The first major tournament of the year is in the books for Southern California quizbowl! Canyon Crest once again did an incredible job hosting the fifth edition of their Powered Points Tournament (PPT) with all rooms having buzzers, a very reasonable end time, full category statistics (for the varsity division), no bye rounds, and added an excellent touch by including “mindfulness guidelines” in every room that helped inform good conduct among all teams. That said, we all love hearing about the teams, so let’s get into it! All teams are in alphabetical order, so you can find your team that way.
(See bottom for a list of disambiguations of abbreviations and terms. If you take any issue, have any corrections, or wish to add anything to this post, please let me know via email to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will happily edit it.)
Their entire A team came back stronger than ever after their impressive 5th place High School National Championship Tournament (HSNCT) run. Placing high expectations publicly on teams can have negative effects sometimes, even when those expectations are positive and warranted, so I won’t make any specific predictions, but needless to say, they are very, very, very good at quizbowl. They continue to dominate history, literature, and visual fine arts (VFA), having two of the best players in those categories in the country in seniors Amogh Kulkarni and Ryan Sun. Science seems somewhat more evenly spread out among their players, and to be the “weakest” of the big 3 categories, though they still have plenty of very early buzzes on it, especially biology and physics. They are one of the highest-powering teams in the nation, and their neg numbers are pretty well in-check. A wacky stat is that both Ryan and Amogh say their points per game actually increase after afternoon rounds in the top bracket, which seems insane, but just shows that beyond their usual domination, they have a second gear they can kick it up to when necessary. We can expect a strong season from them as the team to beat in SoCal.
Arcadia B also put up a very solid performance, getting into the top bracket in the JV division. The team was consistent, but did have a bit of an issue with negging, being second in JV in negs. They didn’t have a wealth of insanely early buzzes, but given that this was the first tournament for most of the team, they did exceedingly well! Arcadia C also had a solid first performance for a young, shorthanded, novice team, managing to squeeze out a few wins and tight games. Arcadia A will be graduating their entire team after this year, so it’s good to see younger players from Arcadia getting involved, fielding a C team for the first time since May 2019!
It was great to see Bishop’s at this tournament! They have been a powerhouse in the San Diego City Academic League for quite a while now, being the conference champs in the last full, in-person season (2019). That said, they haven’t attended a tournament since January 2018. You would never know, looking at their 6-2 record, just narrowly missing out on the top bracket. Four players with over 30 ppg is almost unheard of for a team new to Saturday tournaments, not to mention their deep bench. Their balanced attack in history, modern world, and religion/mythology (RM), combined with cience, led by junior Sasha Berger, makes them a threat on a wide swath of the distribution.
Their B and C teams were in a similar boat, as they finished just outside of the top bracket for JV with six wins apiece. Both teams were mostly freshmen with one upperclassman. There’s some massive potential among those young players, and we hope to see them back at Saturday tournaments as they improve. They will certainly make some noise in the city league this year, and in years to come.
Chaparral was another team brand-new to not only Saturday tournaments, but their school is new all-subject quizbowl more broadly, which put them in a tough place coming into this tournament, not to mention being in a literal tough place from Temecula, not quite close to LA nor SD tournaments. Despite that, and a slow start that is customary for all new schools, their A team was able to finish strong with a strong three-game winning streak to close out the day, led by junior Andrew Skallerud. Their younger B team was also able to nab a win in the afternoon, and unfortunately finished with two heartbreakingly-close nail biters to close out the day. Such is quizbowl. There’s a lot of potential from both teams, which the ROTC circuit is sure to see more of at their own upcoming tournament. I heard they have a new coach who’s much more familiar with quizbowl, so I’m hopeful to see them improve even further at future tournaments!
Losing long-time leader and science-aficionado Joshua You did not slow Del Norte A down one bit! Sophomore Conner Feng stepped up their game to be the tournament’s third-leading scorer, being especially impressive in literature where he was second in points, despite leaving at lunch! The rest of the team was well-balanced as well, especially in the humanities, finishing top 3 in history, fine arts (FA), and RM ppb despite Conner’s premature exodus. This suggests they may do better on housewrite/PACE questions, which have more humanities, as opposed to NAQT questions that this tournament used, which have comparatively more modern world and science questions. I’m not sure what their final roster will be, but they have a few options that will each be formidable in the circuit.
Their B team also did amazingly in the JV division, with their only losses coming narrowly against division-champs SDA. The team was generally pretty young, but relatively experienced, with no absolute novices, most being alumni of Oak Valley. Their C and D teams similarly had mostly young, former-middle school players, along with a few newcomers. Both made the middle bracket despite their relative youth. It’s good to see teams continuing the activity from middle school, and hope they continue to do so!
PS—teams should totally attend Del Norte’s Edgehog tournament (DNE V) this January 8th!
Francis Parker A had a great tournament, despite some unfortunate luck. Despite missing one of their top players, they managed to make the top bracket, where they tragically lost each of their games by a painfully close margin—each within one toss up-bonus cycle. Once again—such is quizbowl. Some team members who are now seniors have been playing together since middle school, so it is no surprise that they are very well balanced with complementary specialites. They can also be expected to have a great season in the City Academic League with Bishop’s.
Their B team also had a great tournament, only narrowly missing out on finals with one-tossup games against SDA and Del Norte B. Led by freshman Jonas Brown, formerly of Oak Valley, the team was pretty young. As most of FP A will be graduating in the coming year, it’s good to see that one of the smaller schools to consistently field teams has strong, young players in store for the future.
I will never cease to be amazed by Oak Valley’s ability to consistently contend with much older teams on questions likely harder than they will face at their nationals. Nevertheless, here they are, being amazing. They were a young team, even by their own standards, without any 8th graders. Their A team, led by seventh grade Jacob Wu, narrowly missed out on the top bracket due to a 20-point loss to Olympian B. Their less-experienced B team also knocked out a few wins, and put up some impressive buzzes on the way. Middle school tournaments likely won’t be held till the spring this year unfortunately (in part due to difficulties in getting those below 12 being immunized), so it’s hard to see how they stack up on middle school questions, but given their performances on tougher questions in a tougher field, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say this will be the school most middle school teams will be looking at this year in SoCal.
Olympian adapting to a coaching change, as well as the pandemic difficulties in the past year or two, has made this their first local tournament not hosted by themselves since 2018. That said, their return was triumphant, with both teams finishing in the top bracket in their respective divisions, earning their A team an HSNCT qualification! Led by senior Henry Morales, that A team was dominant on science, finishing with the highest science ppb in the whole tournament. They were solid in other categories, like history and modern word, but science is by far their standout, which bodes well for them given SoCal’s relative lack of strength on science compared to other major categories. Last year saw Otay Ranch snap their years-long domination of the Varsity division of the Sweetwater Academic League, and they’re coming back this year with a vengeance.
Their B team also made it to their top bracket, indicating that their Sweetwater Academic League JV division streak may also be pretty secure. They had some very deep buzzes, and despite lots of substitutions, had a number of young players stand out, including sophomore Martin Costa, junior Abigail Ouano, and freshman Dantae Garcia, among others. I look forward to seeing Olympian renew their consistent attendance and reputation for NAQT dominance, a strong team spirit, and drawing in many players.
Our Lady of Peace:
OLP first started coming to Saturday tournaments two years ago at 2019’s iteration of PPT, so happy two-year quizbowl anniversary! The team has increased and improved since then, despite graduating some strong players. Their A team went 3-6, going on a 3-game win streak to close out the tournament, with a particularly strong showing on RM, where they led the field in ppb. Their top two scorers were both juniors, who along with senior L. Fowler, seem to have been on the team since that inaugural tournament. Another City Academic League mainstay (though in a different division from FP and Bishop’s), they are well-positioned to have a strong season and launchpad for further improvement next year.
On that note, OLP managed to field three teams for the first time. This also meant that their younger, half-novice B team ended up in the varsity division in order for the numbers to work out. Such is quizbowl. The team admirably stuck out the tournament, consistently buzzing in every game—of which they had a few close ones. The team did best in science behind sophomores Maggic Holcomb and Paige Newlon, indicating a solid knowledge base to build on. OLP C was also young, and consisted entirely of novices to weekend quizbowl. Despite this, the team went a strong 3-6, with those three wins coming across their last 5 games, as is usual as new players warm up to the feel of the buzzer and the game. OLP is well-positioned to have strong showings not just for varsity, but also in the JV and novice divisions of the City Academic League for years to come. We hope to see them continue to expand and attend more tournaments!
Everything I said about the impressiveness of Oak Valley playing up applies to Pacific Trails as well. Finishing a very solid 4-5, the team was solid and balanced. Though their neg numbers were a bit high in the morning, they went down as the tournament progressed. Neg and buzzer control is one of those skills that is transferable across difficulties, so it’s important for them to control that, and not get in bad habits, which they seem to have done! The team was able to compete against high schoolers on high school questions, so of course, we can expect them to do well on middle school questions against middle schoolers as well. A team of all 8th graders, they are of course young by our standards, with great quizbowl careers ahead of them, but in the more immediate future, though they will sadly have to wait till spring for middle school tournaments, Pacific Trails will be a force.
Following 2018, where SDA was led to a strong finish at PACE by Rokas Veitas and Klaus Neyer, SDA quizbowl (or “Mustang Minds”) went into a somewhat dormant period. They made their return at ACE XIV last year, and came back even stronger for their in-person return this year, winning the JV division! Led by senior Nick Manchin, the team went 9-1, despite a few scares from Del Norte and Francis Parker. The team had some deep knowledge, averaging almost 5 powers/game, a difficult feat given NAQT’s notoriously short powers. We hope to see them make a return to attending more tournaments regularly!
Despite long-time leading scorer Josh Xu graduated last year, Santa Monica A has (just as Josh predicted in this thread) returned strong as ever, going 7-2 for second place. Most of the lineup had buzzes all across the distribution, beyond their designated specialties. The team is remarkably consistent, especially in history, led by senior Kethan Raman. Any team that’s able to get 9 tossups versus Arcadia has the ability to be a top team nationally, let alone regionally, where they’ve distinguished themselves as the clear and close second team (though to be fair, they’ve yet to face a full Westview, Del Norte, or CCA).
Santa Monica B also had a very strong showing, led by promising freshman Naomi Gage. The team went 5-4 in top bracket, being competitive in all of their games. For a team mostly of freshmen in the fall, who never played in middle school, that’s remarkably impressive. The team seemed to have very strong chemistry, and if they continue on their current trajectory, and attend tournaments regularly, we can expect them to quickly stack up to being even more formidable. Santa Monica certainly has a very strong future as well as their present.
In what’s looking to be a theme, St. Augustine attended their first Saturday tournament since 2018 at PPT V. For a team with almost no experience at tournaments, and fielding two similarly-matched teams in the varsity division, Saints put up a strong first showing. Particularly, Saints A showed up in fine arts (typically one of the most difficult categories for new teams), modern world, and history, behind seniors William Strack, Julian Solis, and Aidan Rickwa respectively. If the team of seniors is able to focus in and play to the best of their ability, they can certainly continue to move up in quizbowl and even more so in their City Academic League.
Saints B, despite being a team of underclassmen, was able to impressively match the record of their A team, though they did lag behind in a few statistical areas, as the old adage goes, the only stats that really matter are wins and losses. The team is pretty young, so naturally they don’t seem to have carved out specific niches for themselves yet, though they did register some good buzzes on history, literature, and modern world. I hope to see them all continue to attend tournaments and improve in quizbowl!
St. Margaret’s Episcopal:
Once again led by senior Nate Kang, SMES had another strong showing at this tournament. Nate was once again a superstar at this tournament, showing himself expanding into a full-blown generalist beyond his roots as a history player, and he’s still a very strong history player. Joining Nate was a trio of new players, each with impressive performances. It’s always difficult to join a team with a superstar player where points can be hard to come by, but it’s good to see that there’s interest at SMES outside of Nate, vitally, among non-seniors. We hope we see them at future tournaments this year and beyond.
Westview was, unfortunately, unable to field anything close to their full A team at PPT V, but their shorthanded team of sophomores was still able to put up a number of good games. Vasu Kashipara put up strong numbers on modern world, Rahul Jogadhenu on history, and Adarsh Venkateswaran on literature. The team isn’t rounded out yet, with some obvious holes, but as they get older, improve, and are joined by the rest of their team, it can be expected for Westview to start giving more teams a run for their money.
A few absent teams include:
Canyon Crest (of course), North Hollywood, Harvard-Westlake, Mount Carmel, Dos Pueblos, La Jolla, Scripps Ranch, University City, Mt. Everest, Troy, and Viewpoint, among others. We hope to see them at some tournaments later on in the year.
Nationals qualifications: Congratulations to Arcadia, Santa Monica, Del Norte, Saint Margaret’s Episcopal, and Olympian for qualifying for the HSNCT and the PACE NSC! Congratulations to Francis Parker for qualifying for the PACE NSC! Congratulations to Saint Margaret’s Episcopal for qualifying for the SSNCT!
Academic League – Four leagues sponsored by the San Diego County of Education office that have many similarities to quizbowl, including Sweetwater, City, North County, and East County leagues
Modern world – A category of questions including geography, pop culture, and current events
NAQT- National Academic Quiz Tournaments, a major question provider, among other things
Neg – An incorrect answer given while a tossup is being read to both teams resulting in a minus 5 point penalty
Power – When a tossup is gotten before a certain point, and is thus worth 15 points to the team that got it rather than the usual 10