2015 NAQT High School National Championship Results–Congratulations Arcadia A!
Congratulations to Arcadia A’s Coach Christopher Schultz and players Kevin Wang, Justin Nghiem, Andrew Leung, and Yuqiao Zhao: our new National Academic Quiz Tournaments high school national champions!
After a thrilling weekend at the 272-team NAQT High School National Championship Tournament in Chicago, Southern California emerged battered but triumphant, bringing back to the region our first-ever national crown. By excelling at such insane levels of competition, Southern California has demonstrated once more that despite its isolation from the rest of the national circuit & relative under-recognition, it remains one of the strongest and most robust quiz bowl circuits in the country. In fact, SoCal was one of the best represented geographic regions at the HSNCT: 11 SoCal teams attended, and every single one of these teams finished 5-5 or higher (an impressive feat, as that means even our weakest teams were just one push away from making the playoffs). We’ve summarized and provided some brief commentary on every schools’ performance here:
To qualify for playoffs, a team had to go 6-4 or higher on Saturday’s preliminary matches. Winning 7 or more games would guarantee a spot in the Winner’s Bracket, meaning a team would have to lose two games to get knocked out of playoffs on Sunday. Winning 6 games would mean a spot in the Loser’s Bracket, where you could only lose one game before getting knocked out of playoffs. Without further ado:
Arcadia A (8 – 2, 7th place in prelims) (8-1 on Sunday playoffs+Finals, 1st place–National Champions) [Stats]
Of course, the highlight of the tournament is Arcadia A: Kevin Wang, Justin Nghiem, Andrew Leung, and Yuqiao Zhao. Together, this amazing crew of players brought home Southern California’s very first national championship, becoming the second California school to ever win that title (the first being Bellarmine from Northern California in 2012).
During the first day of the HSNCT, Arcadia A steadily climbed their way through the preliminaries before facing a close 370 – 405 loss to Rockford Auburn A, a fellow 8 – 2 finish team. However, the clear highlight of Arcadia A’s day in the prelims was definitely their devastating 570 – 140 victory over Detroit Catholic Central A, the eventual 3rd-place finishers. The game was so one-sided that at one point, the score was 500 – 0 in favor of Arcadia A! The team finished their day with a 290 – 440 loss to Northmont, a game that stayed very close until Northmont’s perennial star player Sam Blizzard took an insurmountable lead through the last two or three tossups.
The playoffs, however, were when Arcadia A really took flight. Arcadia averaged 7.57 powers and only 2 negs per game throughout the entirety of the playoffs, before the two final rounds. In fact, the team’s margin of victory on Sunday, in which they only played against teams that finished 8th place or higher, was actually higher than their margin of victory on Saturday during the preliminaries (171.5 on Saturday versus 201.11 on Sunday). Even during their one loss to LASA A from Austin, TX (the eventual 2nd-place finisher, who also won the 2013 and 2014 championships) in the Winner’s bracket finals, they still put up 8 powers, 3 10s, and 0 negs, and only fell flat on the bonuses– in the end, they lost by just 15 points (360-375). They put that heartbreaking loss to good use, though. After dropping into the Loser’s bracket, they rampaged their way through 5th-place Solon A from Ohio (455-285) and 4th-place IMSA A from Illinois (445-225), which they had already beaten that earlier Sunday morning, to make it to the Loser’s bracket super-finals. [Edit: Solon is from Ohio, not Illinois]
Arcadia capped off their transcendent playoffs performance with yet another blowout of Detroit Catholic Central A (580-185) in that Loser’s bracket super-finals, putting up 12 powers (wherein every member of Arcadia A put up 3 powers apiece). This time, the game took place at the Grand Ballroom in front of a large audience, on the same stage where they would play their thrilling final match/rematch against LASA A from Austin, TX.
In the finals versus LASA A, Arcadia A got off to an extremely poor start, racking up 5 negs in the first half of play. By the time the clock sounded at the end of the first half, the crowd had all but called the game in favor of LASA A–as early as question 8, one spectator had even declared, “I’m about to bail–this isn’t going to happen.” And yet it did happen.
To start the second half, Justin Nghiem silenced the doubters by powering literature on the first line. Arcadia A 30d the bonus, beginning a legendary 9-minute segment of play. In that second half, Arcadia A put up 4 powers and 5 10s, letting LASA A answer only 2 questions to go on a 285-70 run that ended only when the clock sounded for the second half, declaring Arcadia A the 2015 National Champions. They finished the match with 6 powers, 6 10s, and 6 negs, on 24.17 PPB. 5 of their 6 negs came in the first half of play, before they rallied themselves to victory.
Through their stunning victory, Arcadia A has once again demonstrated the insane balance that they’ve been cultivating for the last four years–here are their powers/10s/negs statlines:
Kevin Wang: 51/45/29, 50.35 points per 20 tossups heard
Justin Nghiem: 38/17/3, 34.12 PP20TUH
Andrew Leung: 34/14/10, 28.24 PP20TUH
Yuqiao Zhao: 29/22/11, 28.24 PP20TUH
As a result, this year’s Arcadia A probably had the most balanced roster amongst any of the top 10 teams in the country. All four members specialize in different subjects and finished with an over-50% power rate. Andrew Leung and Yuqiao Zhao notably provided their signature one-two punch of history, geography, and current events to combine for an overall statline of 63/36/22 and 56.48 PP20TUH. They averaged 3.55 powers per game in their grueling Sunday gauntlet, suggesting that Arcadia may possibly have been the strongest history team in the entire HSNCT field.
Again, we all congratulate Arcadia A for capping off a three-year string of utter dominance over local Southern California tournaments by winning SoCal Quiz Bowl its first national title.
Westview (8 – 2 on Saturday) (3-2 on Sunday, t-13th place overall) [Stats]
Kevin Li, Rahul Keyal, Chaitanya Kore, and Shivank Nayak.
Westview is certainly the Cinderella story of the last few months for Southern California high school quiz bowl. They began their impressive improvement at the beginning of April, and sneaked their way into the top 25 at the final Morlan Top 200 ranking–because of this, they were relatively low profile and shocked the nation with their terrifying string of upsets to finish tied for 13th place, where no one in the nation outside of California expected anyone but Arcadia A to finish at or above.
Highlights of the tournament for senior/team captain Kevin Li and sophomores Rahul Keyal, Chaitanya Kore, and Shiv Nayak’s were absolutely their insane victories over two Virginia/Maryland/DC teams that were #2 and #3 on the Morlan Top 200 going into nationals: Maggie Walker and Richard Montgomery. [Edit: Richard Montgomery is from Maryland, not Virginia, though DC/MD/VA is still the same Mid-Atlantic circuit, as those three states largely share the same tournament sites]
On Saturday, Westview went up against Maggie Walker (t-5th, #2 on Morlan Top 200) and scored an upset 435 – 390 victory. Of note was team captain Kevin Li’s amazing 6 powers against the Virginia juggernaut, with a final power on Van der Waals to seal the deal. Westview also finished the tournament with the 10th highest PPB in the field at 21.40.
On Sunday, Westview took a rough loss against Montgomery Blair (320-520) to drop into the Loser’s bracket in the second round of playoffs, but proceeded to hang on with a nail-biting win against Norman North (375-355) and then an insane victory over yet another top 5 Morlan Ranking team from Virginia, Richard Montgomery (380-205). Westview simply choked out Richard Montgomery in that match, slowly racking up 4 powers and 8 tossups with 21.67 points-per-bonus, eliminating any chance of their opponents taking a lead, in spite of their best efforts to.
Westview was finally knocked out of contention by a heartbreaking 435-230 loss to High Tech A, a perennial powerhouse for the last four years with consistent top 20 finishes that went on to finish t-8th this year.
The definite MVP of Westview was senior Kevin Li with his quiz bowl swan song, putting up a power/10/neg statline of 38/50/10. Kevin Li proved that he’s one of the three best NAQT players this year and then some by leading his team to an inconceivable t-13 finish and instilling the fear of Southern California into several Virginia juggernauts.
Also interestingly enough, Rahul Keyal, Chaitanya Kore, and Shivank Nayak, the three sophomores of Westview (who got 3rd place at middle school nationals three years ago as Mesa Verde), combined for 29/62/23 over the course of HSNCT and only dropped off slightly against stronger opponents–Shivank Nayak didn’t drop off at all, performing at the same consistency that netted him a cool 6/7/3 statline overall, even against those stronger opponents. With two more years to go, the three sophomores of Westview have given their school a very, very bright future.
La Jolla (7 – 3) (1-2 in playoffs, t-34th place) [Stats]
Vincent Doehr, James Malouf, Erica Liu, Charlie Mann, Thomas Garcia
The heartbreak of SoCal’s HSNCT run certainly belongs to the second-strongest SoCal team La Jolla–they had a difficult run in the prelims, playing 8 teams that made eventually made the playoffs, including a couple of 7-3 teams, two eventual 8-2 teams, and one eventual 9-1 team (Northmont). This was exacerbated by their relatively low playoffs seed in the Winner’s bracket, where they faced Western Albemarle, the #1 playoffs seed, almost right off the bat after beating Ezell-Harding. Interestingly enough, had they lost that game to Ezell-Harding, they would’ve played a slew of much easier games afterwards against teams that were far weaker than they were statistically, although there was no way of knowing that in advance due to the nature of the Swiss matching card system. Instead, they were knocked out in the local showdown third round of playoffs by their neighbor just up the I-5 (and onto the CA-56 a little), Torrey Pines A, who staved off a 7/6/3 onslaught through a significantly higher bonus conversion. Had La Jolla not fallen victim to bad luck of the draw and gotten over the hump, they could’ve matched Westview with a t-13 at the statistical tossup pace they were playing at.
Individually, all members of this team did quite well. Senior Erica Liu provided her lit+FA strength at a 12/18/3 clip, putting up a great tossup-neg rate and scoring a majority of La Jolla’s tossup point in their game against t-5th and #1 seed Western Albemarle in the playoffs with 0 negs. Senior Charlie Mann performed to his usual hyper-specialist abilities as well, although he was hurt by HSNCT’s greatly decreased Thought and Religion, Mythology, and Philosophy distribution–he still provided the team with 8 powers, 3 tossups, with only 3 negs over this weekend.
La Jolla’s two highest scorers, though, were junior Vincent Doehr and sophomore James Malouf, who both provided very good scoring stats–James Malouf in particular put up 16/21/7, while the star of the show, Vincent Doehr, put up an astonishing 38/34/23. Aside from the slightly higher neg rate, Vincent Doehr might come back next year to be the strongest returning player in Southern California high school quiz bowl, at least on NAQT. This might have been a demoralizing nationals run for La Jolla, and especially for grizzled veteran Erica Liu and her fellow senior Charlie Mann, but their two underclassmen look set to carry on their memories and bring La Jolla back around next year to greater heights.
Torrey Pines A (7 – 3) (2-2 in playoffs, t-21st place) [Stats]
Kevin Jiang, Emily Sun, Vasu Vikram, Thomas Freedman
Torrey Pines A had climbed up to become one of the top teams in Southern California by early May, finally netting themselves a tournament win through a stellar performance at Triton Spring on DII SCT. This weekend at HSNCT, they proceeded to make a very solid run and eventually placed t-21st, which was an exact norm of their capabilities (I predicted that their floor was t-53rd, ceiling was t-13th). They didn’t lose to any team rated as weaker than them going into playoffs, but also didnt pull off any true upsets besides their last-second clutch against La Jolla, although not for lack of trying.
Torrey Pines A’s decision to put Thomas Freedman on the team proved a successful gamble – he led the team in both powers and overall PPG to finish safely in the winner’s bracket of playoffs, and then provided valuable scoring in the playoffs to help them secure their t-21 standing, Senior Kevin Jiang had a few good games as well, putting up a power and two tossups against Western Albemarle during WAHS’s insane tear on Saturday that got them to the #1 overall in prelims. Fellow senior Emily Sun and junior Vasu Vikram performed very well, putting up 13/22/7 and 11/16/6 respectively with strong statistical performance in the playoffs that would make them a teammate most top schools would be glad to have on their team. Vasu Vikram put up a very consistent average of 20 PP20TUH against every opponent this weekend, and Emily Sun provided the bulk of the scoring in many key games, including putting up 1/5/0 in Torrey Pines A’s 275-260 victory over State College A in the last round of prelims, as well defiantly scoring 1/3/2 against Chattahoochee A from Georgia in their final loss in the playoffs (190-455).
Once a few scaling issues are fixed, Thomas Freedman and Vasu Vikram look poised to take over Torrey Pines A next year and lead them back to top in Southern California contention, and possibly another strong playoffs run.
Del Norte (7 – 3) (1-2 in playoffs, t-34th place) [Stats]
Kevin Ma, Gokul Swamy, Albert Lee, Joe Sun, Flora Park
Del Norte surpassed all expectations in a performance reminiscent of Irvine 2012, defying all the critics and finishing in the top 50. They acquired a 7 – 3 record in prelims helped by a schedule that did not pit them against any top twenty teams until their final round, in which they were defeated 195 – 515 by Harmony Science North Austin from Austin, TX. Del Norte’s ability to maintain a stable playstyle on the back of Kevin Ma’s powers is marred only by their lack of depth – Harmony stole eight (8) powers in their final game against Del Norte’s two (2). Their run was put to a halt, however, by an unluckily low playoff seeding that pit them against Westview during Westview’s David vs Goliath HSNCT run and then almost immediately against Rockford Auburn A from Illinois, one of the only teams to beat Arcadia A during HSNCT.
Del Norte’s excellent performance during HSNCT weekend can be traced down to their stability–they did what almost no other playoffs team at the tournament can claim and didn’t drop any games that they should’ve won. Kevin Ma and Gokul Swamy played with a decently strong-scoring, low-neg tone and quietly chugged along to victory.
Arcadia C (6-4) (3-1 in playoffs, t-21st place) [Stats]
Chris Chi, Cibi Pari, Matt Forster, Hamlin Liu
Arcadia C made up for the shocking underperformance of their B-team and lived up to their A-team’s standards by sneaking into the playoffs as one of the lowest seeds (84 out of 104) and then, like Arcadia A, caught fire in the playoffs and proceeded to make the deepest overall run of any team starting in the Loser’s bracket on Sunday (St. Mark’s A from Dallas, TX made a similar run but started with a higher seed). [Edit: Naperville North of IL made a deeper run than Arcadia C while starting in the Loser’s bracket, finishing t-13th]
Every match they competed in on Sunday came down to a one-tossup swing, but Arcadia C was ready for the challenge, blazing forward and starting their first match of playoffs by dropping 8 powers against Georgetown Day School from Washington DC. The team played very confidently, averaging over 4 powers and only 0.5 negs per game in the playoffs. They powered at the same rate as they did on Saturday, but their neg rate dropped by about 2.0 per game to really seal the deal–this is especially impressive when you consider that every team they played on Sunday performed much better than Arcadia C did on Saturday.
This stellar Sunday performance was capped off by a 70 point loss to Harmony from Austin, TX (260-330). Despite losing, Arcadia C played out of their minds against a team that was slated for a top 20 finish from the start, went 8-2 in the prelims, and finished in the top 8 at the end of the day. Arcadia C put up 4 powers, 5 10s, and 0 negs, giving the elite team a scare by going on a 3 power run in the second half of the game. As icing on the cake, freshmen Matt Forster and Hamlin Liu combined for a 3/3/0 statline in that almost impossible-to-win game–one has to wonder if news of the young Arcadia C’s performance in playoffs inspired Arcadia A during their own transcendent playoffs performance.
Hamlin Liu and Matt Forster are freshmen, giving Arcadia High School hope–most people would say that Arcadia’s Golden Age, which started in 2012, has come to a glorious end this year, but with two freshmen that have the depth and focus to bat so high above their average with such classic Arcadia-like consistency and teamwork, news of Arcadia’s demise may have been greatly exaggerated.
Santa Monica (6 – 4) (0-1 in playoffs, t-77th place) [Stats]
George Poon, Dean Chien, Celeste Bleiberg, Jackie Osaki
Santa Monica again proves one of the iron laws of Southern California Quiz Bowl–you don’t bet against Santa Monica finishing with a winning record in prelims at HSNCT, no matter who is on the team and how low profile they’ve been during the regular season. Despite being a relatively low-scoring team, they too refused to drop any games they should’ve won, winning through consistency and making it just in time into the playoffs. They did, however, suffer a bad loss to Dorman A in the first round (415-205), squelching their chances of making a deeper nationals run.
Irvine (5-5, 131st place) [Stats]
Dana Lansigan, Shripad Badithe, Jungah Lee, Van Ngo, Sreyas Samantula, SunAh Lee
Irvine made a valiant push for 6-4 but just couldn’t overcome the competition on Saturday. Every key loss for them was within the swing of one tossup, and two of them were within 20 points. Senior Dana Lansigan and her crew played at a strong pace, and had a single tossup swung their way, their record and prelims schedule would have been very different. Instead, they took too many losses early on and were knocked out of contention.
Credit goes where it’s due, though: Irvine performed with a winner’s mentality and refused to lose no matter what the stakes or odds. They finished their Saturday with two rounds left despite already being locked out of the playoffs. In the first of those two matches, they narrowly beat Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart from MI 190-145 for the first match to prove that they were, in fact, playing to win.
Irvine went out in a blaze of glory in the second match against Providence from North Carolina by taking the game to the final tossup, and then performing in the clutch by taking the last tossup-bonus cycle to gain a 5-point lead right at the buzzer. With that final defiant win, they finished .500 and locked their opponents, who were 5-4 going into the match, out of the playoffs. An attitude like that proves that Irvine will be in the picture locally in Southern California for a long, long time, and anyone in the SoCal quiz bowl circuit should be proud to call Irvine one of their own.
Olympian (5-5, 113th place) [Stats]
Thomas B., Jongsu Kim, Kyle M., Mark T., Federico L.
Olympian made an effort to get to playoffs as well, but was unable to break a winning record as the clock ran out on Saturday. Olympian was unable to capitalize on a relatively easier early schedule compared to the rest of Southern California, only playing 4 playoffs teams, with the majority of them going 6-4. They were finally knocked out of playoffs contention by Arcadia C in the last round of playoffs when both were battling for the 6-4 spot–an unlucky draw to go into as a 5-4 team, as Arcadia C would later go on to defeat several high-seed teams to finish in 21st place.
What hurt Olympian was their relatively lower depth of knowledge compared to the 6-4 teams with only 16 powers and 15.50 points-per-bonus. What was impressive, on the other hand, is how deeply each member bought in, with each player on their 5-member roster posting around a 25 PP20TUH production and contributing in a big way in their race for the playoffs.
Arcadia B (5-5, 105th place) [Stats]
Joshua Jen, Steven Kurniawidjaja, David Zhang, Tridib Biswas
The absolute biggest shock of Southern California’s HSNCT weekend was Arcadia B failing to make playoffs. They played messier than they should have over these rounds, racking up 3 negs against Hallsville from MO, which was a weaker team statistically. What condemned Arcadia B, however, is the fact that, of their early seed groupings, they were likely slated as the #2 but were upset by Naperville North, which went against national predictions everywhere and finish in 13th place. This in turn forced them into a more grueling schedule throughout the day, although it certainly didn’t help matters that Darien from Connecticut, the school that pushed them over into 5-5, had their best performance of the day in their tournament-ending matchup.
If things had gone slightly differently, Arcadia B might have placed highly in the playoffs–statistically, with only 10 rounds, Arcadia B was powering at a higher rate in the prelims than almost all teams that finished t-21st (and in fact had more powers overall than Homestead from Northern California, who finished t-8th), and had comparable points-per-bonus to many teams at the same level. It was no mistake that they placed 105th, the highest of all teams that didn’t make the playoffs, by a large margin.
Joshua Jen and David Zhang are returning next year, and should be able to take advantage of Arcadia’s infinite ammunition and reload yet again to create another strong set of Arcadia teams–they will have a harder time rebuilding, though, now that Joshua Jen is the last remaining member who entered the Arcadia club during the early stage of their 2012-2015 Golden Age, which looks like it’s just about to end.
Torrey Pines B (5-5, 137th place) [Stats]
Brandon Zhang, Walter Zhao, Bruno Ghetti, Casimir Kothari, Ari Parsay
In spite of some phone-misplacing mishaps befalling both Torrey Pines teams, Torrey Pines B rounded out Southern California’s HSNCT weekend to be yet another team finishing 5-5 or higher on Saturday. Their most impressive win was probably against Great Neck South from New York, which went on to finish t-21st, but almost certainly had their seeding and their day spoiled by the loss.
The balanced scoring of this team was also impressive, with each member providing over 5 powers per 200 tossups and at least 15 PP20TUH. If any of these members return next year, they’d be an excellent building block for Thomas Freedman and Vasu Vikram as they try to create a better and stronger Torrey Pines next year.
And that wraps it all up! Overall, Southern California was extremely well-represented at the High School National Championship Tournament this year, through some great effort and uncommon grit. Congratulations to all teams who were in Chicago this weekend, and congratulations to Arcadia A for winning us the national title! Coming up sometime this week, we’ll be posting a preview of our teams attending the National Scholastic Championship which are, while fewer, no less impressive.