quizbowl

Downingtown STEM Interview

Today’s interview is with Vishwa Shanmugam (VS), Rohan Vora, (RV), and Anish Gadgil (AG), three members of the Downingtown STEM Academy team that finished T-8 at the 2018 NAQT HSNCT and 18th at the 2018 PACE NSC. They ended the season ranked #1 in Pennsylvania.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

JW: How did you first get into playing quizbowl?

VS: Last year, we were contacted to play the Downingtown East Invitational. So we went there, did that, had a pretty good time, and then we discovered there were quizbowl forums. We signed up for Great Valley’s tournament the next month, and then Wissahickon, and ever since we’ve just played whatever we could. I had previously found NAQT’s website and Protobowl and stuff linked on our academic team study website, but we didn’t do anything with that—I had kind of assumed that NAQT was only for certain areas and our area just didn’t have anything.

RV: I remember we actually used to practice on NAQT pyramidal stuff, which wasn’t anything like the CCIU competition. It’s funny because every time we got to the bonuses packet we’d have no idea what to do, so we’d just skip those.

JW: What are the biggest differences between playing in your local academic competition and pyramidal quizbowl tournaments?

AG: Well, I think with the local format—they are speedchecks and there are three teams up against each other, so there isn’t really any cohesive strategy involved in playing them. There’s pretty much an element of randomness and luck. The biggest difference is that, flipping to pyramidal, you can actually begin to think critically about games, beyond just knowledge, about how to organize yourselves.

RV: And to take it in a bit of a different direction, I feel like through pyramidal, we were able to connect with many more people and make much more close friends, because pyramidal to me is more born out of passion for the game, and we basically just connect much more easily with the sort of people who are very much into this. You’d think the local competition would be more conducive to making friends, but we actually found that a lot of people were just playing that out of obligation.

VS: Yeah, and the quizbowl Facebook groups are all pretty active; people are really into that sort of stuff. Actual quizbowl tournaments are just more fun, like people are having more of a good time.

JW: How have you gotten involved in the quizbowl community and what is something you want people to know about it?

VS: The thing that people yell a lot about is insularity, but it’s also like, you can talk to people even if you’re not some 200 PPG star player. There’s definitely the [Illinois Quizbowl Memes] Facebook page, where you can just connect with random people, and the Quizpolling page, where there’s a lot of wholesome threads where you can just chill and talk to people.

AG: If you’re new to the community, and you’re maybe not like super duper good right off the bat, and you have a lot of inhibitions, it can be a little bit difficult—but people are nice and really approachable. Once you can get past that single barrier of inhibition when it comes to interacting with people in the community—I think that kinda just comes with time—then you’ll find it a lot easier to interact with the community at large.

RV: I’ve found that top players and very important community figures are a lot more approachable in quizbowl than in any other activity. Like, on the Pennsylvania Discord, for example, there could be some high schoolers just casually talking about Dragon Ball Z with Eric Mukherjee, who’s like this legendary player—you know, just stuff like that.

JW: What are some tips you would give to students in nonpyramidal local leagues who are interested in trying good quizbowl?

VS: Definitely check out what’s near you, and if there’s something near you, that’s always a great place to start.

AG: And if your program doesn’t already have a history of pyramidal quizbowl and you’re interested in doing that, try to incorporate more and more pyramidal elements in practices, try to encourage your memberships to grow larger, and push people towards going to tournaments and building a program that can support you throughout your pyramidal journey. Housekeeping in general is very important in addition to linking up with the community.

VS: It’s pretty easy to get your coaches to switch to practicing on pyramidal questions, because they’re often on similar material to nonpyramidal questions. And you can integrate it into your normal practice schedule.

RV: The great thing about pyramidal quizbowl is that it does rewards studying—and not only that, it’s worth studying for it. I personally found quizbowl much more enjoyable when I started studying for it, because I felt that my knowledge was being rewarded.

JW: How did you motivate yourselves to study so hard?*

VS: A lot of it was I realized I had started pyramidal in eleventh grade and I was like “wow, I have one year left of high school pyramidal quizbowl,” so I just spent a lot of my summer studying. I found that I really enjoyed reading packets—I’d find ways to read packets and look up stuff on Wikipedia on my laptop during school, as opposed to going home and having a rigorous three hour schedule or whatever.

AG: I would say that my experience is probably a little different from his, because on a personal level, I wasn’t really all that motivated to study until recently. The biggest thing for me was osmosis, because I was on a team that was gradually becoming more competitive and, being dragged into these upper echelons of quizbowl, I was being forced to scale up. In a weird way, the feeling of being left behind was a really big impetus to growing as a player.

RV: Through quizbowl, I ended up finding new interests, which helped me—that’s how I ended up studying, actually. Before quizbowl, I wasn’t somebody who was hugely into classical music, but since I acted as kind of an arts specialist for the team, I basically became a lot more into visual arts and compositional music and that sort of thing.

VS: I found I remembered that I really liked reading books, since I hadn’t done that for a few years before discovering quizbowl. I also tried to study in ways I enjoyed; I held off on the carding for a while, until I got to nats season, because carding isn’t something I can internally motivate myself to do.

JW: What was your study schedule like?*

VS: I really just didn’t have one. I read packets whenever I felt like it, I fell into random Wikipedia holes, and occasionally I picked up a book when I could motivate myself to. I don’t think you need a strict study schedule to be good, but if you’re one of the people who won’t study unless you have a schedule, maybe that helps.

AG: My motivation kinda fluctuated throughout the season, and unlike Rohan and Vishwa, I was a junior, so I had a lot of school-related deadlines close to nats season. So, as for me, as I couldn’t find time to make a regimented study schedule, so I incorporated studying in whatever ways I could. In general, I think that if you find something that’s conducive to your quizbowl personality and your schedule, there are many ways you can ensure consistent improvement.

RV: I’d read whenever I had time in school or at home, and if I was motivated to study I would read arts questions and arts content, and later if it came to my mind, I’d read into it more and look it up. I just tried to make quizbowl a part of my life, and that was my studying.

JW: What are your study tips for learning and remembering literature?*

VS: I think that it’s really worthwhile to read a lot of the short stuff. The time versus efficiency tradeoff on reading a summary of a poem versus reading the poem is kind of low. I definitely encourage you to read a lot of the stuff you can get through in one day—like, read a lot of plays and short stories. For remembering stuff, carding definitely helps if you’re a person like me that’s bad at character names or bad at obscure titles. But reading is the best way to get plot details, or using Sparknotes, or what have you.

JW: You played out of state quite a bit during the season—what do you think are the benefits of doing so?

RV: We got to go to this really nice Middle Eastern place in New Jersey, we don’t have that here.

AG: The biggest benefit for playing out of state is that certain tournaments become nexuses for highly competitive teams to go to. It’s very important to consider your team’s goals and motivations for doing so—if you are a team that is highly motivated to getting into higher levels of play, then it can be highly advantageous.

VS: I’ll go the less nerd response and say, it’s also just really fun to meet people outside your circuit. Like, it’s cool to see fresh faces, and some of my best friends are from adjacent circuits that don’t come to PA tournaments very often. If you do go out of circuit, you should bring snacks and give them to people and then they’ll be your friends.

JW: From the past season, is there any specific victory you’re especially proud of?

RV: There were a few games at the nationals and pre-nationals tournaments where all three of us had pretty significant scoring in a close game.

VS: Hunter was like that, I think we all got at least two buzzes against them and we won by a tossup at BEST.

AG: I think our game against BGA at HSNCT was somewhat similar.

VS: On a team level, beating TJ was a really nice achievement. It was a good experience to see us meshing together as a team and putting in the work to beat good teams.

JW: Do you have any memorable team moments or favorite stories you’d like to share?

RV: I don’t even know where to start. The three of us have so many memories of having political discussions, or making jokes, or car rides going to or from tournaments, or being at tournaments—there’s just so much silly stuff that’s happened over the years. In our match versus Hunter at BEST, they got an early lead on us and we were coming back. With just a few tossups to go, Chloe (from Hunter) called a timeout, and Vishwa and Anish and I went to the other side of the room. Vishwa’s leaning on this AC unit, and in the middle of discussing our strategy, Vishwa’s just like “hey I look really cool leaning on this radiator, don’t I?” and then we won the game. There’s so much really weird stuff going on like that. He didn’t even look that cool, but we won.

VS: The context was they were having this really serious discussion and I was like, wow, I want this to be a little more fun than that. Speaking of the car rides, we always listened to “Sofia” by Alvaro Soler.

AG: We don’t see eye to eye on a lot of things, but “Sofia” being a good song, that’s one commonality we have.

JW: Anish, what are your goals for next year’s STEM team?

AG: Rebuilding is going to prove to be a formidable challenge. But it’s not entirely bad; it’s sort of cliche but in many ways it is kind of a new beginning, and an opportunity for me to leave my mark and have us grow something at D-STEM. Results at nationals and whatnot are important and nice, and of course I’m not going to let that down, but I am going to try to focus on making quizbowl have a presence at our school amongst extracurriculars and turning D-STEM into a school that can consistently produce strong teams.

JW: Rohan and Vishwa, do you intend to continue playing and/or being involved with quizbowl in the future?

RV: I will continue to play quizbowl, and hopefully to do some outreach and some moderating; I do want to try to staff some Pennsylvania tournaments if I can. And I definitely want to be involved with New York City’s tournament circuit as well, to try and improve those to the standards we have in Pennsylvania.

VS: Same. A couple of Maryland people have talked to me about doing stuff with It’s Academic, which is like the local league version of Maryland’s nonpyramidal quizbowl. I’m also trying to help write and edit more stuff, so I’m writing for Terrapin this year and I’m editing for RMBAT. I’m also definitely going to play.

JW: Is there anything else you guys would like to add?

VS: I looked really cool leaning on that radiator. Don’t let Rohan lie to you about that.

AG: As a more serious statement, we’ve been playing for the better part of the last year and a half, and honestly I’ve had a blast. We’ve come together really close as a team and we’re forever indebted and in gratitude to the Pennsylvania circuit for making these things possible for us.

RV: I’m glad to have teamed with the two of you, and I don’t know if the same sort of chemistry could have happened with anyone else at STEM, or anyone else I know in quizbowl for that matter. I’m really happy with how our time as a quizbowl team has turned out, and I also do want to thank Pennsylvania quizbowl for helping to make us into a team that’s involved in quizbowl. And you guys can bet D-STEM quizbowl isn’t going anywhere; Downingtown STEM’s team is around here to stay. And I think that they’ll always be strong.

VS: Thanks, Franklin Mint! But really, big thanks to GPQB; we probably wouldn’t be playing quizbowl if we weren’t invited to Downingtown East’s tournament and if we didn’t find out about everything afterwards. It’s been a fun two years.

Thanks to Vishwa, Rohan, and Anish for participating in this interview!

-Jackie

*question submitted to our Instagram account

Advertisements

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

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

How to Efficiently Coach Quizbowl

Teachers who sponsor quizbowl are usually quite busy during the school year. Taking time out of their classroom preparation and grading to prepare for and then drive a bunch of energetic students to quizbowl tournaments on what’s supposed to be an off-day is thus a sometimes-daunting time commitment.

We at GPQB salute all the teachers who sponsor quizbowl teams and want to help y’all coach more efficiently as well as effectively. This post is designed to help quizbowl sponsors ease the burdens of coaching while still giving their players plenty of opportunities to compete and the necessary guidance in improving. You might also be interested in our guide for how coaches can help improve their team; that post and this post are intended as complements.

While many coaches can and do go above and beyond out of a love of quizbowl itself or a desire to win a state/national championship, we envision that the typical quizbowl coach should aim to:

  • Hold practices at least twice a week
  • Take his or her team to at least four pyramidal tournaments a year
  • Introduce players to study resources online 
  • Taking a team to quizbowl nationals should your team qualify.

Here are some ways to make that process go more efficiently:

  1. Take teams to tournaments, but feel free to take time for yourself at tournaments. 

It’s totally fine not to be an active coach all the time. For your typical weekend tournament, feel free to sit in the back of a room and grade or prep lessons for the next week. Check in with your team or teams between rounds, but otherwise let the questions teach your students during the tournament. You can even have your players keep track of the questions they get on their own scoresheet that you can go over later.

2. Make Practices Student-Run

This is one thing that many coaches already do to some extent, but it’s worth mentioning here in detail. Have the students come by after school, before school, or during lunch (whenever you do your practices) and do the work of setting up the buzzers, getting chairs moved around, etc. You might even time them each day to see how quickly they can get it done if they’re being a little lackadaisical.

Have a clear system of what packets have been read in the past (some teams write the date in which they last read a paper packet on the front of the packet or keep a Google Doc with what packets have been read so far) and which ones are coming up next. The students can take the lead in organizing this as well and in keeping score. Most of the time students ought to be able to handle rotating reading responsibilities on their own, but you should also feel free to assign a reader (perhaps a newcomer to practice or someone outside the club who wants to help read at a tournament) as well.

The main exception to this rule is in the first few practices of the year when you need to pay more attention to new students or if this is your school’s first year with a quizbowl team and you’re trying to explain concepts and strategies to students. After a year or two of having a team though, the students should be able to pass on this kind of practice-running knowledge fairly easily on their own.

3. Get an assistant coach

Many teachers who might not be ready to shoulder the responsibilities of being the head coach might still be happy to help out as an assistant. This means someone who’s willing to help run practices in their room part of the time and who can attend tournaments on occasion (or in shifts) to help reduce the burden on the main coach. Perhaps the main coach could also work with the assistant to ensure that the assistant is ready to take over, should the main coach need to leave or retire.

4. Get parents involved. 

Parents are often happy to help with driving and chaperoning for tournaments. Talk to them as early as possible and bring your potential schedule for tournaments to them early in the year so that they can plan around that. You’re also more likely to find that your students take quizbowl more seriously if their parents also take quizbowl seriously.

Parents can be especially helpful when running a tournament–they can man registration tables, sell concessions, help sort through scoresheets and packets, and do other helpful jobs for part of the tournament without needing any training. You may also want to start training a reading corps of parents who might be interested in coming back to read in future years, but this will take some time.

5. Have students keep track of and identify the tournaments that they can/want to attend. 

Planning the logistics for attending tournaments is a considerable chunk of time, but you can have your players help with that. All the information that you need to know about tournaments in your area is usually publicly available on NAQT.com, the hsquizbowl forums, or other local sites like GPQB’s regional schedule. Have your students keep track of what tournaments are upcoming in your area and which ones they would like to attend well in advance so that you can make the necessary preparations. This is also a good way for the students to practice figuring out a budget–how much funding do you have to work with, how much do you need to fundraise to attend these tournaments, etc. While of course the sponsor has the final say here and usually must work with the school administration to plan the trips, it definitely helps to have the students play a role in figuring out what tournaments they want to attend.

6. Check with your admin to make sure you’re on the same page with them

Make sure that you know how to properly fill out a travel request form (if you have one), a reimbursement form (if you’ll need one), or any other documentation that’s required in your capacity as a sponsor. Check with your principal early about reserving the school for tournaments and clearing up any potential conflicts before the year begins. Your goal here is to reduce uncertainty as much as possible since changing the date of a tournament or having to deal with unexpected paperwork during the year can be rather annoying. It’s also a good idea to stay in touch with them throughout the year to keep them posted about how your team does and ensure they know how much you’re working.

7. Ask for help if needed

If you have an unusual situation or just a question about things, ask! The quizbowl community is usually quite willing to offer advice and tournament hosts might be able to do things to help your team (for instance, if you’re taking a train that gets in a few minutes after the start of the tournament, the tournament director could make sure your team gets a bye in the first round if that works with the format).

Final Thoughts:

The best thing that a coach can do is to give their team as many opportunities to compete as possible and to shape the culture of the team to be one of learning, support, and friendly competition. This doesn’t require that much of a time commitment overall, but it does require some upfront investment. This approach also allows students to develop more leadership and logistical skills on their own–something very valuable for their own development and good opportunities for the kind of leadership desired in selective college applications.

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

Announcement: GPQB Awards 2017-18

Readers,

It is with pleasure that GPQB can present to you our 4th Annual Greater Pennsylvania Quizbowl Awards. Today we recognize two players and a coach who have poured hours of hard work and dedication into this game, and have made both themselves and those around them achieve greatness in this extracurricular. We commend them all for their contributions to the PA quizbowl community and repeated competition success. Without further ado:

  • Congratulations to Vishwa Shanmugam of Downingtown STEM Academy for winning Player of the Year for the 2017-18 season. In the span of a year and a half, Vishwa has gone from first-time player to a nationally elite powerhouse, displaying exemplary knowledge in the categories of science and literature in particular. His high scoring has made STEM an overnight sensation in the larger quizbowl community, let alone Pennsylvania. Better yet, he is an honorable and friendly competitor who clearly has the respect of his teammates and opponents.
  • Congratulations to Connor Mayers of Penn Manor High School for winning JV Player of the Year* for the 2017-18 season. This award recognizes Connor’s leadership in helping Penn Manor to a number of high tournament finishes this season and his activity in trying to organize better quizbowl events in the broader Lancaster area. We look forward to seeing what Connor and the other JV players around the state can accomplish in the remainder of their playing careers.
  • Congratulations to Abbi Smith of Friends Select School for winning Coach of the Year for the 2017-18 season. She has stewarded the growth of what has rapidly become one of the strongest quizbowl clubs in PA in both caliber of play and numbers of students, always encouraging her team to achieve their best and incorporating the principles of a Quaker education into their play and training. The award also recognizes her leadership in organizing well-run tournaments and spreading quizbowl to other schools in the city of Philadelphia.

All recipients of the GPQB awards will be awarded a plaque for their achievement. We are honored to have all these individuals as part of the Pennsylvania quizbowl community and wish them continued success, both on and off the buzzer.

*Students are eligible to win the JV Player of the Year Award if they are currently enrolled in the 9th or 10th grade. Students may not win either award more than once in their playing career.

-The Staff

Bulldog Buzzer Battle (04/14/2018) Wrap-Up

In the first ever Bulldog Buzzer Battle at Berwick High School (stats can be found here),
fifteen teams from seven different NEPA schools challenged themselves on the PSACA
Philly Novice set by Bill Tressler. Newer schools were invited to bring all of their players,
regardless of grade or experience, while circuit stalwarts like Delaware Valley,
Wallenpaupack, and Berwick exposed their younger players to the introductory set. In a
fun-filled day, five of the newer teams found themselves battling in the final eight against
the top novice team from Delaware Valley and the two novices from Wallenpaupack.

In their first ever pyramidal tournament, eventual champion Hughesville A started off
their day with a tough loss to tournament runner-up Delaware Valley A, partially due to
their five negs. However, as they learned the ropes, the Spartans would spend the rest of
the AM rounds decreasing their negs and rattling off four consecutive victories. Powered
by Kade H.’s tournament-leading 17 powers, Hughesville upset Wallenpaupack A
early in the playoffs and stormed their way to the championship where they would get
redemption against Del Val A to take home the title.

Delaware Valley, playing all sophomores or younger, demonstrated that the future is
bright for the Warriors. Balanced scoring, the highest PPB in the tournament, and 22
powers from the A team—along with the B and C teams finishing as the top two teams in
the consolation bracket—showed that Coach DeVizia’s teams will be around for a while.
Similarly, Wallenpaupack’s A & B teams each battled their way to the semifinals with a
combined 11-6 record. Anthony I.’s 11 powers and 47 PPG were a bright spot for the
3rd place A team, while Pancho A.’s 34 PPG led the 4th place B team.

Another newcomer, Greater Nanticoke, had a nice entrance into the pyramidal world as
well. Their A team, lead by #4 overall scorer Noah K., racked up 18.53 PPB and
defeated their B team to claim fifth place. Rounding out the playoff bracket, Riverside
A—making their second appearance at pyramidal events and paced by the number two
scorer Jacob F.—defeated Hughesville B to claim 7th place.

In the consolation brackets, Montgomery made their second excursion to a Saturday
tournament and showed continued growth since their debut at the Big Lake Brawl i February. Both of their teams increased their PPB from their first event and Kyle B.
jumped from 13 PPG at the BLB to an impressive 48 PPG at this weekend’s event.
Riverside B got more experience in their second event as well, including a consolation-
bracket leading 13 PPB. Lastly, Berwick’s two house teams—including some very young
elementary/middle schoolers—got their first taste of a pyramidal tournament in their
home confines.

As for the event overall, first time host Berwick did a nice job keeping the event running
smoothly. It started right at the announced 9:15 time and rounds generally moved at a nice pace. The final bracket—which played 9 games—finished up right around 3:45. Coach Gunther did a nice job navigating a tough 15 team field by having three preliminary brackets and trying to minimize byes. If anything, more staffing in the future would make this event run even smoother. The playoffs mirrored the system you’d see at a wrestling event, where it became single elimination for the championship but all the others would be able to “play-back” into the remaining spots. This system, while not the traditional round robin finals, did work well for the newer teams to get experience and was easy for most teams to follow.

Overall, I hope we continue to see new hosts popping up around the state and that next
year’s iteration of the PSACA Set—which will be named Groundhog Day—continues the
growth of novice level events. I look forward to seeing how these newer teams continue to improve and hope to see them at more events next year.

— Guest Post by Coach Bern McCauley

3rd-Annual Philadelphia City Championship Wrap-Up

28753333_1603871082983647_5244868294980141056_n

Members of the Friends Select A team with their first-place trophy.

Eighteen teams from seven schools in Philadelphia gathered in Center City on Saturday for the 3rd-annual Philadelphia City Championships. Though some schools mysteriously dropped off the map this year or had conflicts on the day of the tournament, the schools who stuck with it expanded the depth of their programs and often brought many teams. With several middle school teams getting more experience as well, the future of quizbowl throughout Philadelphia looks reasonably bright.

Full stats are available here.

DYge9IhW0AE9xYx

The top 5 individual scorers from the prelim rounds with their book prizes.

In the championship bracket, Friends Select continued their dominance of the city circuit with their top three teams taking the top three trophies. This wasn’t the result of just magical improvement by osmosis or base knowledge; core FSS A team members Jake and Richard have dramatically improved from their first experience on a NAQT IS-A set 2.5 years ago by hard work, studying and playing as much as possible along with their teammates. And members of the FSS B and FSS C teams have also steadily improved after pretty much every tournament they’ve played, with the B team in particular looking quite formidable. Even after graduation this year and the departure of founding coach Abbi Smith (whom we we all greatly miss, even if Delaware isn’t that far away), FSS looks well-stocked to continue on their march to dynasty status.

The Carver HSES A team took 4th after losing several close matches, including a tiebreak match with FSS C where they fell by only 5 points. The emergence of Aidan (44 PPG in the prelims), only a sophomore, as the team’s go-to scorer bodes well for their future, though the improvement of Mohammed (24 PPG throughout the day) was also key to Carver’s success this year. Science Leadership Academy’s A team came into this tournament with high hopes for a trophy, but despite Jack’s (64 PPG) all-star performance they lost their 2nd-leading scorer Gavin for the afternoon and fell to Carver A and the FSS teams in the playoff rounds. SLA A did, however, give FSS A their closest match of the day and returns an increasingly large group of talent. The championship bracket was rounded out by Bodine, whose team had an impressive 10 powers in the playoffs (only behind FSS A and B) and capped off their season with a solid win over Carver A. They’ll certainly be in the mix for the city championship next year with the complementary duo of Alex and Raquel at the helm.

The first consolation bracket ended in a three-way tie between Carver HSES B, Rush Arts A, and FSS D (a middle school team). Carver B had a well-balanced attack and boasted an impressively high PPB (higher than Carver A’s), but suffered a close loss to FSS D on one of the tougher packets of the tournament. FSS D (MS) had a fairly wild tournament with 5 matches decided by 50 points or less; these middle schoolers showed great poise playing high school teams on high school-level questions and Oscar (37 PPG) will be one to watch for next year. Rush A was paced by a strong 50 PPG from Matt and was the only team to play and defeat all 3 middle schools teams over the course of the tournament. Carver’s C team also saw several of its rotating cast of young members make improvements in their PPG. SLA B and SLA C rounded out the middle bracket with particularly strong performances from Naima (6 powers, 49 PPG) on SLA B and Stella (34 PPG) on SLA C.

The lower bracket saw the two Franklin Towne Charter teams continuing their semi-regular tradition of their B team narrowly besting their A team as both did well in their afternoon bracket. FSS E (MS) was another impressive middle school team and Furness made a welcome re-appearance on the circuit as well. Furness also notably improved their PPB from 4.4 in the morning to 8.9 in the afternoon and capped off their day with a two-game winning streak. Carver D (MS), in less than a month or two of existence, notched a victory over Franklin Towne B but lost themselves to Rush Arts B, who rounded out the bracket.

20180317_112138

Members of the Bodine and Rush Arts A teams shake hands after their match.

It was another great day of academic competition for the students of Philadelphia and we hope that more schools will join (or re-join in the case of Central, Franklin Learning Center, Masterman, and Palumbo) the academic fun and challenge next year.

Chris

Great Valley Quiz Bowl Tournament V Wrap-Up

This year’s annual slate of quizbowl action in Malvern, PA produced some of the most interesting results of the season. Stats for the AM and PM of both rounds are here, and final combined stats (with some corrections) are available as well.

Open Division

IMG_5212

Wilmington Charter A captured the win in the Open Division.

Wilmington Charter A defeated a Manheim Township A that was down by one regular A-teamer in the finals, claiming the school’s first GVQBT title in an exciting 270-255 win. Charter may as well be honorary Pennsylvanians by this point, and the Delaware team put up a string of big wins before the close final. Waley’s 80 PPG led the Open Division in the morning to cut a path to the title for Charter. As for Manheim Township, the “rebuilding” team has once again flouted pre-season expectations and may have solidified their status as favorite for bronze in our end of season poll.

Third place went to similarly storied State College A, another team which continues to gainsay preseason pessimism and remains one of the state’s more solid all-around teams. Lily’s 76 points per game was second for the event. In one of the biggest surprise runs in PA quizbowl history, Downingtown STEM B took 4th, while their A team competed at a different tournament in New Jersey. No one expected such a strong, clutch performance out of relatively new players, and their memorable performance here may be a sign of great things to come in the future.

The rest of the playoff saw some regular Southeast PA high finishers from Henderson, Penn Manor, Friends Select, and Downingtown East. Friends Select in particular put up nice bonus conversion numbers, but unfortunately their final placement was hampered by setting a state record with nine negs in their match against STEM and several other cases of overly aggressive buzzing. Manheim Township B, Hempfield A and Hatboro-Horsham A also made the playoff brackets. It’s very nice to see the Hatters make the higher bracket, and though wins didn’t come yet in the afternoon, I think this squad from Montgomery County has shown steady improvement and nice potential for big success soon.

The consolation rounds featured their share of B teams from the above, plus a range of others. Lancaster Catholic ventured outside their home county and on to higher difficulty questions for the first time, and nice balance of contributing players netted them 4 wins for their efforts. Cedar Crest remained a dependable presence on the circuit, with many contributing scorers as always. Central Bucks East, similarly, continued their string of solid performances, able to hang with most teams and just a few points out of making the playoff brackets while putting up a particularly solid PPB of 16.12. We additionally saw good work from Moravian and Renaissance, who are preparing for SSNCT, and Science Leadership Academy, preparing for the Philadelphia City championships next month. Lakeland made the long drive down from NEPA, but without lead scorer Michael, wins were hard to come by; however, this experience should help fortify the rest of the team for the stretch run of the season and seek a top-10 ranking.

The return of two Chester County schools, Conestoga and West Chester East, to action on pyramidal questions was quite welcome. Though neither had the instant successes of their 2014-15 season that featured some top 5 tournament finishes, they both showed that they could handle the material. With more appearances, both could join the troop of national-caliber Chester County quizbowl teams at HSNCT in the near future.

Novice Division

IMG_5214.JPG

Radnor High School took home the top prize in Novice at their very first pyramidal quizbowl event.

Radnor, playing in their first non-DelCo Hi-Q tournament, warmed up quickly to quizbowl and after dropping an early prelim match stormed back to win the tournament with an undefeated playoff run that featured a clutch 260-250 win over one of the mighty Manheim teams. Radnor faced a game State College B in the finals but ended SC B’s winning streak with a 305-245 win. Just as Haverford HS did well at GVQBT last year, so did Radnor this year and we hope to see more Delaware County schools at quizbowl events in the future.

Manheim Township D won third place over another new-to-quizbowl team, Conrad Weiser from Berks County. Township D, containing the core of MT’s team for probably the next 4 years, was dominant all day and took 3rd in very convincing fashion. Conrad Weiser though was extremely impressive in their debut, with excellent buzzer speed that made up for a few gaps in their bonus knowledge. We would again love to see more Berks Academic Challenge teams at our tournaments.

Both Hempfield B and new to-weekend-quizbowl Pine Grove A were competitive in their playoff matches and featured balanced scoring across the board. West Chester East B, led by Matt’s impressive 80 PPG, and Archbishop Ryan (who beat Radnor in the prelims but couldn’t get going in the playoffs) rounded out the playoff teams.

In the consolation matches, Carver B continued their trend of finishing higher than Carver A, albeit losing in their direct matchup. Rishith (81 PPG) seems like the new star for Wilmington Charter on a short-handed Charter B and Cedar Crest B continued the Cedar Crest tradition of solid, balanced scoring. Church Farm continued their successful debut season on the circuit though their A-team dropped a final close match to Phoenixville A 140-145. Phoenixville appears to have arisen like a certain bird and returned to the circuit after several years of absence; we would also love to see them back at more tournaments in the future.

Additional shout-outs here to Pine Grove’s B and C teams for all picking up a few wins in their first tournament, Hatboro-Horsham B for recovering from the morning with a strong 3-match winning streak to close, and PALCS for pulling a similar three-win close feat as well.

Commentary

The tournament was slowed at the start by 3 teams simply not showing up without warning. This is unacceptable; if you are going to drop a team, you absolutely must tell the tournament director well before the morning of the tournament. Or better yet, honor your commitment and play with teams of 2 or 3 players instead since missing teams mess up the schedule for all other teams.

Also, there seems to be a crisis among housewritten question sets (that is, those written by other schools rather than a central question-writing company like NAQT) in high school quizbowl. These sets are either trending closer to college sets (as BHSAT, used in the open division here, did), with 7 lines of 10 pt font for all the tossups and 8 lines (2 for the lead-in, 2 for each part) for the bonuses, or towards sloppiness and poor editing. The former sets are well-written, but can really bog a tournament down as the average time per match in the open division hovered around 40 minutes even with a corps of experienced moderators.

The latter sets, often cobbled together by groups of ambitious high school teams seeking to learn more clues for nationals, can be difficult to read and confusing to teams hearing them. The SOLON Novice set definitely suffered from this, with many grammatical errors, confusing wordings, lists rather than descriptions, some outright missing text, a lack of clear giveaways, and questionable difficulty choices (simply because the answerline is easy for instance doesn’t mean all the clues for it should be college+ level clues!). It was overall accessible to new teams, but could have used some additional editing, especially since it had been first used a long time ago.

-Ben and Chris

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