NAQT

2018 NAQT High School National Championship Tournament Wrap-Up

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Allderdice with their T-12 trophy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Players from Pennsylvania in 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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-The Staff

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Quizbowl Study Plans for All Levels

One of the most common questions that we at GPQB receive from students and coaches is how to start studying for quizbowl. Since pretty much anything that you ever learn will, at some point, show up in quizbowl, getting started with the studying can appear quite daunting. There are many resources and some guides for how to improve, but most are fairly vague and designed for either complete novices or very experienced players. Telling players to “read packets” is a good idea, of course, but which packets should one read and how should one read them? Using Protobowl might be appropriate for some players, but is it good for everyone?

This is a guide for players at different stages of their academic competition career. For each level, we offer both recommended study materials from old tournaments on the quizbowl packet archive and some strategies for how to study at each level. This guide is most certainly not the definitive word on this and I would be quite interested to hear from coaches and players in the comments on their own studying procedures. But I think as far as a basic guide for players trying to get to the next level, wherever you are, these are useful outlines.

Keep in mind for each of these that the relevant tournament sets can be found on the packet archive: quizbowlpackets.com. Just use “find” or search for them that way.

Complete Novice
This is a player who has never played before, has never played any quizbowl questions at all, or has maybe played one local tournament but never anything more than that. If this describes you, then welcome to the world of quizbowl!

Study Materials:
– SCOP Tournaments
– Fall Novice Tournaments
– Collaborative MS tournaments (see under “middle school” on quizbowlpackets)
Quinterest searches for MS level subjects

Study Strategies:
– Just read questions! Start reading these novice level or Middle School (MS) level questions and get an idea of how pyramidal questions work and what topics tend to come up in quizbowl. If you look through a few tournaments (compare, say, 2014 to 2015 SCOP), you’ll see the same topics come up again and again (not the same questions verbatim, of course, but similar clues and answerlines).

At this point, focus the most on developing familiarity with how quizbowl works. If you come across an answer line that you’ve never heard of before, Google it to find out what it is. At the level of these questions, every answer line is probably something that you will see frequently in the future, so you need to know as much as possible about these topics. Practice slowly scrolling down on the packet archives or letting Quinterest “read” questions to you to start thinking like a quizbowl player.

Advanced Novice
This is a player who has played a few tournaments but is still in 9th/10th grade or is playing as an 11th/12th grader and finished the complete novice guide. These are players who know how pyramidal questions work, but still haven’t quite mastered the quizbowl canon for high school and might be more interested in improving their points-per game beyond 10 or 20.

Study Materials:
Protobowl
– NAQT Frequency Lists
– NAQT “You Gotta Know” Guides
– Textbooks
– HSAPQ District and Regionals
– History Bowl C Sets

Study Strategies:
At this point, the goal is to start to master the “canon.” Get a solid understanding of all the question topics that might come up in the quizbowl categories that you are interested in and develop the ability to buzz-in on the “stock clues” for these categories. Protobowl and reading full packets is useful for this, but so are going over things like the top 10 items on the NAQT frequency list and making sure you can guess them on bonuses or tossups. You also want to be looking over the NAQT “You Gotta Know” Guides and start to think about picking up a textbook or two (ones you have at your school and use in-class are fine) in some categories. Start keeping a notebook that you bring to practice and tournaments, writing down any answerlines that strike you as interesting and/or clues that you want to look up some more. Start to look up clues from practice every time–a good rule of thumb is to look up the clue just before the one that you buzz on to learn a little bit more each time.

Play Protobowl in a private room (just add a /yourroomname to the regular protobowl.com address) and start working on getting comfortable guessing a bit earlier in the question that you normally might. And make sure to attend practices! You’ll need to be as comfortable as possible on the buzzer at this point. It’s okay to rack up a few negs so long as you start to make sure you’re buzzing before your opponents and giving your team a chance.

Experienced Player 
This is a player who’s been to several pyramidal quizbowl tournaments and maybe played a year or two already. At this point, you know what you know and what you don’t know and want to try to get both your power rate and your TU/N rate as high as possible. You’re starting to narrow in on a few specialty areas and you want to make your team competitive for the playoff cutoffs at tournaments.

Study Materials
– Protobowl
– Flashcards (make them yourself)

– CALI
– BELLOCO
– HSAPQ ACF-Style Sets
– LIST
– WHAQ
– HSAPQ VHSL Regionals and State sets
– MSU/UD Housewrite
– History Bowl B Sets

Study Strategies
This is where you need to start picking a few categories to “lock-down.” You want to focus now on depth rather than breadth to make sure that when you learn a potential answerline, you can beat your major local rivals to that question.

Start reading further down the frequency lists and make sure that you’re never surprised by an answer line. Flashcarding can be an excellent way to make sure that you cover; applications like Anki could be useful here, but you could also use Quizlet or other apps (or even actual paper cards!).
Try to practice these as much as possible here–on the way to school, during downtime in class, etc. Enlist the help of others–get your friends, parents, grandparents, etc. to read to you.

Veteran/Role Player
This is a player who’s played pyramidal quizbowl for a year or so and ideally has begun to develop a specialty in a few categories. You may put up 20-30 PPG consistently or be more of a generalist racking up 40-50 points at a time at this point and want to put your team in contention for the top 3 trophies every tournament.

Study Material:
-BHSAT
-BISB
-GSAC
-Prison Bowl
-Flashcards, outlines, and other self-directed studying

Study Strategies:
The goal at this point should be to develop deep knowledge to nab 2nd-line powers and 3rd or 4th line (definitely before “FTP”) buzzes in your specialty categories. Continue to keep a notebook, do flashcards, and study old packets. Go talk to people specifically about quizbowl. Talk to your English teacher about their favorite novels for instance or go to local orchestral concerts or art galleries and just start to go for depth over breadth. You want to start branching out well beyond the curriculum at this point and maybe think about reading college quizbowl packets or attending a college tournament to start to branch out into new areas. Time spent in a library here reading specifically for your categories will be well spent, especially if you look at textbooks (science especially) or other solid overviews.

State Competitor/Nationals Playoffs Contender
This is a player on a top 5-6 state team who’s also attending nationals and wants to try to make the playoffs at HSNCT. You can consistently power at least one or two questions per match in your specialty area and your team is usually in contention to win local tournaments.

Study Material:
– HFT
– LIMIT
– IMSANITY
– PACE-NSC
– NASAT
– ACF Fall
– MUT
-Previous HSNCTs and/or DII ICT and DI SCT

Study Strategies:
You need to start to become the best in your state at various categories. This is where taking a bit of a break from packet reading might pay off as you instead focus on reading and writing your own questions. Start reading books on these topics–things like “Czars of Russia” or a compendium of summaries of Faulkner’s novels and literary critiques could be useful. You’ll need to also get ahead of the curve here as far as what college players are writing on and thinking about (answerlines often “filter down” from college sets to high school sets over the years as writers are exposed to new question topics and clues and then continue to write on them for different audiences), so this is where ACF Fall and any undergrad-targeted tournament like MUT is great. Your goal should be to power as much as possible in your specialty areas here and to also contribute and back-up your teammates on bonuses. You need to crank up the seriousness level here and be devoting at least some time each day to quizbowl, even if it’s just reviewing 20 flashcards or writing 1 question.

Nationally Ranked Player
This is a highly elite group of players. Most have devoted a considerable part of their lives to quizbowl, but it’s also quite possible to ascend to this group in a relatively short period of time through concentrated studying. There are a number of examples of solid players who became nationally elite over the course of a few months, but it will take lots of hard studying to happen.

Study Materials:
– PACE-NSC
– NASAT
– ACF Regionals from the previous year
– Other Regular-Season College Sets (like MAGNI or MOO)
– HSNCT and/or DII ICT and DI SCT

Study Strategies:
Read books, dip your toes into the academic literature on your topic (art criticism, recent major science studies, etc.), and WRITE QUESTIONS. At this level, you want to note only be an excellent specialist at your categories, but also a savvy player; it’s somewhat remarkable how many times matches at nationals come down to players who have seen questions on topic X before and buzz on how it feels rather than knowing the exact clue.
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Every chance you can get, play against high-level competition both at the high school level and college level. The top high school teams in the country play against college teams more often than not and several other schools have had great success just getting some experience playing at the college level. This is where you’ll learn the first-line clues and 3rd bonus parts that might prove critical deep in the playoffs at HSNCT or NSC. You must consistently be powering in your categories and get at least a few outside of your main categories through heavy exposure to playing and to help shore up your weaknesses.

Conclusion
This is just a starting point for each of these levels (and of course you can feel free to use the strategies for more advanced levels as you see fit), but I hope that it proves useful. The most awesome thing about quizbowl to me is that anyone can become a world-class player; all you need is a work ethic and the willingness to learn. The best players, of course, tend to also have a deep love for many of these subject areas, but you can become a very good player in any category with just hard work and determination. Good luck to all–and don’t forget your notebooks at tournaments!

-Chris

HSNCT 2017 Wrap Up – Cinderellas and Camaraderie

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

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

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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.

2016 NAQT High School National Championship Tournament Preview for Pennsylvania

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The 2016 HSNCT will take place at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas, TX. Image from the Hilton Anatole website.

14 quizbowl teams from Pennsylvania will be making the Great Trek out to Dallas, TX for NAQT’s High School National Championship Tournament. As we explained in our guide to the quizbowl national championships, HSNCT is the largest national championship at 272 teams and has the distinction of being the only one using timed rounds.

These teams have qualified by finishing in the top 15% at various quizbowl tournaments around the state and it’s quite impressive just how many teams from PA are attending. A solid majority of those PA teams who qualified have elected to make the trip and see how they stack up against the best teams from around the country. Perhaps the main initial goal for all of these teams is simply to make the playoffs and survive into the second day of competition. To do that, they need to win a majority of their 10 prelim matches on Saturday to got at least 6-4 (and ideally 7-3 or better, since that gives teams double-elimination on Sunday). Check on Twitter and NAQT’s website for results throughout the day on Saturday. 

In reverse alphabetical order, here are brief capsule summaries, completely-for-fun predictions, and a motivational musical track for each team, courtesy of Chris and Ben. Remember, the questions at HSNCT are considerably more difficult than at regular season tournaments and the unique timed matches format rewards some familiarity and experience with the rules, so that will be informing our analysis here. 

Winchester Thurston (Pittsburgh)

B: Winchester Thurston is a very balanced squad that has played under-strength at many of this season’s events. Jack Chaillet is their star, and was the most consistently strong player in Western PA this season. They lack depth, but make up for it in breadth with few weak subjects. I don’t foresee a playoff run at this level, but Winchester Thurston will be consistent and is likely to be competitive in almost every game.

C: A perennial HSNCT attendee, WT this year lacks the deep history knowledge that led to their top-25 run a few years ago, but they continue their trend of having a strong generalist player who might be in contention for a tournament all-star spot. They should still have a respectable outing, likely finishing in the middle of the pack.

Motivational Track: Jimmy Eat World, The Middle

State College B

B: A sleeper pick. While they’re not as consistent as their A team, when they get rolling, State College B has shown the ability to curb-stomp strong opponents and pull an upset. It will take a couple such upsets to make it to Sunday, but unlikely runs have happened in the past.

C: The next batch of State Collegers is always one to watch, but it’s tough to get a read on just how good they’ll be based on a limited track record.

Motivational Track: Cannonball Aderly and Milt Jackson, Things Are Getting Better

State College A

B: There are few safer bets in American Quizbowl than State College being strong. This is the team most likely to see critical contributions from every player at HSNCT, and they have no weaknesses to speak of. Though the schedule of out of state teams is strong and this isn’t a top-20 team in the country as it has been in years past, this is a team that will have some playoff wins.

C: Pennsylvania’s only previous national championship winners, SC A looks to be rounding into solid form by the time of HSNCT with a balanced lineup and the trademark State College depth. A playoff run seems likely, though it’s tough to tell how deep; we haven’t seen SC travel much this year so it’s hard to get a read for how they’ll compare to the championship teams of yore.

 Motivational Track: Queen, We Are the Champions

Manheim Township B (Lancaster)

B: Last year, Manheim Township B had two teams in the playoffs. Can they repeat? Aaron Zuo is a great player who would be on the A squad of any other team, and the rest of these players have put up nice performances this season. This B team is probably about the same strength as last year’s, and will probably fall right about on the “in-or-out of the playoffs” line.

C: Don’t underestimate a competent, balanced, experienced team. The hard-working MT B team is just as experienced as their A team and should be one of the best B teams in the country outside of schools not from Detroit or Austin.

Motivational Track: Daft Punk, Harder Better Faster Stronger

Manheim Township A

B: Manheim Township picked up serious pyramidal quizbowl about 4 seasons ago and have rolled with it ever since. This year features their best lineup yet. Jake, Ahan, Shayar, and Garett have traveled the megalopolis, tried college events, decimated most local competition, and are poised to make a run. They have made the playoffs several times, but this time I foresee a deep run with multiple playoff victories possible. This is a sure top 50 and fringe top 20 team.

C: This Manheim Township A team is loaded for bear. They’ve got a home-run literature threat in Jake who can get powers against any team in the country. They’ve got solid specialists in all areas and are very fast on the buzzers. Do they have the overall depth needed to get the powers against the top teams that they’ll need to make a playoff run?  They’re well-traveled, they’ve played harder questions at tournaments like Penn Bowl, and they’re very experienced in pyramidal QB now. This is their best shot that they’ve yet had at a deep playoff run. 

Motivational Track: Hamilton Cast, My Shot

Indiana Area

B: Indiana lost most of their big guns from a 4-6 go at HSNCT last year. They took some time to adjust to this loss, but they do seem to have consistently improved throughout the season, qualifying for HSNCT by the end. This won’t be an especially threatening team, but they should win a few games and continue bulking up for next year.

C: It’s always good to see teams coming back to the national championships! You can make these trips into a great learning experience, especially since they tend to rotate between some major cities like Chicago, Atlanta, and Dallas from year to year (next year’s HSNCT is in Atlanta, FYI). Indiana Area was a solid competitor on the Western PA circuit this year, but they’ll likely be looking to use this experience to salute their seniors and prep for next year. 

Motivational Track: Stronger, Kelly Clarkson

Huntingdon Area

B: This will be the second regular difficulty and up event for a program that just started this year. Considering this, HSNCT might be a bit rough for these relatively inexperienced players. Huntington should enjoy the Dallas weather and enjoy the fruits of a very impressive first season in the circuit, with the chance to build a strong program.

C: Good to see them making the trek out to HSNCT and for garnering some local media coverage. The step-up in question difficulty might be really jarring though considering their limited experience; this will be a bit of trial-by-fire. One of the nice things about HSNCT though is how much practice you can get–scrimmages on Friday night, prelim games on Saturday, and consolation games on Sunday–so hopefully this will be both a fun trip for them and a learning experience for the future. 

Motivational Track: Guns N’ Roses, Welcome to the Jungle

Henderson (West Chester)

B: Henderson, after an overdue delay of seven seasons qualified, will be debuting at HSNCT this year. Henderson is a fiery team, prone to negging too much but capable of powering lots of questions. The late career emergence of David Smoczynski into a power player on several categories has been fun, and he will do well. To me, Henderson’s performance will be determined by how well Alex, Ashish, and Nick scale up. If they are able to perform in their areas, Henderson will do very well, if not, they will struggle. I see a 5-5 record, but they may have an upset up their sleeves.

Disclaimer: Ben is a Henderson alum

C: The state runners-up . How will the difficulty jump from the regular season to nationals affect them? Each team member has good pockets of knowledge, but will it be enough to vault them into the playoffs? One interesting thing about the HSNCT schedule is that you get a huge number of teams at 5-5 since you’re usually playing a team with the same record as you every round, so there’s often a large clump of teams. I fear this might be Henderson’s fate, though they’ll be fighting for that playoff spot to the very end.

Motivational Track: Queen, Under Pressure

Great Valley (Malvern)

B: Great Valley should do well. This is another Chester County team that negs too much, but they have shown better skills at regular difficulty and up than Henderson. Lead by GPQB honorable mention players Sam and Deakon, GV performs well in most areas, with history a particular strength. GV is sturdy enough to stomach the difficulty jump, though not as smoothly as State College or Manheim Township. The knowledge is there; if they can avoid bad negs, this is a team that should make the playoffs.

C: Will they share the same fate as their Chester County neighbors or will they get into the finals? I’d label this team as having a higher ceiling, but a lower floor compared to Henderson and they could neg themselves out of the playoffs or upset a higher-ranked team any given match. The good news for this team is that a lot of their firepower returns next year.

Motivational Track: Scarface, Push It To The Limit 

Friends Select B (Philadelphia)

B: I don’t know much about this team, but they did very well at the Philadelphia City Championship. Coming off the waitlist late, they are something of a wildcard. It’s great to see so many Pennsylvania students interested in stepping up to nationals!

C: The future of FSS (since their A team is all seniors) just got off the standby list and into the field–though they qualified on their own at the Philly City Champs earlier in the year, falling only to their own A team. They bring surprising breadth even though they’ll likely play as a two-man team, but they’ve been a bit overmatched when playing against elite teams this year. Richard notably brings solid music knowledge to the table.

Motivational Track: Fleetwood Mac, Don’t Stop

Friends Select A (Philadelphia) 

B: Every year, Pennsylvania seems to have a brand new program that discovers pyramidal quizbowl, hits the ground running, and performs extremely well at nationals (2014 Downingtown East, 2015 Emmaus). This year, I believe Friends Select will inherit that tradition. They’ve been a solid team all season since starting in December, and I think they’ll make it all the way to the middle of this nationals pack. Great coverage for such a new team, especially in RMP.

C: At most tournaments this year, FSS A has been in the championship brackets yet finished a step behind the top teams in the region, but have shown consistent improvement throughout the year. They did play MUT (an undergraduate college tournament), so they definitely should have an idea of what they’re up against difficulty-wise. They have solid depth on several subject areas, so expect a decent number of powers, but the extent of their studying to fill in their gap areas will be the key determinant of whether or not they make the playoffs.

Motivational Track: The Beatles, With a Little Help from my Friends

DuBois Area

B: DuBois has been under the radar a bit in Pennsylvania this year, which is unfair. GPQB all-star Eli Kirk can uncork many powers a game, and does especially well at the NAQT categories. His teammates help out on bonuses, get good buzzes in many areas, and compete as a strong product. This isn’t a playoff contender in my mind, but DuBois will do Central Pennsylvania proud and win 4 or 5 games.

C: Eli Kirk and friends will make a welcome HSNCT return for the venerable DuBois program, but with their last HSNCT coming in 2012 this should be an all-new experience for the players. While they’ve feasted on easier questions and relatively weak fields at Western PA tournaments, HSNCT will considerably up the ante. 5-5 would be a solid goal. They’ll need some heroics from Eli if they want to get beyond that. 

Motivational Track: Bonnie Tyler, I Need a Hero

Cedar Crest B (Lebanon Co.)

B: Unusually for B teams, this one is heavy on the seniors. They had a solid year finishing in the upper half at most Eastern events this season. I can’t remember any especially noteworthy single match performances from this team, despite reading for them a good bit. HSNCT will be a nice reward for years of hard work, and they’ll get some good games in the books.

C: Cedar Crest has established a very deep program that’s ended up senior-heavy this year, but seems to have a solid foundation for the future. They’re also no strangers to the difficulty of HSNCT and seem to be up for the grueling competition. Like their A team, this is a solid across-the-board team that’s better at bonuses than TUs. 

Motivational Track: Michael Bolton, Go The Distance 

Cedar Crest A (Lebanon Co.):

B: Pennsylvania has a lot of power-strong, neg-happy teams near the top this year. Cedar Crest has been the opposite- solid on bonuses, beat out too often on the buzzer. This will hurt in the fast paced, quick buzzing nationals style unless they leave their comfort zone. That being said, this is a team with four real contributors and good coaching. They will not be the victims of any upsets since they will not create windows with mistakes. Cedar Crest went 3-7 two years ago, and 4-6 last year. I think bettering that is a good possibility.

C: A veteran team that’s rolled with the punches all year. They are balanced, good on bonuses, but surprisingly conservative on tossups–and that might come back to haunt them at HSNCT where getting questions at the giveaway is somewhat more common due to the difficulty of the questions. Perhaps they might as well take a guess on a few more TUs earlier. 

Motivational Track: Van Halen, Jump 

Alagar Homeschool (Pittsburgh)

B: The Alagar family has been a welcome addition to the larger Pennsylvania quizbowl family. Despite being mostly the age of underclassmen at other high schools, the Alagars pull off some really impressive buzzes, in lit and history especially. Though I don’t see a playoff berth yet, these guys are very dangerous and will scale up to nationals difficulty really well. As they get older and study more things, this will be one of Pennsylvania’s top teams next year.

C: Clearly an enthusiastic bunch that’s only going to get better in future years, it’s good to see a homeschooled team getting so involved in quizbowl and making the trip out to nationals. Hopefully other homeschool groups might follow in the Alagars’ path in the future.  

Motivational Track: Pink Floyd, Another Brick in the Wall (Part 2)

 

Announcement: The First-Ever Philadelphia City Quizbowl Championship

The First-Ever Philadelphia City Championships will be held at Friends Select School on Saturday, March 12, 2016. The winner of this event will represent Philadelphia at the state championships in late April in Harrisburg. Here are the full logistical details:

Location:
Friends Select School
1651 Benjamin Franklin Pkwy
Philadelphia, PA 19103

FSS is almost directly across the street from SEPTA’s Suburban Station and easily accessible by various trolley, subway, and rail lines.

Field Update (as of 3/7/16):
Franklin Towne Charter (2)
Science Leadership Academy (1)
Friends Select School (2)
Carver E&S (2)
Central (3)

Field: 10 teams (full round-robin)

Date:
March 12th, 2016

Time:
Teams should arrive between 8:15 and 8:30 AM for a pre-tournament meeting, with rounds beginning by 9 AM. There will be a short lunch break and the tournament will conclude in the afternoon. The exact location of the pre-tournament meeting will be emailed out to teams that register.

Eligible Teams:
All high schools within the City of Philadelphia are eligible to send teams to compete. Each team consist of up to 6 students, with 4 students playing at any time. Teams may consist of fewer than 4 students as well.

Costs:
$65 for each initial team from a school
$50 for each additional team from a school
-$10 per working lockout buzzer set brought

Questions Used:
NAQT IS-155A (see a sample packet of this difficulty level)

Format:

The exact format will depend on the number of teams, but will likely consist of a series of pooled round robins, with about 5 rounds in the morning and 3-4 in the afternoon.

Each team will be placed in round-robin pools in the morning, with the top finishers in each pool advancing to a championship bracket and all other teams advancing to a consolation bracket against teams of similar records in the afternoon. Win-Loss records within a bracket, points-per-game within a bracket, and points-per-bonus will be used, in that order, to break ties.

To win the championship, a team must win by at least 2 games. If two teams are tied with the same record within the championship bracket, a one-game championship match will be held. If one team is one game ahead of the other team, an advantaged final will be played between the top two teams. If two teams are tied for 2nd, a half-match of 10 tossups will be held to determine the team that advances. If there is a 3-way tie, then the tie will be broken with half-matches of 10 tossups each.

To Register:

Click here to fill out this form.

Need some help in setting up a quizbowl team at your school? Check out the “Quizbowl Essentials” link on the right-hand side of this site or leave a comment on this post.