The largest pyramidal event in Pennsylvania history occurred last Saturday as 64 teams from all across the state–from Hawley to Philadelphia to Waynesboro to Bethlehem–arrived at Manheim Township High School to test their mettle. 34 teams competed in the Varsity division, while 30 teams contested the novice title. The atmosphere at the event was unlike anything ever seen in Pennsylvania before, with some 250 players on site and a superstar team of dozens of Pennsylvania’s best moderators. Due to its large size, both divisions ran using a card system (wherein teams are power-matched against each other based on similar records) in the preliminary rounds.
Varsity’s top spot went to Lehigh Valley Academy A, where a solo Alex Schmidt fairly smashed most opposition en route to another trophy. It’s hard to say whether the A-set stats mean much for such an accomplished team, but LVA did average 26.35 points per bonus and north of 8 powers per match. Alex was easily the Varsity division’s leading scorer and his personal PPG of 178.9 was good enough for 3rd all-time on NAQT A-sets. There is nothing left at the non-nationals level for Alex to prove at this point. Second place went to Downingtown STEM A. Vishwa and Anish complement one another perfectly, and this broad, deep team got 8 powers a game en route to their runners-up finish. One very significant weakness with STEM that really showed up on A-sets was weak pop culture knowledge, which can be an issue on NAQT packets. Both LVA and STEM, however, took losses to a red-hot Friends Select A, who ended the morning rounds with the #1 Card in Varsity. Though they dropped two afternoon games to finish 5th, FSS proved they are a major threat to beat anyone by defeating the top two teams in close, hard fought matches. Richard’s rise from star (GPQB honorable mention last year) to superstar has been especially thrilling, and his 71 points per game led the way for a short-handed FSS A (missing Rudyard).
The fruitful cross border relationship between Ithaca High in New York and PA teams and events continued, as they drove all the way down and were rewarded for their commitment with a 3rd place finish. Great Valley A, undermanned this time by the absence of their science player Dan, took 4th behind one of incumbent GPQB Player of the Year Sam Scarfone’s best performances. Sam seemed particularly in his element on history and geography at the event. 6th place went to Hempfield A, one of the Lancaster-Lebanon League’s longtime powers who seems to have caught the pyramidal bug. After playing at Henderson last month, they followed up with a workmanlike tournament with some good wins, and received a berth to HSNCT. Downingtown East A finished 7th after another strong performance from Jackie, and Lancaster Mennonite A, perhaps the biggest surprise of the Varsity teams, came out with the last playoff berth, and a breakout performance by Jacob Cairns which included many fiery first line buzzes.
The consolation rounds were headed by two teams from Henderson. Unfortunately, they split their best players to hog HSNCT berths, which is considered against social decorum in Pennsylvania quizbowl and should be discouraged by TDs at future events. Aravind and Vijay continued to have strong seasons for the Henderson Warriors. Unionville finished 11th, and showed they have quite a bit of knowledge to display. Eric and Sophia cleared 40 points per game, and they worked a cool 21 points per bonus, which is very solid for a team still getting familiar with Saturday invitationals. Lakeland finished 13th, and looks to be PA’s best chance for a public school at SSNCT to do deep damage this year. Michael Goerlitz had another excellent run, getting 94 points per game, which was 4th at the event.
Perhaps most notable of all was the plethora of new teams Manheim Township’s coach, Missy Doll, got to the event through outreach. Many Lancaster and Lebanon area teams we don’t see much came out, and did quite well. The Varsity bracket featured three such teams: Red Lion, Lampeter-Strasburg, and Lancaster Catholic. Each came away with some nice wins, and could well turn into contenders soon. A special commendation goes to Red Lion’s Rick Schimek, who notched 68 points per game and was one of its top 10 scorers. I hope we see more from these talented teams very soon.
The field for Varsity also featured A teams from Huntingdon, Penn Manor, Cedar Crest, Moravian Academy, Emmaus, and Wallenpaupack continue their seasons to various levels of success. Bermudian Springs made their season debut as well, finishing near the middle of the pack. B and C teams from Friends Select, Great Valley, Hempfield and Emmaus also competed against this dense, tough field, with Friends Select B taking as high as tied for 11th.
In the Novice/JV division, Lebanon HS captured the championship in the course of gaining revenge on their only loss of the day to Manheim Township Middle B. Lebanon played an extremely clean tournament, with only 5 negs the entire day, and displayed deep knowledge on many bonuses en route to a solid 17+ PPB. Chase (57 PPG) and Courtney (39 PPG) led the way for Lebanon and I hope they’ll continue to play more weekend tournaments after making such a solid debut.
MT Middle B meanwhile played quite impressively to get to the finals in the first place, paced by Aizaaz’s 68 PPG and solid supporting performances from the rest of the team members. When combined with MT Middle A’s best players (particularly Deeya’s 61 PPG), MT Middle looks to be quite a formidable force at the Middle School level this year. The next few slots were taken up by some promising C teams, with both Emmaus C and Downingtown STEM C showcasing some of the future for Emmaus and STEM. Emmaus C finished with the #1 card after the prelims, but lost to MT Middle B in the playoffs to just finish outside the final. This tournament as a whole was a great example of the value of splitting divisions as it allowed newer players on these teams the opportunity to compete against players of similar experience levels and the card system kept the matches close–in the prelims, 3 teams had 1 point average margins of victory, suggesting that the system did a fairly good job matching teams up.
With so many other schools competing, a few scattered thoughts on various teams from the rest of the bracket:
- Eastern Lebanon County and Waynesboro made some rare but welcome appearances on the weekend tournament circuit here. In fact, judging by the high number of players on each school’s team (8 and 7, respectively), it seems as if they have plenty of interest for more teams at future tournaments. I would hope in the future that schools just enter two teams instead of one in these cases since it’s much more fun for players to be continually “in” a match and substitutions often seem to take up a lot of time.
- Lancaster Mennonite’s B team fared well and it’s neat to see a school that has expanded from a single-player powerhouse last year to a more complete program, at least in terms of competing with multiple solid teams at invitationals. Judging by this tournament, it’s pretty clear that most of the teams in PA are taking the program-establishment aspect to heart. This bodes well for creating lasting programs and for the health of the state of quizbowl as a whole.
- The #4 individual performance in this division came from Sebastian on Carver E & S B, who improved by 20 PPG in the prelims from the LVA tournament a month and a half ago. Lest anyone doubt that studying can pay off, it’s pretty cool to see such quick results. I’d be curious to know of other big increases from tournament to tournament for various players around the state in the future or even over the course of a year.
- Nathaniel Schmidt–the brother of Alex–finished with over 50 PPG for the tournament for Lehigh Valley Academy B.
-Ben And Chris