The following article was a guest contribution by Shahar Schwartz.
Lots of questions were still in the air going into PPT, the first competition of the year in SoCal. Westview and Del Norte would both try to double qualify while Santa Monica and Arcadia would fight to stay in contention. There’s a lot to unpack from our most recent tournament, so let’s go down the list of teams and try to make sense of the initial results.
As with last year, Westview looked to double qualify at CCA’s inaugural tournament. In contrast to last year’s successful qualification, which relied on an unresolved tiebreaker to barely squeeze both teams in, Westview managed to double qualify for HSNCT and PACE by a much more comfortable margin at this year’s PPT. Despite losing history and geography player Daniel Shaw (11) for the last four games of the day and current events / American history specialist Daniel Sjoholm (11) for the last two, literature and science centered generalist Shahar Schwartz (12) and math/physics specialist David Huang (12) managed to beat Santa Monica A in a close match to finish the day in first place with a 10-1 record. The main concern for Westview will be their neg problem, as yours truly negged more than any other team in the field on my own. If I can get that under control in the coming months, I think Westview is going to be able to keep the streak alive going forward.
Santa Monica A:
There were a lot of questions going into this year for SanMo. They kept their extremely strong history player Josh Xu (11) but lost the other 3/4 of their A team to graduation. Luckily, it seems that SanMo’s roster expanded massively over the summer, as they ended up sending four teams to the competition. Not only did Josh improve significantly, but it also appears that the team has managed to find support in the form of literature player Alexandra Raphling (10) and science players Josh Kong (12) and Teddy Berger (11). It’s due in large part to these support players that Santa Monica A was able to top the field with a very impressive 23.5 PPB. Santa Monica also has the advantage of having a carry with both a high power rate and a very low neg rate, which is fairly rare in SoCal. SanMo is in a position to make serious marks on a circuit that already contains national contenders Westview and CCA, as well as powerhouses Del Norte and Arcadia. If yesterday was any indication, Santa Monica should join that top tier soon if they keep making impact at competitions.
Del Norte A:
Like Westview, Del Norte successfully qualified both of their teams for HSNCT, with their A team tying with Westview B for third place and their B tying with Arcadia for fifth. DN A had three of it’s A team members from last year on it, literature and myth specialist Manasvi Vora (12), science player Joshua You (11), and history main Ajai Banaiah (12). All three managed to crack ten powers a game, while the team collectively managed to keep it’s negs under 2 per game. This “let the other team make the mistakes” has been successful for Del Norte in the past, but they’ve now added more depth, getting one more power per game with a split team at this year’s PPT than they did with a full A team last year. I want to see how well these stats line up when Kyle plays alongside the other three, but if Del Norte can continue to build depth without sacrificing their accuracy, they’re going to be one hell of a scary team going forward.
PPT was a good chance for some of Westview’s juniors to show what they can do ahead of the next year, which is important because Westview’s “official” A team hasn’t actually been determined fully yet. A team featured solid performances by both Daniel S’s, and B team gave exposure to history and general NAQT player Gary Lin (11), myth and science main Andrew Jia (11), and the endlessly undefinable maverick Connor Rankin (11). The three of them were led by Westview’s chief history player Junu Song (12), who put up predictably stellar stats with nearly 3 powers a round and over 70 points per game. Andrew and Connor also came into their own, each getting over 1 power a round, while Gary had to leave prematurely. The team ended up preforming solidly, finishing in a tie for third place, and with relatively little negs, which was a concern going into the competition. The one point of concern for the group may be their PPB, which was the only one in the top 6 of teams not to crack 20. However, considering that they were dealing with holes in subjects that would normally be covered by Rohan or myself, I wouldn’t consider that a big issue going forward.
I don’t really understand how Arcadia finished as low as they did. They put up incredible stats the whole day only to lose game after game by minute margins in the morning. Luckily, their annihilation of Westview A in their last game managed to push them into a tie for 5th place with Del Norte B, allowing them to qualify for HSNCT yet again. Their high scoring history player, Amogh Kulkarni (10), put up one of the most dominant breakout sophomore performances I’ve seen at a SoCal tournament in a long time, nearly cracking 4 powers a game. What’s even scarier is that Arcadia managed to break 21 PPB and 6 powers a round without a full team, making them yet another seriously scary contender in the circuit going into this year. I don’t think they’ll match the dominance Arcadia did last year, but I see a lot of the same enthusiasm and passion in this team as I did in the A team last year. The entire team is going places, fast. Mark my words, they will dominate one day.
Del Norte B:
Del Norte also managed to qualify both teams for nationals thanks primarily to the leadership of Kyle Ke (12). It was the first time the fine arts centered generalist managed to break three powers a game at an NAQT competition, and he chose a good competition to do it. Del Norte B was actually the only team to qualify for nats at PPT that didn’t break 5 powers per game (they we’re painfully close, 49 powers in 10 games). However, considering the teams were split and the “A” team did manage to (barely) meet that benchmark, I don’t foresee lack of powers/depth being as much of an issue for Del Norte this year as it was last.
Returning teams Rancho Bernardo and Bonita also attended yesterday’s tournament in the varsity division, as well as newcomers to the circuit Our Lady of Peace and Mt. Everest. It was a blast getting to meet and play against all of these wonderful teams, and we look forward to seeing you all again soon!
JV was also interesting in terms of new teams emerging. The tournament was swept by Westview’s C team, with Del Norte E, Scripps Ranch, and Westview D taking the next three spots respectively.
This year’s circuit looks to be one of the most competitive in SoCal yet, and we haven’t even gotten to see Westview, CCA, Del Norte, or Arcadia at full force yet. I have confidence that we’ll get a chance to see some next level gameplay in a few weeks time, but for now we can only wait for the next bout.
Finally I wanted to thank CCA for doing such a great job hosting this tournament, and to say thank you to all the teams that played yesterday. I look forward to playing you all again soon!
Shahar Schwartz is currently a senior at Westview High School in San Diego, California.