. After they didn’t get a chance to play for a third time in the playoffs, the two teams wanted to settle the question with a best-of-3 match, and scrimmaged each other informally (WT won) before playing some celebratory pop culture matches. It’s fantastic to see that the schools have not only started a charismatic, Philly-Pitt rivalry for top small private schools, but also are friendly and great sports as well.

Huntingdon Impresses in Traditional Public Tournament

The other playoff qualifier for PA this year was Huntingdon, who swung T-17th in the Traditional Public division. Taking my prediction to heart, they made sure to rub in their successes every time I encountered the team. It’s great to see them continue to do well and represent Central PA with honor and pride year in, year out. I can remember watching their first tournament appearance in 2015, and since then they’ve continued to study hard and enjoy quizbowl to the fullest. Well done!

Despite Strong Effort, Camp Hill’s Streak Ends

In something of a sad note, Camp Hill’s streak of eight 11th-or-better finishes ended this year, with a series of tough losses after a promising 4-2 start as Raceland-Worthington (KY) beat them in a win-and-in game between 5-4 teams in the last round. By points-per-game, Camp Hill was the best team to miss the playoffs, and exceeded the points-per-bonus of many playoff entrants to boot. While it’s a shame that the streak ended, this only means an opportunity to begin a new one. Sydney capped off a memorable career with just shy of 60 points per 20 tossups, good for 15th nationally individually.

First-Timers Sharpsville and Germantown Friends Have a Blast

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Sharpsville is all smiles as they wait for their next opponents.

PA had a first-time entrant for nationals in both divisions, and both had some highlight moments. In Traditional Public, Sharpsville went 4-6. PA alum Adam Swift and I, who were moderating together, had them come through our room twice on Saturday, and they seemed to be having a blast. Jared and Brenna both had great, multi-buzz performances in a defeat of Gold Beach (OR) we read, which was their first win. Meanwhile, Germantown Friends debuted in open, and went 5-5. This team had no seniors and performed well against a very tough schedule draw. They will be on many PA pollsters’ radars come the preseason for the 2019-2020 season.

Numerous PA Schools Build For the Future

While it may not have been the first rodeo for these schools, Westmont Hilltop, Lakeland, South Side, and Southern Fulton also contested the Public division, and Moravian A and B contested in Open. All went either 5-5 and 4-6, acquitting themselves well on these questions. Once again, many of these players are underclassmen, and surely learned quite a bit at this tournament. Josh from Southern Fulton made the top 20 players for Public with 53 PP20TUHs (Points-Per-20-Tossups-Heard–yeah it’s a mouthful, but it’s used at NAQT nationals because the number of tossups heard each game is variable and so they normalize scoring by every 20 tossups heard).

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South Side, having fun during the preliminary rounds.

This tournament was a thrill to staff. I have done a few SSNCT wrap-ups in the past, but it’s completely different to be on the ground and experience it as the players do, with twists and turns, highs and lows of emotion, and wonderful friends and conversations. At its heart, quizbowl is about people, and this SSNCT showed that. Major props to Nathan Murphy and the NAQT logistics team, who ran this event without a hitch and made the staffer experience a breeze.

-Ben

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2018 NASAT Wrap-Up

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Pennsylvania sent three teams of five players each to the 2018 National All-Star Academic Tournament this past weekend. The players were selected by PSACA to attend the event, which was hosted by International Quiz Bowl Tournaments (IQBT) at the University of Kentucky. The tournament featured more difficult questions than other national championships like the NSC and HSNCT.

Stats are here.

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PA Blue with their 5th place plaques (L to R: Jakobi, Alex, Vishwa, Dan, Bryce)

In a field of 29 teams, Pennsylvania Blue took 5th place after losing on the last tossup in a tiebreaker against California A. Alex Schmidt (Lehigh Valley, 12) and Vishwa Shanmugam (Downingtown STEM, 12) led the team in scoring, earning 3rd and 4th individually in the prelims with 65 and 60 points per game, respectively. Combined with contributions from Jakobi Deslouches (Allderdice, 11), Bryce Katch (Manheim Township, 12), and Dan Nguyen (Manheim Township, 12), Blue defeated teams like Tennessee, Virginia A, and even eventual champions Illinois A.

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PA Gold (L to R: Richard, Jackie, Austin, Michael; missing Will)

Pennsylvania Gold made the top tier of playoffs with a 4-2 prelim record after losing to only Ohio A and Maryland Gold on Saturday morning. Richard Chen (Friends Select, 12) led the team with 40 PPG in the prelims while Michael Goerlitz (Lakeland, 12), Austin Davis (Allderdice, 11), Will Davis (Shady Side, 12), and Jackie Wu (Downingtown East, 12) provided several buzzes per game as well. Though they struggled against tough teams like PA Blue, Tennessee, Virginia, and California, they got a 250-170 win against New York A in a difficult playoff bracket and finished 12th overall.

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PA White (L to R: Vijay, Will, Connor, Anish, Michael)

Pennsylvania White, a slightly younger team than the senior-heavy Blue and Gold squads, was made up of Vijay Anne (Henderson, 10), Michael Buffa (Manheim Township, 12), Anish Gadgil (Downingtown STEM, 11), Connor Mayers (Penn Manor, 10), and Will Yaeger (Hempfield, 11). They played close games throughout the tournament with almost half their games coming down to the last tossup, though their only win was a 170-160 victory over Virginia C.

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PA team mascots, L to R: Leon (PA White), Snickerpoodle (PA Blue), Barkhausen (PA Gold)

Congrats to Illinois A for winning the tournament for the third year in a row, and special thanks to Fred Morlan and Nicole Leedy for forming IQBT to ensure that this year’s NASAT could happen. To the seniors, we wish the best of luck in the future, and we hope to see all the underclassmen back at NASAT next year!

-The Staff

2018 PACE National Scholastic Championship Wrap-Up

This past Saturday and Sunday saw the last major quizbowl event of the year, the PACE National Scholastic Championship. 96 teams from around the country competed for the title, including six Pennsylvania squads. Qualification for this tournament required finishing in the top 20 or 25 percent of teams at a PACE-certified tournament. Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology A (VA) took first place, defeating Dublin Scioto (OH) in the first game of an advantaged final.

Full stats for the tournament can be found at this link. Please note that at the NSC, incorrect or unanswered bonus parts bounce back to the opposing team, and these bounceback statistics are displayed in the final three columns on the right, while traditional points per bonus stats appear to their left.

Downingtown STEM capped off their incredible season with a bang, finishing in 18th place with a record of 13-5. Vishwa Shanmugam was the tournament’s 6th-top overall scorer with 112.78 PPG, and Anish Gadgil and Rohan Vora each added solid contributions as well. STEM took home several victories against the nation’s top teams, including St. John’s (TX) as well as HSNCT runners-up Hunter (NY). For a team to go from not playing pyramidal quizbowl to placing 18th at NSC in 18 months is nothing short of astonishing, and D-STEM deserves tremendous credit for putting in the hard work to make it happen.

In the final act of Alex Schmidt’s high school quizbowl career, Lehigh Valley Academy took 21st place, with a 12-6 record, while also capturing the small school championship. Alex showed his ability to buzz all over the distribution once again, finishing with a whopping 138.89 PPG. He did fall to D-STEM in an exciting 370-330 match, but recorded strong wins as well over Robinson (VA) and Georgetown Day (DC). Speaking for myself, I saw Alex’s potential in playing against him when he was a freshman and I a senior, and it has been nice to see it pay off through strong finishes like this one.

Manheim Township A finished 30th overall (12-5 record), the highest finish at NSC in school history. Many of us counted out this group at the start of the year, and they certainly proved us wrong. Seniors Bryce Katch and Dan Nguyen led the way for the Blue Streaks, but fellow senior Michael Buffa and sophomore Will Steger both contributed over 20 PPG as well. Though they took a loss to LVA, the team scored a big-time win over national powerhouse LASA A (360-280), and were one tiebreaker away from making the top bracket. An excellent end to the season for this group.

Great Valley finished in 58th place, with a 6-9 record. Sam Scarfone demonstrated his skills once again with 59.33 PPG, while Dan Chen and Mark Neri also added over 20 PPG each. GV started the day 0-5, but rebounded to win 6 of their last 10 matches, including a nice victory over past SSNCT champion AMSA (MA). Not quite the ending this squad may have been hoping for, but it has still been fun to watch them develop over the years.

After missing HSNCT due to scheduling issues, Delaware Valley claimed 62nd place (7-8 record). As has been the case for most of the year, Colin Kawan-Hemler (46.67 PPG) and Frani King (29.33 PPG) set the pace, and DV also got noteworthy efforts from two returning juniors, Emma Dove and Chris Secular. The team squeaked out a tight 250-240 win over top Kentucky team Dunbar, and also beat strong teams in Okemos (MI) and Saint Joseph (IN). Overall, a nice weekend for the class of Northeast PA.

Finally, Manheim Township B took 86th place with a 5-10 record. This young team was composed exclusively of sophomores and juniors, including lead scorers Zac Stapler and Cyril Hainthaler, who will hope to play key roles next year as Manheim Township reloads for another season. This nationals experience will likely prove quite valuable in this regard.

And with that, another year in Pennsylvania quizbowl comes to a close. It has been an exciting campaign all around, and I have greatly enjoyed following it throughout. Stay tuned for our end-of-season rankings and final discussion on the season, coming soon!

-Ryan Bilger

2018 NAQT High School National Championship Tournament Wrap-Up

The 2018 HSNCT is now in the books and we have capsule recaps for all the PA schools who attended in order of their finish. Remember: there were 352 teams at the tournament, that this tournament required qualification by finishing in the top 15% at a NAQT tournament during the year, and that there are several thousand schools out there across the U.S. who competed in quizbowl this year.

Note: One of the main statistics that will be mentioned here is “PP20TUH,” which is a way of normalizing the points scored by a player for every 20 toss-up questions heard during a round given that NAQT rounds have variable numbers of questions due to being timed (this statistic really needs a better name–suggestions welcome!)

Stats for the full tournament can be found at this link. The victors were Plano West (TX), who defeated two-time incumbent champ Hunter College High School (NY) in the final. This year marked the 20th HSNCT.

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D-STEM getting ready for a match en route to their Top 10 finish.

Downingtown STEM
Record: 12-4
Overall Finish: 8th place
Best Win(s): 425-320 over Thomas Jefferson Science & Tech A (VA) and 465-200 over Montgomery Blair A (MD)
Comments: STEM lived up to their billing at this event with two outstanding wins over national powerhouses. They finished in the top 10 for PA’s best finish since the 2011 State College team. True to form, Vishwa played high-risk, high-reward quizbowl and mostly succeeded, with 65 powers to go with 45 negs, while Anish and Rohan both added a solid 17 PP20TUH of support.

Lehigh Valley
Record: 12-3
Overall Finish: 12th place
Best Win(s): 425-340 over Hunter A (NY)
Comments: Alex Schmidt ends his NAQT playing career with a pretty incredible performance of 78 powers against only 29 negs, easily taking the individual scoring title for the tournament with 127 PP20TUH. An early loss against Hunter A may have been one of the best-played and highest-scoring games in modern HSNCT history with 910 combined points scored in the 305-605 loss. Yet again though, the old rule of national championships (at least at the high school+ level) rears its head: it’s very hard to make a deep run or win a national title without a full team and LV never quite got a supporting group to complement Alex’s skill set.

Allderdice
Record: 11-4
Overall Finish: 12th place
Best Win(s): 395-295 over Detroit Catholic Central A (MI), 380-200 over Early College at Guilford A (NC)
Comments: Allderdice has gone from a good regional PA team to one of the best in the state and region, a testament to how much hard work and studying can pay off in a relatively short amount of time (esp. from lead scorer Jamie whose 37.5 PP20TUH came from someone who hadn’t begun playing before this school year). Claiming a W over DCC A is an extraordinarily rare feat in quizbowl and though DCC eventually got its revenge in the playoffs, Allderdice may have the last laugh in the future with all of its players other than Jamie coming back. Fear the dragons next year.

Allderdice with their T-12 trophy.

State College B
Record: 8-5
Overall Finish: 51st place
Best Win(s): 230-200 over Bellarmine (CA), 285-210 over Paul Blazer (KY)
Comments: Youth triumphs over experience with State College’s freshmen and sophomores actually besting their A team’s finish. SC B also saved its best for the playoffs, winning against two veteran teams in close matches before bowing to Canyon Crest (CA)’s B team. Albert’s 53.62 PP20TUH made him far and away the best freshman in the field at the tournament and the rest of the team all made strong contributions. Although the Gittings era at State College continues to recede further into the past, the Zhang dynasty looks poised to continue its newfound prominence within the the Central PA and state circuit.

Manheim Township A
Record: 7-5
Overall Finish: 51st
Best Win(s): 280-250 over Dorman A (SC)
Comments: This year’s Township A team did a nice job of making improvements across the course of the whole season and all of its players adapted well into the trademark well-balanced, disciplined MT A team. Continuing to make the playoffs at HSNCT and picking up a win over a strong opponent is something pretty much every team in the country would like to be able to do, and this year’s MT A team kept up that tradition.

Friends Select A
Record: 7-5
Overall Finish: 77th
Best Win(s): 325-200 over East Brunswick (NJ), 345-145 over State College A
Comments: FSS A’s talented duo of Richard and Jake capped off their playing careers with a strong run to the playoffs that ended with some particularly tough matchups in the final two prelim rounds and their playoff rounds. Richard (45.45 PP20TUH) scaled particularly well to the higher difficulty of the questions but all of FSS A’s members did their parts to make the playoff run they’d been eyeing for the past few years and sending 2017-2018 PA Coach of the Year Abbi Smith off with a playoff win.

State College A
Record: 7-5
Overall Finish: 77th
Best Win(s): 295-255 over St. Joseph Central A (MO), 275-205 over Acton-Boxborough (MA)
Comments: State College A played a remarkably well-balanced roster this tournament with all its team members scoring from 18 to 25 PP20TUH and all getting their moments in the buzz. They had a very good run in the middle of the prelims, beating several strong playoff teams, but quieted down a bit on Sunday. Given the replacements available from the B team, SC A should look to be around Sunday afternoon next year as well.

Downingtown East 
Record: 7-5
Overall Finish: 77th
Best Win(s):  240-195 over Merrol Hyde (TN), 235-180 over Chanhassen (MN)
Comments: After finishing Saturday down 3-4 and needing to win their next 3 straight prelim games to make the playoffs, D-East not only did that but added a commendable playoff win as well. Despite a somewhat remarkable aversion to powers (only 5 for the whole tournament compared to 100 regular toss-ups), D-East should be proud of sending their senior-heavy team off with a win, though they will miss Jackie’s 51+ PP20TUH next year.

Henderson A
Record: 6-5
Overall Finish: 105th
Best Win(s): 360-200 over Alagar Homeschool
Comments: An impressive number of powers (39) was enough to get Henderson A into the playoffs but not enough to get them farther. This is the team’s second playoff performance in three years. A tough playoff matchup ended their tournament a bit early, but they do have the solace of leading scorer Vijay (35.5 PP20TUH) returning.

Shady Side
Record: 6-5
Overall Finish: 105th
Best Win(s): 295-285 over Princeton (NJ)
Comments: Knocking off Princeton HS to make the playoffs by 10 points is probably one of the best ways to make the playoffs, even if Shady Side’s stay in draw was short. This all-senior team was paced by Will (40 PP20TUH) and Fuad (30 PP20TUH) who got to end somewhat underrated Western PA careers on a high note.

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Players from Pennsylvania in a “How to Play Quizbowl” video that NAQT filmed on site. Friends Select, Downingtown East, State College, and Great Valley are represented.

Great Valley A
Record: 5-5
Overall Finish: 145th
Best Win(s): 325-220 over Hanover (NH), 270-220 over Glasgow (KY)
Comments: GV A got hit with 7 (!) playoff teams in the course of their prelim schedule including some of the inevitable unbalanced (e.g. 4-2 vs. 3-3 record) matchups and had 3 losses on the final tossup. Tough breaks for this group of seniors who cut back considerably on the negs and got a nice win over SSNCT champs Glasgow as well as keeping it very close against Clark (NV).

Alagar Homeschool
Record: 5-5
Overall Finish: 148th
Best Win(s): 355-260 over East Chapel Hill (NC)
Comments: The Alagars reached the heights of a 5-2 record on Saturday with wins over several playoff teams including eventual 20th-place finisher East Chapel Hill, but then crashed on Sunday, losing 3 matches in a row to finish out of the playoffs. It was always tough to place the Alagars given their relatively infrequent playing schedule, but Western PA quizbowl will lose a strong competitor and a bounty of history knowledge as all of the current Alagar players are graduating.

Penn Manor
Record: 5-5
Overall Finish: 150th
Best Win(s): 310-85 over Burnsville A (MN)
Comments: Penn Manor’s first return to HSNCT since their 2013 debut went about as expected, with lots of solid all-around play (and a solid 14.9 PPB) that kept them in matches but couldn’t quite put them over the hump of the playoffs. Connor’s 63.8 PP20TUH was pretty impressive scaling of knowledge to the HSNCT difficulty and will be an excellent building block to build on in future years, but the rest of his teammates also contributed both a decent number of powers (7) and a surfeit of negs (30).

Great Valley B
Record: 5-5
Overall Finish: 172nd
Best Win(s): 300-85 over Trinity (NY)
Comments: The youth of Great Valley look like they’re nicely prepared to step into the roles of their A team next year. There will be similar stories with many of these other B teams as none of the PA schools other than State College really had a B team as a threat to make a playoff run (this year at least).

Henderson B
Record: 5-5
Overall Finish: 197th place
Best Win(s): 225-50 over Chattahoochee D (GA)
Comments: This team made it to a .500 record, but had a fairly manageable schedule with which to do it against mostly 3-7 teams. With the opportunity for a marquee win against Santa Monica A that could have vaulted them into the playoffs, they weren’t able to make it happen.

Manheim Township B
Record: 5-5
Overall Finish: 207th Place
Best Win(s): 245-160 over Westview (OR)
Comments: Similar to the other B teams on this list outside of State College, MT B gained valuable hard-question and NAQT-style experience while not making too many waves. The ranks of MT A will be replenished with veterans now.

Friends Select B
Record: 4-6
Overall Finish: 226th Place
Best Win(s): 220-120 over Gate City (VA)
Comments: FSS B cleared the playing cupboard with six players all contributing on this team. Five of the six will be back next year for FSS.

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Friends Select’s departing coach, Abbi Smith, with her PA Coach of the Year award.

Northwest Penn Collegiate
Record: 4-6
Overall Finish: 229th Place
Best Win(s): 320-120 over Auburn (AL)
Comments: In a welcome return to HSNCT after many years (NWPCA attended some of the first HSNCTs ever in the late 1990s), NWPCA put in a respectable performance, actually out-powering a strong Darien A team in the first round. Their top three scorers will return next year and we’d love to see NWPCA attend some more local tournaments as well as HSNCT then.

Emmaus
Record: 4-6
Overall Finish: 254th Place
Best Win(s): 230-70 over Springfield (IL)
Comments: Plaudits to Emmaus for venturing back to HSNCT after a few years away, but they did seem to tire a bit with their PPB going down considerably in the final few preliminary rounds. More local tournament experience could prove valuable for them in future years, though they lose a good bit of their scoring including Ben (~40 PP20TUH).

Wallenpaupack
Record: 4-6
Overall Finish: 271st Place
Best Win(s): 240-155 over Kansas City (MO)
Comments: Wallenpaupack came back with distinctive purple team shirts, but their scoring was down compared to last year. They might want to work on that 9-21 Power-to-Neg ratio in the future.

Indiana Area
Record: 4-6
Overall Finish: 286th Place
Best Win(s): 165-155 over Detroit Country Day B, 195-160 over Little Cypress-Mauriceville (TX)
Comments: Vince (32 PP20TUH) and company got to cap off their HS quizbowl careers with a solid performance. They also won a close 26-TU overtime match against Detroit Country Day B, 165-155.

Lancaster Mennonite
Record: 3-7
Overall Finish: 299th Place
Best Win(s): 280-50 over Westminster B
Comments: After losing star player Brandon to graduating last year, Mennonite’s rebuilding year went about as expected, though they did this with a very young roster who should be a good platform to build on in future years.  They also succeeded in baffling the non-PA teams with their geographic location.

Armstrong
Record: 3-7
Overall Finish: 328th Place
Best Win(s): 125-100 over Pleasant Hill (MO)
Comments: Armstrong made their non-league weekend tournament debut at HSNCT and after taking some lumps in the first few rounds put together a few wins in the later rounds. We’re glad to see Armstrong coming down to HSNCT, but we also hope they can attend some more tournaments closer to home in Western PA in future years.

Jim Thorpe
Record: 2-8
Overall Finish: 334th Place
Best Win(s): 160-120 over Ezell-Harding (TN)
Comments: Jim Thorpe is one of the first of what we hope will be many more teams from the various Scholastic Scrimmage shows making the leap over to more quizbowl tournaments from the TV show, so we hope that they enjoyed their trip and will come to more tournaments.

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A group photo taken at the annual PA meetup at HSNCT- which represents only a fraction of the total number of Pennsylvanians attending the event as players, coaches, or staff.

It’s worth noting that in addition to all these teams and their many diverse achievements, the Pennsylvania community and its alumni supplied 22 staffers for this year’s HSNCT, which was just shy of 10% of the total staff on site. It’s fantastic that so many people have stayed involved with the high school game after graduating, keeping the game going from generation to generation. We encourage all Pennsylvania quizbowlers to keep the legacy going by helping out at tournaments, from local leagues to nationals, and in mentoring the next generation of players.

Overall, this tournament showed that PA teams are not only qualifying and attending more national championships, but also finishing higher as a group than ever before. 3 of the top 20 teams were from PA, which ties PA with CA and TX among states with the most schools in the top 20. There’s a lot of talent graduating this year among PA schools, but also plenty on the horizon that can step up. Out of all the PA teams, Allderdice seems best positioned to make a deep run next year as they bring back a considerable number of their top players and now have the kinds of high-level experience. But given that this year’s HSNCT champions, Plano West, came out of nowhere to topple a lot of the venerable quizbowl dynasty teams, the takeaway ought to be that any given group of four dedicated players can potentially win a national title if they study. We’re still a young circuit and have a long ways to go in continuing to reach out to more schools who don’t play quizbowl or only compete in county academic competitions, but after this year’s performance Pennsylvania won’t be able to use the underdog narrative again.

-The Staff

2018 SSNCT Wrap-Up

Last weekend, 11 teams from 9 Pennsylvania schools tried their hand at NAQT’s Small School National Championship Tournament (SSNCT), with some decidedly good results. For more information on the tournament itself, see our preview of the event from last week.

Full stats are here.

Public Division Wrap-Up

The traditional public school division witnessed a truly impressive undefeated run to the championship from Glasgow High in Kentucky. Meanwhile, the PA teams acquitted themselves well to an exciting challenge.

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Camp Hill with their haul for this SSNCT. Photo courtesy Camp Hill’s team Twitter

The highest finish (a 10th place-tie) went to Camp Hill, who extended their streak of top 11 finishes into an eighth season. Alex’s 18-power performance capped off his high school career with a bang, and Sydney led the team in scoring with 42.46 PP20 (Points per 20 tossups). They got to T-10 by winning a head-to-head match-up with Huntingdon A, who were in as impressive a form as they’ve ever been. Steady improvement since they joined the circuit three years ago has produced their best finish yet. Andrew led them in scoring, and as a 10th grader, was named one of NAQT’s rising stars for the event. While it’s a shame when a PA team has to eliminate another at nationals, both did well and should be proud of how far they got.

South Side from Beaver County also made the playoffs, with a pair of thrilling wins against South Shelby and Pilot Grove, both from Missouri, in the final prelim rounds. This took South Side from 4-4 and on the ropes to 6-4 and into the playoffs. Both of those final wins were both by 20 points or less. Good clutch performances like these under pressure are a great confidence boost, and I hope South Side parlays this into even more next season.

Outside the playoffs, Westmont Hilltop wound up just short at 5-5 with one of the best statistical performances from a non-playoff team. They did capture quizbowl’s hearts again with their second year of featured jamming with one player’s recorder on NAQT’s Instagram. Huntington’s B team also went 5-5, flaunting our expectations of them and showing the team might have sustained depth for years to come. Lakeland unfortunately finished 4-6, on account of their best player not making the tournament due to illness. While a disappointing finish for their best season ever, they still have lots to be proud of. Speaking of Northeastern PA, Riverside High also finished 4-6 and was the only Pennsylvania team that was completely new to pyramidal invitationals this year to attend this SSNCT. In their nationals debut, they performed solidly, especially their captain, Jake, with 34 PP20. It’s great to see them challenging themselves and we are happy to have them aboard the circuit.

Open Division Wrap-Up

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Winchester Thurston and Friends Select play an all-PA match.

The biggest story from this year’s SSNCT for PA was unquestionably Philadelphia’s own Friends Select, who took home second place overall in the Open Division (Private and Charter and Selective Magnet schools). As teams seek to prepare for the later nationals in May, FSS looks to be peaking in fine form. Friends Select powered as many as 10 questions in one round, and got key contributions from a number of players. Saras, one of their fourth chairs, managed to power more than he 10’d, and Jake had the tournament of his life (to date) with several key powers in the playoff run. FSS was also the only team to defeat the tournament champion, Early College at Guilford (NC). This occurred in the first game of the finals (in which FSS had a disadvantage) after Friends Select had lost to ECG three times already. In a convoluted, multi-protest, very tense game that took almost an hour to complete (and can be viewed on YouTube here), the Falcons came out on top. While they lost the second game of the finals, they have so much to be proud of and made the eventual champions “go the distance.” Kudos to all five players as well as GPQB Coach of the Year Abbi Smith on a great performance.

Not to be ignored behind them was a quite excellent Tie-5th place finish for Winchester Thurston. This longtime Pittsburgh powerhouse got there once again with their signature balanced attack, as all four players cleared 19 PP20. While their overall scoring averages would put them in line with teams than finished lower, Thurston continues to play scrappy and beat teams at any level, a trend from previous nationals. Moravian Academy sent two teams to the event and their A team made the playoffs with a 6-4 prelim record. They are steadily improving and look to continue even further next year. In yet another all-PA matchup, Thurston and Moravian met in their first playoff game, where the former triumphed 445-110.

Friends Select with their second place trophy. NAQT’s President, R. Hentzel, is at left.

SSNCT showed top PA small schools can flex their muscles; now it is time to see how their larger counterparts can handle the pressure next month at HSNCT.

-Ben

How to Prepare for Quizbowl National Tournaments: 8 Tips

This year, Pennsylvania has an incredible 23 teams attending the NAQT HSNCT, 8 teams attending the NAQT SSNCT, and several attending the PACE NSC (you can see our full guide to the different national championships here).

So what should Pennsylvanian scholars be doing to prepare for the challenge of nationals? Here are eight tips for prepping to do your best at the national champs:

1. Study more challenging questions
This is, without a doubt, the most important thing for a team to do. Nationals-level questions are always a step above what you’ve played during the year, sometimes substantially so. The jump in difficulty can be particularly tough for teams that relied mostly on studying old regular-season packets during the year since nationals will introduce a whole new set of tougher clues and answerlines. If you have what quizbowl likes to call “real knowledge” about a subject from your own outside interests or reading, then that’s more likely to scale than the knowledge you got from playing lots of Protobowl online.

If you can, read old packets from the SSNCT, HSNCT, and/or NSC exclusively in practice for the last few months and invest some time in studying certain areas in depth. The NSC packets from previous years are free online; NAQT charges for old HSNCT packets, though attendees can take home the set for free at the end of the tournament to use as future practice material. You may be playing against literally the best high school players in the country on various topics, so depth can be quite handy here, but you also want to make sure you’re exposed to a wide variety of possible answers so that you can also nab the (many) TUs that come down to after the “For Ten Points.”

2. Study the current year’s college questions
Reading a few college sets as well, especially those from earlier in this competition season like ACF Fall or EFT, can be a good way to not only read more challenging questions but to get an idea of what topics are hot in the world of college quizbowl. Many of the writers of the high school nationals question sets are college players themselves, so you want to be aware of what kinds of authors and ideas they’ve been exposed to this year and maybe last year. There’s often a “funnel” effect in quizbowl as new question ideas get introduced first at the college level and then get written about at progressively easier tournaments, so you want to stay on top of what might be funneling down to high school nationals from the college level this year.

3. Prepare for an endurance challenge 
You may have been at long tournaments before, but nationals in particular have a tendency to be mentally exhausting. By the time you get to some of the most crucial games at the end of the day, your team may be rather tired. Bring snacks and be aware of sleep schedules here. It may also help to try to do a long day of practice on a Saturday before the tournament, with periodic breaks for studying, to help simulate what it’ll be like. Keeping calm and not letting any one neg or missed opportunity get to you is crucial; there’s no margin of error for getting in a funk here.

4. Assign roles for who will give answers and when
Make sure it’s clear who is going to be the captain and how you will run answers through that captain. Take special note of rules governing the ability of non-captains to give a response if directed at the reader. The captain should be able to give responses before the moderator calls time and be willing to defer to other players on hard-to-pronounce bonus answers. Be absolutely clear on whether or not you’re going to try to power-vulch on certain questions and how you might try to signal (nonverbally, of course) who will buzz at the end of a question after your opponent has negged. This is where teamwork and knowing/trusting your teammates is crucial, so do spend some time working on this.

5. Know the rules 
This seems obvious, but you can expect the rules at nationals to be enforced to the letter. Any leeway that you might be used to during the regular season will likely not be present. Know the timing rules, know the protest rules, and know the rules relating to answer correctness. For instance, did you know that at NSC if you try to quickly give an answer to cut off a bounceback that the moderator will finish reading the bonus part anyways? (Rule EX. 3a.) And at HSNCT, did you know that if you change your answer before you have finished one complete word, the second answer will be evaluated for correctness (so “Greaaaa…Crime and Punishment” will be evaluated for “Crime and Punishment” but “Great Eh…Crime and Punishment” will be evaluated as “Great Eh” since one word was completed)? Look through the rulebooks well before the tournament and make sure that you’re familiar with all these things since you can be sure that your opponents have.

6. Think about potential close-game scenarios
This is particularly relevant for the NAQT tournaments since those are on the clock, but the use of bounce-backs at NSC can also result in some interesting end-game scenario math. Essentially, you want to try to figure out when you want to try to speed the game up or slow the game down to maximize your chance of winning. If you have a lead, you may want to slow the game down a bit, but only if the lead is fairly substantial. If you’re behind, you want to speed the game up (particularly by responding to bonus parts quickly), but you also don’t want to miss out on points unless you simply need one more cycle. For instance, if you are down by 50 points and there is 30 seconds left, the most you could score on one cycle is 45 so you need to get to another TU-bonus cycle no matter what and may want to go quickly through the question/bonus simply to have a shot to win the game. In contrast, if down by 40, you could win on that question with a power on the tossup and a 30 on the bonus. This is where having worked through a few scenarios in advance could pay off in spades, so do think through what you might do in various situations.

7. Study Current Events and Pop Culture (HSNCT and SSNCT in particular)
For reasons that still remain unclear, one of the most study-able things in quizbowl is often one of the areas that teams leave as a gaping hole in their knowledge base. Yes, you can’t read old current events questions to prepare for this year’s current events, but you can study for this by reading the news and treating CE and pop culture (often called “trash”) like a serious subject. Take a look at the NAQT distribution for current events and trash (and you might look at all the other sub-distributions as well if you’re ambitious) and start to think like a question writer–what topics would you write on within the last year to fill out the World Social CE? What might be the Science and Business CE TUs? Who on our team will answer the baseball question? What minor sports might come up? You may not like CE or Trash, but those are worth just as many points as regular academic subject questions and you don’t want to concede those to your opponents.

8. Get familiar with the location
The physical location of the tournament is also something to think about. Most of the nationals are at hotels, so take a look at the floorplan in advance (usually available on the hotel’s website or in your folder at check-in) so you have some idea of where to go. The last thing you want during a tournament is to get lost in a hotel or go up into the wrong tower of the hotel between matches, forcing you to rush to the next room. If you’ll have breaks in between matches, you might also want to know good locations to go to for a snack or just to hang out somewhere other than sprawling on the ground.

Chris

2017 HSNCT Wrap Up – Cinderellas and Camaraderie

Last year at HSNCT, Pennsylvania set a lot of records for its performance and the teams generally exceeded expectations. This year, our students raised the bar even higher. Records were shattered, as 18 teams from 16 schools represented Pennsylvania at the event. With seven teams making the playoffs, three making the winner’s bracket, and two making the top-20 in the nation, Pennsylvania’s quantity was matched with some of its highest quality.

Full statistics for the event are here. Hunter College High A (NY) defended their national title, beating Detroit Catholic Central A (MI) in the finals.

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Winchester Thurston, PA’s biggest Cinderella run team in years, poses with their T-9th place trophy. Photo courtesy WT quizbowl’s twitter.

Winchester Thurston made waves across the tournament, becoming the first non-State College team from Pennsylvania to make the national top 10 with a T-9th place finish that almost got them to Sunday afternoon. Fresh from SSNCT’s 4th place, most pegged Thurston to do well, but not go beyond two or three Sunday rounds. WT had other ideas. Their true four-man effort from EJ, Jacob, Nathaniel, and Aidan (all of whom once again worked together and all exceeded 19 points per game) ended up resulting in a fantastic cinderella run, which included a brilliantly fought 390-335 win over Darien A (CT) to make it to T-9th. In the next round, Thurston was one question away from beating James Taylor (Katy, TX) to get into T-5th, but came up just short. To these fine young gentleman as well as (sadly retiring) Coach David Hallas, a hearty well done is in order. Winchester Thurston showed steady improvement across the course of the 2016-2017 season and I know our community will remember their efforts at HSNCT for a long, long time.

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Great Valley and Alagar Homeschool face off in round 10 of the tournament. Photo Courtesy GV Quizbowl’s twitter.

Here are some of the other storylines from PA teams at HSNCT:

  • Lehigh Valley Academy finished at T-15. They had to play Thurston in the first round of the playoffs and were upset by them, but rallied for three more wins while facing elimination each round. Alex Schmidt continues to impress, and his 130 ppg placed him 2nd among all players in America at HSNCT. With one more season left, it will be fascinating to see what he can do next to add to his growing legend. This year is the first year, ever, that PA placed two teams into the top 20 at nats. Will another team join LV up there next year?
  • Manheim Township finished at T-41. Though they lacked a signature win, they proved their continued consistency as a nationally relevant team. This senior class capped off their careers in style, as they can now claim an impressive three top-50 performances at nationals between NSC and HSNCT in separate years. All should be proud with what Manheim Township has built over the years and we hope to see their tradition continue in the future.
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Manheim Township, preparing for a Saturday morning match.

  • Four other Pennsylvania squads made the playoffs: Alagar Homeschool, State College A, Great Valley, and Delaware Valley. Due to the extraordinary number of teams, HSNCT split so that 6-4 teams with better stats got a bye and others did not. All four of these teams unfortunately lost their first playoff game and got knocked out, but Alagar Homeschool and State College did well enough to earn said bye and thus finished T-65 to GV and DV’s T-97. This was a first HSNCT playoff berth for the Alagars and Delaware Valley. Great Valley and the Alagars went head to head in round 10, and the Homeschoolers came out on top, with GV felled by too many negs, an issue that has stuck with them throughout this year and came back to haunt them at the wrong times this year.
  • Pennsylvania also put up a number of near playoff performances in 5-5 teams. Downingtown East was one of the statistically best teams to fall just short, putting up good numbers and a relatively high bonus conversion along the way but succumbing to a badly-timed lapse in the second half of their final round game. Spring Grove finished .500 in their first-ever true pyramidal tournament and hopefully they’ll stick around next year as well. Senior Adam Prusakowski made the most of his brief pyramidal high school career with 68 ppg, good for 20th in the individual standings at HSNCT out of 1472 players. We must continue to reach out to more schools in the future to find players like him at schools across PA. A young Henderson team led by freshman Vijay rolled up with a 5-5 record as well, and this young team could make a lot of noise next year. Friends Select A came up just a hair short due to one of their key players, Jake, missing the event due an emergency, but they acquitted themselves very well. Wallenpaupack, Downingtown STEM, and State College B also finished at this level, each having some solid victories and coming down to the wire in several games which could have swung either way.
  • Lower down, Lancaster Mennonite and Indiana Area finished at 4-6. Brandon Roe from Mennonite finished 27th in the country in scoring, capping off a fine career as the school’s heart and soul player. Indiana also had a nice return to form after a season in which they hadn’t done as well as the past, putting up stats in line with their past performances. Friends Select B finished 3-7, while scrappy Carver, the first public school from either of Pennsylvania’s two big cities to ever attend HSNCT, picked up a couple of wins to finish 2-8.
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PA students play a pick up trash game during a meet-up Saturday night. Great Valley, Henderson, Downingtown East, Downingtown STEM, Lancaster Mennonite, Delaware Valley, Friends Select, and Alagar Homeschool are represented in this photo.

We also continued the tradition inaugurated last year of having a meetup for all PA teams to socialize. Sam Scarfone and Vijay Anne were presented with their GPQB awards, and the students self-organized a spirited game of trash while the coaches discussed organizational plans for next year.

2017 HSNCT will be remembered for its surprises. Having moved up from regional afterthought after last season, Pennsylvania furthered its way along the path to quizbowl-wide prominence and the standard to beat is now set: get a team to Sunday afternoon (top 8). The Commonwealth’s 16 schools represented at nationals was also the 4th-highest in the country, only behind host state Georgia and more populous states California and Texas. As the circuit continues to expand, I expect 16 to look puny in the near future.*

-Ben

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Downingtown STEM, just prior to a round 2 win.

* Including SSNCT, 23 schools from Pennsylvania attended some sort of NAQT national this season.

2017 HSNCT Preview Podcast

In this mammoth sized preview for NAQT’s HSNCT, Ben and Chris discuss where the 18 PA teams competing stand going into nationals week, predictions for how each might do, and make our calls for where we expect each to finish (no doubt embarrassing ourselves for posterity). We also discuss how the tournament works a bit. This description runs until about 8:30, at which point we begin the team-by team breakdown.

Click Here to Listen

2016 PACE NSC Preview

Tomorrow, teams will be traveling to Chicago (or more accurately Rosemont, IL) to compete in this year’s NSC. While a smaller tournament than HSNCT, the NSC packs a punch, with most of its 96 teams being some of the best in the nation and Morlan Ranked. The NSC uses a different format than most events, with 20 point powers, no negs, and “bounceback” bonuses (meaning if you miss a bonus part, the other team gets a chance at it). The distribution is also reflective of a college tournament, so less geography, current events, and trash are asked in favor of social sciences and art. This tournament also gives every team a very efficient 15 rounds of quizbowl, playing off every single place. Prelim brackets of 8 feed into afternoon brackets of 6 (so the top 2 move on in the event, the next two compete for 25th, etc.), and lastly three consolation or seven superplayoff games complete the run on Sunday.

Only three PA teams are competing at NSC this year. Once again, the predictions are just for fun:

Manheim Township

Fresh off their 13th place finish at HSNCT, the Blue Streaks seek to improve on their 34th place finish last year at NSC. I don’t see the format change really hurting or helping them all that much, so they should make another good run. We’ll see if senior Jake can relay his lit knowledge into another great performance, if Aaron Zuo can come up back to the “A” team and make noise at his last tournament, and if Ahan, Shayar, and Garret score with numbers that indicate they’ll stay at the top next year. Their stats were a little bit below comparable T13 teams at HSNCT, so I’d expect a finish in the 20th-30th range.

Delaware Valley

DV did not play this past HSNCT. The lack of negs and bouncebacks are going to really help them out. Though they’ll still feed the other team the answer with a wrong buzz, those lack of -5s will add 10-15 points a game, and they will benefit from Drake’s arts knowledge. This team’s high bonus conversion at regular difficulty suggests they’ll scale up to nationals; however, even really good teams finish in the middle of the pack at this elite field, and many other teams will be warmed up from last week. I’d predict Delaware Valley’s Warriors finish somewhere around 45th-55th, but anything between 30 and 70 wouldn’t particularly shock me.

Great Valley

Great Valley finished T77 at HSNCT. This is another team that had a tendency to neg this season, so again, the format helps them. Though a good team all around, I’m unsure how well they’ll adapt to the high amounts of fine art and RMPSS in this set. Hopefully this is a good send off for Deakon and continued buildup for more down the road. I’d give the GV Patriots a floor of 75th and a ceiling of 50th, with a finish in the low 50s or 60s the most likely outcome.

-Ben Herman

ANNOUNCEMENT: PA NASAT Team Selections

On behalf of the Pennsylvania NASAT committe, we are happy to announce our selections for this year’s National All-Star Scholastic Tournament, to be held this June 18th-19th at the University of Kentucky. NASAT pits teams consisting of the best players from each state against each other in a head to head setting. The event uses difficult collegiate questions and many of its players have gone on to outstanding careers in collegiate and higher level quizbowl. This is the only all star tournament to highlight teams on a state-by-state basis.

After a rigorous application and tryout process, the NASAT committee debated and selected the following 5 players for PA’s NASAT team. Without further ado, our selections for Pennsylvania’s NASAT team are as follows:

Jack Chaillet, Winchester Thurston School

Jake Deerin, Manheim Township High School

Gianni Manginelli, Pennsylvania Leadership Charter School

Brandon Roe, Lancaster Mennonite School

Alex Schmidt, Lehigh Valley Academy

Our First Alternate is:

Jaya Alagar, Alagar Homeschool

We congratulate all these excellent quizbowlers for their fantastic specialist knowledge at extremely tough college level questions during tryouts and commend the hard work put in both by the students and their coaches, teachers and mentors. We look forward to cheering on team PA in Lexington, KY this June!