Quizbowl Summer Study Plans

With the end of the school year finally upon us, the summer break is an excellent opportunity for enterprising quizbowlers to get a head start on next season and learn more awesome stuff. Here are three tips for teams to think about during the break:

Read actual books/poems/plays/essays! Summer is a perfect time to compile a reading list and attempt books that you might have been introduced to during quizbowl. Actually reading a work will likely increase your chances of getting a good buzz on it during the season and will probably lead to a more lasting memory than flashcarding or just reading a summary. So go ahead and tackle those Shakespeare plays or Garcia Marquez novels.

Write up a store of practice questions, then share them with other members of your team. These could be on any subject, but the ideal would be to use the greater amount of free time to spend time going through the question-writing process and then sharing them with fellow members of your team. This might be useful for trying to close any holes that you noticed emerged over last season or if a senior with a strong subject specialty is graduating. Need to work on Religion? Assign someone religious holidays, another one religious texts, and another one various minor religions to write up questions and then share at a summer meet-up or over Skype/Google Video.

Read over the national championship sets from this year once they are available. PACE’s NSC has already been posted and is chock-full of good clues, interesting ideas, and grist for future question writers. NAQT’s HSNCT was available to teams who attended this year, but others can order copies of the set from NAQT here. And HSAPQ’s NASAT will be posted soon as well after some other mirrors of it (many open to high schoolers–check the HSquizbowl forums for details). Even if you’ve already played the sets, it can be immensely helpful to go back over them and note where you could have/should have buzzed and perhaps calculate how well your team did at various subject areas.

Do you have any other ideas for what you’ll be doing with your team? Feel free to post ’em in the comments! 

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2017 NASAT Mini Wrap-Up

Pennsylvania once again sent two squads of five players each to the National All Star Academic Tournament, written by question provider HSAPQ to compete against teams representing 15 states total. The competition was hosted at the University of Kentucky.

Stats are here.

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Team Pennsylvania at NASAT (plus some parents and grandparents)

The A team finished tied for 9th place, while the B team finished 25th, in a field of 26. Eight PA high schools had players represented on the teams. The tourney was quite a rollercoaster, as both teams notched some good wins and frustrating losses over the course of the day. Hidden in this, however, were a lot of great performances against elite teams, including a 20 point loss to 4th place team California and a non-blowout against team Illinois A, who ran away with the event. Negs plagued the teams over the day, which will be something to work on for next year.

We congratulate all the team members- especially our seniors, Brandon, Colton, and Sebastien, for their hard work studying and playing. As for Alex, Jaya, Rajan, Vishwa, Jackie, Sydney, and Will, we hope to see them all back next year and many more PA power players at tryouts!

-Ben

GPQB 2016-2017 End of Season Rankings Results

Friends, Romans, Quizbowlers,

The 2016-17 season was one filled with some 81 Pennsylvania schools at invitationals, 23 of them at nationals, fierce matches, deep buzzes, and extreme fun for everyone involved. Every player contributed in their own way to our great quizbowl culture. As always, we saw it fit to end the year by honoring the best teams with the final poll. As fits a year that was so full of competition, opinions differed, the calls were close, and there were many deserving contenders. Here are the final results:

1) Winchester Thurston, 86 Points, +9 (Five 1st place votes)
2) Lehigh Valley Academy, 83 Points, = (Three 1st place votes)
3) Manheim Township, 74 Points, -2 (One 1st place vote)
4) Alagar Homeschool, 57 Points, +1
5) State College, 47 Points, -1
6) Great Valley, 45 Points, -3
7) Camp Hill, 41 Points, -1
8) Downingtown East, 29 Points, =
9) Downingtown STEM, 21 Points, New
10) Friends Select, 6 Points, -1

Also receiving votes: Delaware Valley (3) and Henderson (2).

With that, another chapter in Pennsylvania’s quizbowl story is closed. Congratulations to all these teams for years of hard work. Best wishes to seniors in the next step of life. Happy buzzing!

A podcast discussion of the final poll and season will be out soon. There will be other summer content, so keep your eyes peeled!

The voters in the poll were: Ryan Bilger, Paul Birch, Chris Chiego, Ben Herman, Andrew Nadig, Rebecca Rosenthal, Alex Sankaran, Steven Silverman, and Bill Tressler.

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.

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

Winchester Thurston made waves across the tournament, becoming the first non-State College team from Pennsylvania to make the national top 10 with a T-9th place finish that almost got them to Sunday afternoon. Fresh from SSNCT’s 4th place, most pegged Thurston to do well, but not go beyond two or three Sunday rounds. WT had other ideas. Their true four-man effort from EJ, Jacob, Nathaniel, and 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Ben

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Downingtown STEM, just prior to a round 2 win.

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

2017 HSNCT Preview Podcast

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

Click Here to Listen

SSNCT 2017 Wrap-Up

This year’s NAQT Small School Nationals, which took place at the quizbowl landmark Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, IL, featured a record shattering 11 teams from 10 schools participating out of the Keystone State. Due to format changes, there were three small school titles up for grabs: an overall title for traditional public small schools, a title for very small public schools, and a title for private and charter schools (the later being an entirely separate sub-tournament).

Complete stats for both divisions are here.

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Camp Hill poses with their haul of hardware from SSNCT.

In the public school division, Camp Hill matched Lehigh Valley’s feat last year of a 3rd place overall finish, bringing another big trophy home to Pennsylvania. Camp Hill also finished their season by winning the inaugural Very Small School title. They lost twice each to Glasgow and Danville, the two finalists (both from Kentucky), but otherwise went undefeated. Colton’s 82 points per game were sixth in the tournament, capping a breakout senior season for the First Team All-State player. The team also got great performances out of Sydney, whose three powers in round 18 proved critical in clinching a top-4 finish, as well as from Alex, Joseph, and Ben, who saved their best performances for last this season. Congratulations to all these players and to Coach Gianelli, who has now coached seven consecutive top-11 small school teams nationally and received GPQB’s 2016-2017 award for Coach of the Year.

Lakeland finished T-19, second among PA squads. They did well enough on day one to start out in the winners’ bracket Sunday, and notched a close 335-315 win over perennial Small School power Hallsville (MO) to clinch the playoffs. Ty and Michael paced the team with 16 powers apiece to make a dent in opposing team’s morale. Though 3 of the 5 teammates were seniors, they went out in style and have a lot to be proud of representing the Scranton area. South Side and Westmont Hilltop out of Western PA also made the playoffs and finished T29. Super job to both schools, whom each only brought one senior and could well be back there and beyond in the future. Southern Fulton, Kane, and West Shamokin missed the playoffs, but all won several games each and should be proud of this year and motivated for more competition in the future.

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Winchester Thurston finished 4th in the Private/Charter division. Photo credit Ryan Rosenberg and NAQT

In the Private/Charter division, a sharp Winchester Thurston did what we’ve come to expect from one of PA’s steadiest powers and finished 4th overall. What’s truly amazing about Thurston’s performance is that all four of their players–Nathaniel, Aiden, EJ, and Jacob- finished between 52 and 32 points per game, and in the top 25 total of this division’s overall players. Thurston might be the most purely balanced team in terms of four-player talent in Pennsylvania that we’ve seen in many years! All four also banked at least 14 powers. They are the only SSNCT team in PA that will also be going to HSNCT, so we’ll get one last chance to see them show their stuff.

Lower down, Renaissance Academy and two teams from Moravian Academy missed the playoffs, but still fought admirably. Renaissance has been on the circuit a few years now and, while not yet a powerhouse, has slowly steadily improved as time has gone on. They hit 14 PPB for the first time at a national tournament, which shows increasingly strong depth, and playoffs next year is a very obtainable goal for them. Moravian B was all freshman, and though they only won one game, can channel that experience into growth. I expect great things from them and any other PA schools that venture forth onto the national stage.

Overall, SSNCT was a great success for PA, with a top 4 finish in each division, the Very Small School championship title, and many memorable performances. We will have to see what HSNCT can do to follow this up.

-Ben

2017 Pennsylvania State Academic Competition Wrap-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Ryan 

Pennsylvania State Academic Competition Unofficial Preview and Chat 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

IU 1: Canon-McMillan

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

IU 3: Gateway

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

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

IU 7 (Westmoreland): Burrell 

IU 8 (Appalachia): Hollidaysburg Area

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

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

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

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

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

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

IUs 16: Lewisburg Area

IU 17:  No Info Found

IU 18: Wyoming Area 

IU 19: Lakeland 

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

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

IU 22 (Bucks County): Council Rock North

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

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

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

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

IU 27: No Info Found

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

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

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

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

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