quizbowl

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

Advertisements

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.

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

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

Swarthmore Novice Wrap-Up (1/27/18)

bethlehem_catholic

Bethlehem Catholic poses with their 1st place trophy after finishing 8-0

Final standings are shown in the playoff results here, with full statistics available here.

Bethlehem Catholic emerged from the Lehigh Valley with determination, clearing the field with an undefeated record. Led by Brendan, this well-rounded team was confident on the buzzer, putting up 46 powers and 450 points per game overall. Their impressive bonus conversion (23.56 PPB) indicates substantial depth as well; look for them to do well if they come back to more Saturday tournaments.

archbishop_ryan

Archbishop Ryan with their 2nd place trophy

Second place went to Archbishop Ryan and Downingtown East. Archbishop Ryan’s top player was the appropriately named Ryan (a sophomore), who scored a tournament-leading 107 Points-Per-Game in the prelims. Following a 415-80 victory in their first match, they proceeded to score a very solid 19.18 PPB over the course of eight rounds. This enthusiastic new team should not be underestimated at future tournaments. D-East’s three-person team was powered by Maggie (75 PPG in the prelims) and Nikhil (42 PPG), with solid contributions from Simran. Both Ryan and D-East exercised impressive neg control, with both teams accumulating only 4 negs each during the entire event.

The rest of the playoff bracket included Friends Select C and two teams from Carver. FSS C put forth a team effort, with three players exceeding 23 PPG. Carver A notched a thrilling 270-265 win over Archbishop Ryan in the final match of the prelims, while Carver B upset their own A team in the last round of the day. Carver B also had 19.31 PPB, the third highest of the tournament. These talented young teams should be exciting to watch at the Philadelphia City Championship in March.

fss-d

FSS D after the tournament

In the consolation bracket, Church Farm School, Archbishop Wood, and Bodine all finished with 4-4 records. After their debut at the Philly Fall Tournament in November, CFS made a welcome return with each player powering at least twice during the tournament. Saiif’s 52.50 PPG was fueled by several deep pockets of knowledge, especially on literature. Archbishop Wood had a balanced scoring attack with four players from the six-person team of ever-rotating substitutions putting up 20 PPG or above, and Bodine’s one-two punch of Alex and Raquel combined for a win against Carver B and 16.94 PPB overall. The rest of the consolation bracket was rounded out by FSS Middle, FSS D, and Carver C, all of whom showed solid potential. FSS Middle in particular came within 75 points of beating D-East in the prelims, and their 17.17 PPB suggests a strong pipeline for the FSS quizbowl program.

d-east_fss

A match between D-East and FSS C

This tournament ran smoothly, finishing around 3:00 PM for most teams and providing a fun opportunity for less experienced players to compete on the SCOP Novice set. Out of the four schools in their first year of playing quizbowl, the two brand-new schools ended up taking the top two places. We hope to see all these schools back at more tournaments in the future!

-Jackie

Pennsylvania Novice Question Set Now Posted on quizbowlpackets.com

The 2016 Pennsylvania Novice set, written and edited by the members of GPQB and Pennsylvania’s broader quizbowl community, is now posted online on quizbowlpackets.com. This set was our attempt to pioneer a novice question set that was a bit more challenging than SCOP but more accessible than a NAQT A-set. There are also a few PA-specific Easter eggs in there.

With the rather amusing exception of a Georgia tournament that used the set for an extremely competitive varsity-level competition, I think the data showed that we did a pretty good job hitting our target, though the bonuses skewed a little harder than expected on the third parts. While we did not produce a PA Novice set this year, the Philly Cheesesteak set has ably stepped into the void (and is still available for mirrors if you want a novice set to mirror in your part of the state! follow the link for details).

Check out the PA Novice packets here. These would be great practice material for freshmen and sophomores at more experienced programs and for all players at programs relatively new to quizbowl.

 

Downingtown East 2018 Invitational (1/6/18) Wrap-Up

DS5CxJLW4AAAdMc

Downingtown STEM A poses after winning the varsity division 

42 teams gathered at Downingtown East HS on Jan. 6th for a chilly day of quizbowl to kick off the new year. Full statistics and results are available here.

Varsity/Experienced Division

In the varsity division, Downingtown STEM A took the crown against a resurgent Manheim Township A in the final, winning 320-260 in a winner-take-all single game. STEM, playing at full strength for the first time in a while, put up an incredible amount of powers over the course of the day (90 in total, averaging over 8 per match) that managed to make up for some occasional spurts of negs. The final match was in doubt up until the final few TUs as STEM connected on enough tossups to put MT away at the end. But Manheim Township definitely deserved to be in the final and has exceeded expectations coming out of winter break. Though not yet a national contender, they’ve certainly entered the PA conversation this year. Township A should no longer be doubted; they should be feared. The impressive performances by the other Township teams this tournament as well as their Middle School teams at previous competitions are a testament to how well-oiled this venerable PA quizbowl machine is.

Friends Select A finished in 3rd. This time, it seems Jake upped the studying ante and led the team in scoring for the first time this year. A three-headed attack that covers pretty much all of the canon (Richard may well be the 2nd-best science player in PA at this point) and gets solid 4th chair support is dangerous, but FSS A also led the tournament in negs as a team, which led to a few close shaves. FSS beat Henderson A in the 3rd-place match to take a trophy. Henderson, led by the always-solid Aravind and Vijay, played themselves into 4th place by knocking off Great Valley A in a match that’s going to haunt GV for awhile. Great Valley A remains fully capable of winning any game against any team in PA, but also seems unable to get over the hump when it comes to winning consistently. Henderson, meanwhile, continues their overachieving streak, and did so with only 3 players this time.

Delaware Valley A continues to put up solid numbers, also topping 21 PPB for the tournament. Their losses weren’t too bad–a FSS power-fest and STEM’s 2nd-closest game of the tournament–but this team seems to expect more than that. They’ll have to up their game to make the best-in-state convos, but they’re firmly within the upper tier of teams in the state. In a welcome repeat re-appearance on the circuit, Unionville had a nice tournament, knocking off FSS A and keeping it close in a couple of championship bracket games. Their PPB made a remarkable jump over the course of the tournament too, suggesting their quizbowl IQ may have increased over the course of the tournament and perhaps pointing to opportunities for future improvement if they keep playing (h/t to Silverman for pointing this out). Paced by Connor’s 70 PPG, Penn Manor A continued their steady play throughout the season to finish as the final HSNCT qualifier and round out the top 8 teams. Camp Hill A and Emmaus A both made the top brackets, but couldn’t make much noise once there. Manheim Township B kept it close against several top teams and put up a very solid 18.19 PPB while Great Valley C was able to spring an upset over Emmaus in the morning but faded the rest of the day against tough competition in the top bracket.

Nice to see Downingtown West back at a weekend tournament with a particularly strong performance by Miriam (62.5 PPG). Lancaster Mennonite continues to get stronger this season, centered around Jacob (54.38) and an improving group of other supporting staff. Moravian was also nice to see again on the circuit and Lawrenceville (NJ) crossed the Delaware and boldly ventured into the experienced bracket, where they collected a handful of wins for their A and B teams. Renaissance Academy also came out in force with three teams that again bravely challenged the experienced varsity teams.

One note to teams: it’s totally fine to have juniors and seniors compete in the novice division if they’re new to pyramidal quizbowl or don’t play often. Most TDs are likely open to discussing potential exceptions to any eligibility restrictions in the right cases.

DS5DOVVWsAAZxG5

Wallenpaupack B after winning the Novice division.

 Novice

The novice division was small but competitive. In the end, Wallepaupack B defeated Manheim Township D in the final, with FSS C claiming third. Wallenpaupack was led by Angela (45 PPG), with able assistance from the rest of her teammates. MT D got the prelim round win over Wallenpaupack, but lost two close games at the end to finish as the runner-up. It was good to see PALCS at a weekend tournament here, though they struggled a bit in the upper bracket finishing behind both Carver A and Bodine, who scored a nice win over the eventual champions. Penn Manor B finished atop the consolation bracket above a very young Lehigh Valley novice team and several other Carver squads.

Manheim Township Academic Challenge (12/16/17)

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.

Full Stats are here.

IMG_0777.jpg

A packed Manheim Township auditorium during the after-lunch meeting.

Varsity Division

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.

IMG_0773

Hempfield B (left 4) and Lancaster Mennonite A pose for a photo after Mennonite’s 325-200 victory in round 1.

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.

IMG_0775

Downingtown East A on their way to lunch. From L to R: Malaika, Zach, and Jackie.

Novice Division

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.

lebanon

Novice division champions Lebanon High School with their trophy.

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