Nationals

2018 NASAT Wrap-Up

35898644_2538109926415191_5011616618363486208_n

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.

35737603_1992701607713336_6013839377094934528_n

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.

35724617_2538110049748512_1700636590553956352_n

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.

35742221_2538161419743375_3049466139240300544_n

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.

35493225_1412867392191962_7012678603540267008_n.jpg

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

Advertisements

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.

5599780885700753221253faccount_id253d1.png

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.

video1.jpg

Players from Pennsylvania in an upcoming “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.

abbi

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.

Image may contain: 11 people, people smiling, indoor

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

SSNCT 2018 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.

DcCCHKcWkAAkxS9

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

image (1)

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

HSNCT 2017 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.

wt

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 Aiden (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.

match

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.
mt

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.
IMG_0492

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

IMG_0489

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!

Quizbowl National Championships: A Guide

One sometimes-confusing aspect of quizbowl is the presence of multiple tournaments that claim to be the “national championship” of quizbowl and similar academic competitions (Scholars Bowl, Brain Bowl, Knowledge Bowl, Academic Challenge, etc.). For teams and coaches, getting multiple emails throughout the year telling you that you qualified for different national championships can be a bit of a baffling experience.

This is a brief guide to explaining what these tournaments are, which ones have fair questions and formats (and which ones do not), and how your team can qualify to attend the ones that will provide the best experience for your team and players.

The Quizbowl National Championships:

 NAQT’s High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT)

Sponsor: National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT)
Location (2016):
The Hilton Anatole, Dallas TX
Location (2017): Marriott Marquis, Atlanta GA
Field Size:
Approximately 272 teams (based on the 2016 field) 
Questions:
Written by NAQT and follows the NAQT HSNCT distribution. The difficulty is significantly harder than regular IS-sets and the questions are slightly longer than regular IS questions. 
Format:
10 power-matched games (against opponents with similar records) over 16 rounds on Saturday. All teams with a winning record (i.e. 6-4 or better) make the playoffs on Sunday; other teams can come back for consolation games. Playoffs are double-elimination for all 7-3 or better teams; 6-4 teams start off in the loser’s bracket and are eliminated with one loss. 
How to Qualify:
Finish in the top 15% of any tournament that uses NAQT questions. NAQT highlights those teams in the results when statistics from a tournament are published on their website (see here for an example). Wildcards are also available for teams who did not qualify normally to apply for in hopes of getting a spot; for teams that got close to qualifying in a strong field or did not have a chance to play often, this is a good option to pursue.
Previous Results:
Available from NAQT’s website from 1999 onward. Click on each year to see more statistics. 
Comments:
HSNCT has rapidly grown into the largest national championship, with over a thousand players taking over a hotel each year to play quizbowl. The power-matching format used in the preliminaries usually ensures that each match pits you against a team more and more similar to your team’s skill level, so the matches tend to be close. The double-elimination format of the playoffs also can be exciting to participate in or watch, though making the playoffs can involve a little bit of luck of the draw for many teams close to the middle of the pack.


PACE’s National Scholastic Championship (NSC)

Sponsor: Partnership for Academic Competition Excellence (PACE
Location (in 2016 and 2017):
Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL (a suburb of Chicago next to O’Hare International Airport) 
Field Size:
Approximately 96 teams (based on the 2015 field)
Questions:
Written by PACE members. The distribution is similar to the college ACF distribution and tossups are often 6-8 lines, with 20 point (instead of the usual 15 point) powers and no negs for incorrect answers. Unlike the HSNCT, there are no pop culture questions at the NSC and more of an emphasis on the fine arts and the humanities. Bonuses are bouncebacks, meaning that if one team misses a bonus part the other team gets a chance to answer that part for points. Similar to HSNCT, the difficulty level for the NSC is significantly higher compared to most regular season high school tournaments. 
Format:
Seeded preliminary pools initially, then rebracketed playoff pools, then another rebracket to superplayoff and final placement pools. Basically, every team continues playing games that help determine final placement throughout the tournament. This also means that all teams play at least 18 games (!) over the two days of the tournament. 
How to Qualify:
Qualification depends on finishing highly at various PACE-affiliated tournaments. Almost every quizbowl tournament on good questions is PACE-affiliated, but the exact percentage of teams that qualify from each tournament depends on what level of certification PACE awards. See this page for a more detailed explanation, but in general the top 20-25% of the field qualifies. Wildcards are also available like with NAQT by emailing with a record. 
Previous Results:
Available on PACE’s website here
Comments: I
f you want lots and lots of quizbowl, the NSC gives you the most matches out of any of these tournaments on one of the best-written question sets of the year (see last year’s set here). The NSC field tends to be more “elite” on average than the HSNCT, so a team that finishes at 5-5 in the middle of the pack at HSNCT may finish in the lower tiers of NSC and with a much higher percentage of losses. Some teams prefer the bounce-back bonus format of the NSC since it keeps all teams listening on the bonus regardless of which team got the toss-up question.

NAQT’s Small School National Championship Tournament (SSNCT)


Sponsor: National Academic Quiz Tournaments (NAQT)
Location (2016 and 2017):
 The Hyatt Regency O’Hare, Rosemont (Chicago Area) IL 
Field Size:
Approximately 80 teams (based on the 2016 field) 
Questions:
Written by NAQT and follows the standard NAQT distribution. The difficulty is approximately the same, if slightly tougher, than regular IS-sets.
Format:
9 power-matched games (against opponents with similar records) over 11 rounds on Saturday. All teams with a winning record (i.e. 5-4 or better) make the playoffs on Sunday; other teams can come back for consolation games. Playoffs are double-elimination for all schools with records of 6-3 or better and single-elimination for those at 5-4.
What NAQT defines as a “Small School”: [Via NAQT’s website] “A public high school with 500 or fewer students in grades 10-12 that has a non-selective admissions policy. This excludes all private schools, magnet schools, and home school collectives; it also excludes some charter schools.”
How to Qualify:
[Via NAQT’s website] “Finishing in the top 30% of the small schools at a high school varsity tournament that uses NAQT questions and includes teams from at least three schools (of any size). This includes traditional one-day tournaments, leagues, televised tournaments, and all other events that use questions provided by NAQT whether or not they use NAQT’s official format and rules.” NAQT highlights those teams qualifying for the SSNCT separately in the results when statistics from a tournament are published on their website (see here for an example). Wildcards are also available for teams who did not qualify normally to apply for in hopes of getting a spot; for teams that got close to qualifying in a strong field or did not have a chance to play often, this is a good option to pursue.
Previous Results: Available from NAQT’s website from 2014 onward. Click on each year to see more statistics. 
Comments:
SSNCT is a great option for smaller schools, from open-admission urban charter schools to rural schools that might not have the resources and student base as larger schools. You can listen to some previous SSNCT matches to get an idea of the level of competition here.

 

HSAPQ’s National All-Star Academic Tournament (NASAT)


Sponsor:
High School Academic Pyramid Questions (HSAPQ
Location (2016):
The University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY 
Field Size:
12 (although maximum is as many states that register) 
Questions:
Written by HSAPQ at a very high level comparable to a normal-difficulty college tournament. Distribution is here.  
Format:
A round-robin followed by rebracketed playoffs 
How to Qualify: 
Since this is an All-Star tournament, all states are eligible to send a team. Pennsylvania’s team last year was selected by tryouts and looking at individual statistics from tournaments. If you are interested in competing against the best high school players of each state on very challenging questions, this is your tournament. The 2015-2016 PA NASAT teams can be seen here
Previous Results:
See here.

 


A few frequently-asked questions about the HSNCT and the NSC:

Which national championship should my team attend?

Besides their different locations (which usually rotate every year), the biggest differences between the national championships are the timed rounds at HSNCT vs. the untimed rounds at the NSC and the different question distributions at each. The use of timed rounds at HSNCT adds new strategic elements and means that readers tend to go a lot faster, making games a little bit more frantic. You can see video of the finals of the 2016 HSNCT here to get an idea of what it’s like. Small schools should definitely consider attending SSNCT, but can also attend HSNCT as well if they’re up for the challenge.

The distribution of the question subjects for each tournament also varies in small but important ways: the HSNCT question distribution has more current events, geography, and pop culture/sports; the NSC has more fine arts, more religion, myth, and philosophy, and no pop culture. The formats of each tournament also differ slightly as outlined above. One nice thing about having two national championships is that if you can’t make one due to graduation or prom, the other is still a possibility. Either of these are a good option for teams looking for a challenge and a fun end-of-season trip.

When can/should you register for a national championship?

You should register as soon as possible after you qualify and work quickly to firm up travel and payment plans. The HSNCT and NSC fields historically get close to filling up by late February. While you can get a spot on a waitlist and hope slots open up  later (which tends to happen at the HSNCT in particular), by late March both fields are likely completely filled. Note that both tournaments are now requiring that schools pay a deposit by some point to reserve spots in the field due to high demand, so it’s crucial that you start making arrangements to attend as soon as possible and perhaps budget for nationals attendance at the start of the year if you think you’ll be likely to qualify.

How do we get a wild card into these tournaments?

At a certain date, the HSNCT, SSNCT, and the NSC will open up applications for wild card teams. You should have a good reason explaining why you were not able to normally qualify, such as a lack of tournaments nearby to attend or consistently finishing just out of the qualification level at many tournaments against good teams. Just applying for a wild card does not mean you will be accepted–you need a good reason and must demonstrate strong results to get a wild card to either national.

Can multiple teams from the same school qualify for nationals?

Yes, but generally they must qualify at the same tournament. If Franklin High wants both its A and B teams to qualify for nationals, both teams must finish in the top percentage of the field at the same tournament. If Franklin A qualifies at one tournament (but not Franklin B) and then at the next tournament Franklin B qualifies (but not Franklin A), Franklin can still only send 1 team from Franklin to the national championship. Some schools have sent A, B, C, D, and even E teams to nationals (and done quite well).

Are there special divisions for schools of different sizes?

NAQT runs a separate Small School National Championship Tournament. If you are a non-selective, public high school with fewer than 500 students in grades 10-12, definitely take a look into the SSNCT, which runs on a separate set of NAQT questions at a different location than the HSNCT, usually sometime in April. PACE awards a top small-school title at the NSC, but small schools compete normally alongside other schools. Otherwise, all schools compete together.

Should we attend a national championship even if we know that we won’t win?

Even if you’re not in the running to win, you get to play the best teams from around the country and see just how well you measure up to teams outside of your local region. Knocking off a “name-brand” team or getting revenge on a rival local team can be great fun and just getting a few questions against the best teams in the country can be a rewarding experience. There’s also something about being in the same building as thousands of others involved in quizbowl and getting to meet people from all around the country. You’ll also have the best readers in the country flown in to read some of the toughest yet still well-written questions of the year. The final matches at these tournaments are always open to the public and are often thrilling to watch.

That said, quizbowl nationals are expensive, with a minimum of $800 or so for hotel and registration fees plus the cost of travel. You can attend a lot of other quizbowl tournaments with that funding, so consider your team’s interests and goals early on in the year so that if you do qualify for nationals, you can make sure you can secure the funding (hosting a tournament or two can really help with the cost too). Many teams enjoy the chance to travel and give seniors an appropriate send-off on the best competition quizbowl has to offer.

 



Other Competitions that claim to be “National Championships”

An organization known as Questions Unlimited runs a competition they call the National Academic Championship (NAC). At one time, decades ago, the NAC was the only game in town. Today, however, the NAC has four major problems that make it the quizbowl equivalent of college basketball’s NIT and not an actual national championship in the eyes of GPQB. In fact, we strongly advise schools to stay as far away from the NAC as possible based on the following issues:

Poorly Written Questions
A defining feature of the NAC is a lack of commitment to good quizbowl practices in question-writing, as documented rather extensively here. While there are some quasi-pyramidal questions, the vast majority appear to focus on trivial details and lead to buzzer races. Others also have swerves, hoses, and other aspects of bad quizbowl. One infamous “audio” question asked teams to identify the sound of a blender; others asked about the sounds of barnyard animals. Widely varying difficulty and distributions contribute to the unevenness of the outcomes. In short, the NAC’s questions are, in the opinion of GPQB, extraordinarily unfair to the players and a poor platform for academic competition.

A History of Plagiarism and Question Recycling
Last year, a team at the NAC actually stopped a match because it had heard the exact questions before in a practice packet. This would be unthinkable at any other national quizbowl tournament and exemplifies the history of plagiarism and question-recycling in the NAC.

An Unwieldy and Unfair Format 
The preliminary matches at NAC seem to be very roughly (if at all) seeded, which can lead to lopsided preliminary schedules of widely varying difficulty for different teams (a problem that’s compounded by the use of total points scored for playoff seeding). Unlike other national championships, only 6 games are guaranteed and those are read in an odd game-show-like environment with the focus on the “host” rather than the players.  The playoffs at each tournament site also are single elimination and the winners of each of the three sites come together to play weeks after some of them last played. This, suffice to say, does not seem like a fair format for determining a national champion.

The Best Teams Do Not Play NAC
The repudiation of NAC from former players, coaches, and even former NAC moderators has been nothing short of extraordinary in the past decade. As this graph shows, over time the NAC’s field has been surpassed in number by the HSNCT field. Almost all of the top 200 quizbowl teams in the country on the Morlan HSQBRank poll choose PACE or NAQT over NAC and more continue to abandon NAC every year, further diluting the NAC’s field strength. Additionally, more and more teams at the NAC come from a smaller handful of states like Nebraska, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and New York.

Few teams play both the NAC and the other nationals, but when they have played in good quizbowl tournaments the NAC attendees have not come off well. For instance, the national NAC runner-up in 2015, Lusher Charter, finished 59th at the NSC; a year before, the NAC runner-up in 2014, Pingry, finished 63rd at the NSC.

Put all these together and there is no good reason to attend the NAC. Going there only supports a bad quizbowl organization and will deprive your team of a legitimate national championship experience. If your team does not qualify for a good quizbowl national during the year but you still would like to travel, we recommend attending a regular-season tournament in April of May further away than normal.

Some other competitions also claim to be “national championships” of buzzer-based competitions, but those have even less claim than the NAC. The “National Tournament of Academic Excellence” [currently on hiatus] only attracts a small handful of random schools from a few states to Disney World to play a few very expensive rounds of bad quizbowl. “Hi-Q” sometimes claims to decide a national champion by a Skype match, but they’re only playing a tiny number of other schools from a few very specific geographic regions. And there may be others out there. But for our purposes, the only quizbowl national championships are the HSNCT, the NSC, the SSNCT and the NASAT.