The following article was a guest contribution by Thomas Mercurio, Zach Roseman, Jonathan Lau, Dylan Bowman, and Roxanne Tang.
The Illinois quiz bowl season kicked off on Saturday, September 28, with the annual Earlybird tournament at the University of Illinois. University of Illinois Lab capped off a dominant day by beating Stevenson twice by 90 and 40 points and claiming the tournament championship. Here, we break down the performances of the top teams in their first tournament of the year and how the rest of the season looks for the contenders.
Uni Lab A:
The almost-unanimous top team in the nation posted an impressive streak of seven straight games with double-digit powers on their way to winning Earlybird. Uni started the tournament without two A team players, but late arrivals Ethan Ashbrook and Dylan Bowman combined for 136 points per game. In addition, Ethan and Jonathan Lau were one of two pairs of players at the tournament to break the Hoppes-Mikanowski Limit, with 100 and 83 PPG in prelims, respectively. Dylan, a fine arts and science specialist, compiled an absurd stat line of 24/1/2. Meanwhile, Ethan had nine powers in a win over Sandburg A, the second place team in their group, as his teammates contributed six more. Fourth scorer Sasha Rushing contributed in a big way, with three powers in two wins over Stevenson. At Earlybird, Uni showed their might on easier sets, while their ability to scale up is evident from their nationals performances last year. Along with 109 team powers, Uni edged Stevenson with 25.61 PPB (26.3 if you only count games with the full A team). The rivalry between Lab and Stevenson will be an interesting matchup for the rest of the season, as the two are head-and-shoulders above the rest of Illinois.
Despite the loss of top-tier literature player Olivia Lamberti to graduation, Stevenson remains the dominant team in the Chicago area due to a large number of skilled players coming up from its feeder middle schools each year. Govind Prabhakar is probably the best history player in the country at this point, and his specialism along with his strong generalism will undoubtedly contribute to a high finish at nationals this year. Arjun Nageswaran also provided good backup to Govind in history and current events. Meanwhile, David Lee, a junior, showed his science prowess with an impressive stat line of 23 powers, eight tens, and just four negs. He has improved a lot over the last year, giving Stevenson a 1-2-3 punch that may stand up to Uni’s. It will be interesting to see if Daniel Ding or Anmol Dash is Stevenson’s fourth A team player, but with either, this is a very good team. Along with Jonathan Lau and Ethan Ashbrook from Uni Lab, Arjun and Govind were the only two players at the tournament to break the Hoppes-Mikanowski Limit during the preliminary rounds, with 84 and 82 points per game, respectively. Two close loses to Uni Lab were the only blemishes on the day for Stevenson, who look to complement their foe from Urbana as Illinois nationals contenders.
IMSA might actually be able to improve their standing in the Land of Lincoln from last year despite the loss of the No. 7 player in the country Hanson Hao, per Groger Ranks. Matthew Lee had a huge day out of the shadow of Hanson, the third scorer in the tournament with a stat line of 38-38-10. Matthew, a history player, helped IMSA to an 8-2 day, despite missing literature specialist Daniel Lee. Tejo Velagapudi was IMSA’s second scorer, with 58% powers as a science and myth player. Archan Das brings nationals experience to this team and had five powers on the day Saturday. IMSA is moving on from the loss of Hanson well, staying with Uni and posting 23.27 PPB, a very good showing in the first tournament of the year. If Daniel Lee is back, IMSA will be a team to be reckoned with in Illinois.
Ben Fry dominated the tournament, single handedly carrying Chicago Christian to fourth place, only behind powerhouses Uni Lab, Stevenson, and IMSA. His 140 PPG was over 40 points better than the second scorer, John Paul Taylor of Carbondale. Ben picked up over half of the tossups in every match except for three in the playoffs and controlled the bonuses for his team, finishing with 51 powers, the best in the tournament. Chicago Christian was able to stay within 150 points of Stevenson and close to IMSA, an impressive start to the year. Ben’s generalism puts him in the conversation for Scobol Solo, if he performs as he did on Saturday. If he can get some help from his teammates, who buzzed just four times at Earlybird, Chicago Christian has a case for the third best team in the state and a possible upset of one of the top two. And if they keep improving, an improvement on last year’s seventh place finish at SSNCT is likely.
Despite playing shorthanded and missing strong science/FA specialist and high scorer Abraham Holtermann, Barrington was able to make the playoffs and went 7-3 at the end of the day. Roxanne Tang was the team’s leading scorer in the morning, while Liam Starnes, a solid history and geo/ce specialist, was able to keep up the momentum throughout the day and ended with a strong 54 PPG and impressive power count. Freshman Michael Karpov provided additional support in science. Once again, Barrington’s greatest weaknesses are their neg count and a lack of solid literature and RMPSS coverage. At Earlybird, a shorthanded Barrington team put up 4 to 5 negs during some games which cost them a match against IMSA. Fortunately, their neg count has significantly improved compared to last year’s. Roxanne is currently attempting to fill in the literature hole that has existed in the past two seasons, and progress is being made to mitigate the aforementioned issues under the guidance of renowned Station MS and new Varsity coach, Mr. Jeff Price.
After losing three of their A team players from last year, Latin A put together a very good sixth place performance at Earlybird. Without his brother, Chetan, playing with him this year, Tejas Vadali finished seventh overall in scoring with 65 PPG. Latin A was able to post big wins over Carbondale and Sandburg A by 290 and 190 points, respectively. Will Cravitz was a very good second scorer for Latin, who finished over 19 PPB for the day. Although their stats were not as good as a few teams behind them, Latin’s lack of negs and their generalism from Tejas was able to carry them to a very good showing in the first tournament of the year.
Carbondale was led by the second scorer in the tournament, John Paul Taylor, finishing in seventh for the tournament. John Paul put up impressive stat lines of 7-7-2 and 8-4-0 against Auburn B and Hinsdale A, respectively. His generalism was evident throughout the tournament, powering questions in nearly every category. Charles Metz added 15 PPG for Carbondale, whose PPB faded over the day, finishing just under 20. It’s impressive that Carbondale was able make the playoffs of the tournament with just two players, and if they add capable third and fourth scorers, they are once again the team to beat in Southern Illinois and a top ten team in the state.
Sandburg had a respectable showing at their first tournament without the Vainikos triplets, finishing in 8th place. History specialist Eric Webb appears to have stepped into the leading scorer role, averaging a solid 57 PPG. Anthony Malysz and David Lingan provided solid support, at 20.5 and 10 PPG, respectively. If Eric can continue to grow as a history player, and his teammates can help contribute, then Sandburg should be able to be a Top 20 team in Illinois.
Hinsdale Central finished in 9th place, going 6-3-1. Thomas Mercurio, a generalist, was the leading scorer in his 5 matches with 54 PPG, including an impressive 4-3-2 against Auburn B. Allie Yang, a junior literature and myth specialist, played well in the morning but shone in the afternoon with 70 PPG after Thomas and Manvit Adusumilli left. Leon Kamenev, a history player, and Manvit, a FA-based generalist, both averaged over 25 PPG with around 50% powers. With almost six powers per game and a 21.8 PPB with their full team, Hinsdale’s stats are there if they can limit negs and put together a complete tournament. At Prison Bowl Online, they had their A team minus Manvit for most of the day and were able to place second on a HS-regs+ packet, showing their ability to scale up, which should translate to a good regular season.
Uni B had an impressive performance, defeating Stevenson B twice and putting up respectable scores against IMSA and Barrington. The team was led by Lawrence Zhao, a sophomore science-based generalist. Lawrence was complemented by Arjun Kala, a rising freshman lit player, and Caitlin Mamaril, a generalist. While just over three powers a game and 16 PPB were respectable, they were able to eke out many wins from their low neg count. This young team shows a lot of promise for the future of Uni, even after the current A team has graduated.
Stevenson B was led by Rishabh Wuppalapati and Aadit Juneja, two strong freshman generalists who led their MS teams to strong performances at last year’s MSNCT. They were accompanied by Dhruv Pendharkar and Anish Arora, who had both in the past acted as supporting players to Aadit and Rishabh, respectively. Stevenson B displayed depth in history and geography and showed that they had deep pockets of literature knowledge at Earlybird. While they scored impressive power numbers and an astounding 21.37 PPB, their neg count ended up being their downfall, putting up around four negs a game. Once they can work out their transition to HS difficulty and tone down the negs, Stevenson B could be a huge threat.
Junior duo Theo Kokonas and Rose Branson provided very solid power numbers and coverage for Latin B. They were backed up by history specialist Kenny Pontikes and rounded out by Joe Schwister. If the Latin B team merged with the A team, the result could be very promising, due to both teams having impressive stats on their own.
Rebuilding from the Ethan Strombeck era at Auburn won’t be easy, and his absence as well as the graduation of Leif Verace and Lily Chavez was evident Saturday. History player Justin Abel led Auburn in scoring at 59 PPG, but he needs more help from his teammates if Auburn will make the top bracket at tournaments. Ashley Thammavong, a literature and fine arts specialist was the team’s second scorer, but Auburn will need higher power counts from her and their other three A team players. They finished 5-5 on the day with 18.1 PPB, the twelfth-best in the tournament. With great coaching, Auburn should improve throughout the year, leaning on leading scorer Justin but hopefully with growth from the rest of the A team.
Teams that weren’t at Earlybird:
Fremd A wasn’t able to make the trip to U of I, mainly because their literature and fine arts player, Danny Kim, contributed to writing RAFT, the set on which the tournament was played. Danny was able to go 4-6 solo at HSNCT last year, and he and fellow juniors Shreya Seetharam and Bryan Wan should cover the four biggest categories thoroughly. Shreya is one of the best science players in Illinois, while Bryan Wan is a history specialist. Fremd could definitely challenge for top five in the state, evidenced by their very good 19.35 PPB at NAQT State last year. With an A team of all juniors, Fremd should be a complete team this year, and even better next year.
Due to the fact that one of their best players, John Wang, has graduated, it is difficult to say whether or not Palatine will do as well as they did last year when they managed to hand a loss to strong teams like Barrington and Fremd in conference. Very strong fine arts-based generalist Ryan Tsau is expected to return this season and lead the team in scoring. Ryan had a decent stat line at the 2019 Midwest Championship which shows that he has the potential to scale up on harder questions, and it is likely that he’ll only improve. However, the seeming lack of coverage and deep knowledge in other categories is perhaps their greatest weakness, but that could change if Ryan’s teammates provide more assistance in covering the Big 3 and other smaller topics while increasing the depth of their knowledge.
Glenbard West A:
Glenbard West has not been to any tournaments in recent memory, and it seems as if that will continue this year. But they do have one of the best players in the state in Sophie Netzel as well as a complete team around her. Frankie is a science and math specialist, huge in IHSA, Glenbard’s main competition. Johann knows a lot of history and is able to get a lot of first-lines in IHSA. If Glenbard West goes to tournaments, they could surprise a lot of people, and they have a good shot at reaching IHSA state.
Led by solid generalist Aidan Fein, Springfield will be looking to return to IHSA State. Supporting him will be history specialist Jack Casey, as well as the leading scorer from their solid feeder program Franklin Middle School in Jared Dong. They should be the 3rd best team in the state south of I-80, and will be looking to push toward the level of Carbondale by the end of the season.
Thomas Mercurio is currently a senior at Hinsdale Central High School in Hinsdale, Illinois. Zach Roseman is currently a senior at Collinsville High School in Collinsville, Illinois. Jonathan Lau is currently a junior at University Lab High School in Urbana, Illinois. Dylan Bowman is currently a senior at University Lab High School in Urbana, Illinois. Roxanne Tang is currently a senior at Barrington High School in Barrington, Illinois.