The following article was a guest contribution by Dylan Bowman.
Uni Lab A – 6th, 105.88 Despite an underwhelming showing at HSNCT last year, University of Illinois Lab has returned their entire team and covered up their holes of RMP and science. Leading scorer Ethan Ashbrook is a top-5 player nationally in his categories of literature and philosophy, but is easily capable of buzzing in power across the entire distribution. He scales up incredibly well (see Cambridge Open stats). 2nd scorer Dylan Bowman (that’s me) spent the summer trying to plug the science hole but kept his strong fine arts knowledge that kept him afloat last season. Tim Cho is a strong history and RMP player while Jonathan Lau possesses incredibly deep geography knowledge that makes him a monster on NAQT. Jonathan is also deep in biology and has good history knowledge. With every category covered, what is holding this team back? One problem is the very inconsistent coverage in history and science. Tim Cho has hot and cold streaks, putting up 3 powers and 3 tossups two games in a row against Rockford Auburn at NAQT State, while going 0/2/2 the very round before. Dylan Bowman’s science knowledge is limited to clues that are either on Protobowl or in the first three chapters of any physics or chem textbook. Speaking of Protobowl, this team plays a lot of it. Negging is also an issue with this team, putting up over 2 a game at Earlybird. They also likely won’t play with a full lineup until next semester.
Stevenson A – 12th, 100.25 Stevenson has the potential to be a title contender this year–they return a top-3 history player in Govind Prabhakar, a top-5 literature player in Olivia Lamberti, and a former MSNCT champion, Arjun Nageswaran. They even managed to get a science player, David Lee, who is improving at a rapid rate. They have strong bases in the big 3, but struggle to perform outside of them except for Geo/CE. Due to this, despite their power numbers being comparable to Uni Lab, their PPB was 1.7 lower than them at Earlybird. Despite having the lowest placing of the Illinois top 4 at Earlybird, their strength isn’t on mACF. When NAQT State and HSNCT roll around, Stevenson will be able to make the most of their strengths due to the distributions and difficulty of those sets. As for player analysis, it’s pretty straightforward. Govind is an amazing history player with strong generalism, as exemplified by his 4th place finish at the 2018 IPNCT. Arjun offers exceptional history support as well as deep buzzes in music, while also contributing across the board with generalism due to his time at Aptakisic and on Stevenson B. Olivia scales up incredibly well in literature, putting up 2 powers a game at HSNCT, and like her teammates is a competent all-around player. David Lee, as far as I know, is a pure science specialist. With the mentoring of Deepak Moparthi, he has grown to be a top-5 science player in the state, and is especially strong in physics.
IMSA A – 13th, 96.86 IMSA returns their two best players, Hanson Hao and Matthew Lee. While Kodai Speich, their import from Auburn, is unfortunately not playing, Daniel Lee and Srivinay Tummarakota provide ample support in FA/philosophy and history, respectively. Hanson is an elite science specialist who scales up incredibly well, and has strong generalism as well. Matthew is a good history specialist who generalizes as well. He put up incredible statistics while playing without Hanson at NAQT state last year, but he has yet to replicate those stats while playing with the full team. IMSA’s main weakness is in literature and fine arts, but work is being made to fill those holes. Additionally, they scale up poorly besides Hanson. Despite these issues, though, they were able to win Earlybird, convincingly beating Uni Lab twice.
Auburn A – 15th, 96.57 Ethan Strombeck is back for his final year, and with his strength in literature, history, and especially fine arts, Auburn can look to replicate their 2015 and 2016 success this year. Ethan is probably the best music player in the nation, and his literature, history, and visual arts skills are all on par with other top-20 teams. Leif Verace provides decent science support, but has issues scaling up. I’m not completely sure what Lilly Chavez does, but she’s capable of putting up 10-15 PPG on a team with Ethan, which is an achievement by itself. Auburn’s weakness is in science, as Leif Verace isn’t quite nationals-ready. Also, the team structure is very Ethan-centralized, leading them to be inconsistent at times.
Sandburg A – 49th, 68.67 Aristotle Vainikos is a strong generalist, able to buzz in all of the big 3 and competent in some areas of RMP. His lack of dominance in any one category, though, prevents him from performing well against any of the many strong specialists on teams above his. His teammates at Earlybird, Sofia Vainikos and Kevin Malis, served to fill the music hole that he has. However, Sandburg’s full lineup has yet to play, with Ben Walter not appearing at Earlybird.
Latin A – 55th, 65.01 Latin A’s strong performance without their science player Matt Hurley is a testament to how deep their lineup goes. Chetan Vadali is a decent generalist, with Kenny Pointikes offering history support. Latin A will likely stay where they are for the rest of the year, as Matt Hurley’s presence will counteract the addition of new teams to the rankings as time passes. Hinsdale Central A – 58th, 63.78 While of course nowhere close to their 2016 team, this iteration of HC is surprisingly strong. Their strong core of Allie Yang, Manvit Adusumilli, and Thomas Mercurio came out of nowhere to put up strong numbers at Earlybird. Unfortunately, I have no information as to what subjects each is strong in, but expect to see Hinsdale climbing the ranks over the next two seasons, as Manvit and Thomas are juniors, while Allie is only a sophomore.
Latin B – 62nd, 62.85 Tejas Vadali hit the grind this summer, and has ended up even stronger than his brother, with whom he completely overlaps. Tejas is strong in history, literature, and geography, but doesn’t have lockdown knowledge in any of them. Latin B’s success will be determined by the strength of his teammates, assuming his doesn’t move up to A.
Barrington – 64th, 62.72 Barrington was able to make the top bracket at Earlybird despite missing two of their strongest players in Abraham Holtermann and Abigail Bergan, exemplifying how deep their roster goes due to generations of strong Station teams. Abraham is a strong science and fine arts player who will most likely be leading them in scoring this year. Abigail and Roxanne offer literature and history coverage, and Michelle is a decent generalist who led them at Earlybird. Barrington’s main weakness is their neg count–Barrington at Earlybird put up almost 4 negs a game, and that’s not even counting the one or so per game that Abraham and Abigail will each be tacking on. If they can get that under control, Barrington has a lot of room to rise.
Uni Lab B – 70th, 61.18 University Lab B missed the 2nd bracket at Earlybird due to a seeding mishap, but they put up stats similar to both Latin teams. Lawrence Zhao, their lead scorer, was possibly the best middle school science player last year, placing 2nd in the 2018 National Science Bee and 1st in the 2017 one. Sasha Rushing is a good history player with pockets of incredibly deep knowledge in Russian history and military history. Daniel Cho offers deep mythology knowledge and a decent literature base, and Robert Nagel is a phenomenal CS player with good generalist ability. This team’s main issues stem from a fluctuating roster and lack of knowledge outside of the big 3, but they have a lot of potential in Lawrence Zhao.
Homewood-Flossmoor A – 81st, 55.73 Jimmy Humphrey leads an H-F team that, despite not being as strong as the last 4 years, still has a deep roster. Jimmy is a strong literature generalist with minor science knowledge. Myles Walker, Teddy Komorowski, and Janellie Roach are all decent players that can support Jimmy. However, he has trouble scaling up, as shown by his lackluster performance at NAQT State and HSNCT last season.
Not ranked: OPRF – Kevin Kodama can’t go to tournaments, but is still probably the 2nd best player in Illinois. He’s competent on a national level in all of the big 3.
Fremd – Literature-based generalist Jamin Kim is returning with a slew of talented sophomores. This team has a lot of potential in history specialist Bryan Wan, science specialist Shreya Seetharaman, and myth/FA player Danny Kim. Their first tournament of the season will be ACF Fall.
This article was updated on October 19, 2018 to reflect that Allie Yang of Hindsdale Central is a sophomore, not a junior.
Dylan Bowman is currently a junior at University Lab High School in Urbana, Illinois.