The following article was a guest contribution by Eric Yin and Felix Wang, adapted from Eric’s post in the Missouri discussion thread on the High School Quizbowl Forums.
As the first real “Missouri-wide” tournament of the season, the recent Kickapoo Classic (held on IS-199) should offer some insight into the dynamics of the state circuit this year, despite the absence of several top teams (notably STL Patriots, Hallsville, Washington, Kirksville, and of course Kickapoo). It’s worth noting that this event ran without negs, something which could have hurt neg-happy teams, and with math computation, which is a subject that often frustrates teams. With that in mind, here is an analysis of the results we saw.
1. Ladue: The favorites going into the tournament, Ladue’s A team once again established itself as a state-wide powerhouse this season, sweeping the field while scoring a whopping 9.45 powers/game. As the #4 overall scorer at 96.82 PPG and 55 powers, top scorer and senior Louis Li seems to have dispelled any issues he had on NAQT questions last season, applying his deep and extensive coverage of history, literature, sports, and (surprisingly) math computation. More surprising, though, was the emergence of sophomore Max Yang as the team’s 2nd scorer (#23 overall with 40.48 PPG and 18 powers). Max proved his skill not only as geography specialist, but also as a great all-around player—especially with regards to the hard-to-describe and ever-elusive “NAQT content.” Seniors Eric Yin and Jason Xu rounded out the team with their science and fine-arts specialism, forming a well-balanced squad that no opponent could overcome. Still, a PPB of “only” 22.66 leaves something to be desired for a team that put up 26.46 PPB on RAFT II only a week prior.
2. Raymore-Peculiar: Perhaps as a surprise to some, Ray-Pec also established itself as a statewide power by finishing in 2nd place and scoring the highest PPB (23.10) in the entire field. Senior Joel Miles was also the #1 overall scorer in the field, with a whopping 154.09 PPG and 61 powers. It’s worth noting that his PPG shockingly increased to an incredible 167 in the playoffs, a clear sign that he can ramp up his game even more against better teams. Joel—an excellent literature-oriented generalist—made up the vast majority of the team’s tossup points, while fellow senior Brendan Fuller, a science player, scored most of the rest. Interestingly, Ray-Pec’s lack of balance hasn’t seemed to have really affected their consistency, at least at HS regular difficulty. They’ll definitely be a contender at the NAQT State Qualifier and whichever MSHSAA State class they end up in.
3. St. Joseph Central: As always, Central appears to have rebuilt strongly after graduating several members from last season. Junior Frederick Rivas-Giorgi (#3 overall scorer) accounted for most of their tossup points, putting up 120.00 PPG and 54 powers with his deep knowledge in arts, history, and other subjects; while senior Emmaleigh Coe cleaned up a good amount of lit and myth. From my (Eric’s) personal experience, our game against Central A was certainly our closest and most competitive matchup of the day, with Frederick and co’s fast buzzes putting us on our toes the entire match. Central seems to be at least as good as they were last year, if not better—I can see them once again establishing themselves as top 3 in the state by the end of the season.
4. College Heights Christian: Another team that cemented its status as a powerhouse this season. As the #2 overall scorer at 146.82 PPG and 51 powers, junior Gabe Forrest scored nearly all of this team’s tossup points, with deep fine-arts and literature specialism combined with great all-around skill. However, CHC’s PPB seems to have greatly fluctuated, ranging from as high as 21.43 against Ray-Pec to as low as 10.00 in some rounds, averaging at 16.76—significantly lower than the 3 teams above (or their own team on IS-195 two weeks earlier. Gabe also had by far the least amount of support of any team in the top bracket, likely contributing to this PPB problem.
This wide range of values suggests an issue with gameplay consistency—CHC will probably need to improve their bonus-conferring skills and teammates around Gabe in order to better compete against teams like Ladue and STL Patriots in the future.
5. Ladue B: Likely the biggest surprise, Ladue B established itself as a top team—defeating NKC A to win their prelim bracket, then playing CHC A fairly close—despite Max playing on the A team this tournament. Sophomore Yuvan Chali was #5 in overall scoring with 84.00 PPG and 14 powers, showcasing strong generalist skill in addition to his myth and science specialism. Fellow sophomore Will Bender had only one less power than Yuvan, with his deep knowledge in math and other areas, while several newer players rounded out the team. Ladue B is looking to be the strongest it’s ever been since 2018–19 (when an incomplete B team placed 5th at NAQT State, and should definitely be watched out for this season.
6. North Kansas City: Despite losing half of its A team from last season, NKC remained quite formidable behind seniors Reilly Nash and Sergio Espitia. Reilly, a science-oriented player, put up especially strong stats with 60 PPG and 14 powers; Sergio was 2nd scorer with 36.00 PPG and 6 powers; while juniors Abbi Parks and Scott Nguyen rounded out their well-balanced squad. Though their powers/game stats didn’t stand out much, they did manage to score the 4th-highest PPB in the field (17.17), defeat Fair Grove A and Sullivan A (both strong teams) by large margins, and play Ladue B and Central A fairly close. Although they likely didn’t finish as high as some were expecting, NKC A has clearly shown their ability to compete at the state-wide level this season, and could very well repeat or exceed last year’s 5th-place finish at the NAQT State Qualifier. They’re also in the same conference as Central, so those matches should be quite exciting.
7. Fair Grove (Small School champion):
While Fair Grove doesn’t have as impressive a track record as some of the other teams mentioned, to me they seem to have some of the most potential out of the teams here. To put it bluntly, both of their top scorers were freshmen, and were both some of the highest-scoring freshmen last season. If this potential is realized, Fair Grove has a shot at not just JV titles, but small school titles as well.Connor Lee, Eldon High School
It appears that this potential is already being realized. Sophomore Braden Booth (#6 overall scorer) led the team in scoring with 73.50 PPG and 11 powers, with fellow sophomore Chritian Allen the team’s 2nd scorer at 32.00 PPG and 6 powers (quite impressive, given their tough playoff bracket). The team’s overall performance was just as impressive—they sweeped their prelim bracket, becoming the only small-school team to make playoffs, then won a convincing victory against Sullivan A and took down Orchard Farm to finish a respectable 7th. With such a young team, Fair Grove will likely be contending with Hallsville for small-school titles for years to come.
8. Witchita East: The only non-Missouri team in the field, Witchita East has established themselves as a formidable team despite its location in “quizbowl North Korea.” They finished ahead of relatively-strong Missouri teams like Orchard Farm, TJ A, and Sullivan A; Gabe Murphy was also #21 in individual scoring with 40.63 PPG, and Laura Smith was 26th with 37.00 PPG. This team definitely has a lot of potential, especially with transportation to Missouri a non-issue for them while tournaments remain online.
9. Orchard Farm: A strong upper middle-class team, Orchard Farm won all their prelim rounds except against Ray-Pec, and defeated Sullivan A in the playoffs. Their top scorer, James Reineke, was also #20 in overall scoring with 42.50 PPG. Combined with their strong 5th-place showing at Clever two weeks earlier, they’ve established themselves among the stronger Missouri teams this season.
10. Thomas Jefferson IDS: Though still a good team this season, TJ A definitely took a major hit compared to last season with Savannah Dillard’s graduation. Sophomore Ryken Garren did achieve #19 in individual scoring, though, with 42.78 PPG—boding well for this team’s future.
11. Sullivan A: Probably the team with the most tragic record last Saturday. Sullivan A was 15 points and a technical malfunction away from beating CHC A to sweep their prelim pool, but subsequently lost all five of their playoff matches, including a 35-point loss to Orchard Farm. Sophomore Ryan Happel led the team in scoring with 53.50 PPG, making him the #16 overall scorer in the field. Sullivan A’s PPG and PPB stats were both higher than those of the three teams that placed directly higher than them, suggesting that they underperformed by a significant amount. They showed lots of potential, though—and their performance last Saturday will be good motivation for the young team to improve.
Looking forward into 2021, all eyes will be on the MOQBA Winter Kickoff (MCMT) in January and the North Kansas City Invitational (Prison Bowl) in February, both of which will once again feature most of the best teams in the state. With the Missouri circuit as competitive as ever, it’ll be interesting to see how everything shakes out by the end of the season.
Eric Yin is a senior at Ladue Horton Watkins High School in St. Louis, Missouri. Felix Wang formerly attended St. Joseph Central High School in St. Joseph, Missouri.