I'm back from Atlanta, and, boy, what a weekend! LASA A from Texas is your 2013 HSNCT champion, after winning a game against Ladue from Missouri that was so thrilling, Ladue was actually declared the winner at one point! [More on that later.]
The whole quizbowl tournament took place at the Hyatt in Atlanta, which was very nice and posh until you walked a block in either direction. I took a walk in Atlanta on Friday after arriving and immediately happened upon several belligerent homeless guys and "Mayor's #1 Park," an incredibly small piece of greenery that had several homeless folks asleep on it at midday. I'd hate to see what the Mayor's #2 pick was.
Friday night was spent reading scrimmages for high school teams who were randomly matched against each other, and it really impressed upon me that, when you have a 256 team tournament, not all of those teams are going to be super-good. In my preview, I already mentioned the card system the tournament uses, and late Saturday, I read matches like #234 vs #246. Some of the teams here are not national contenders, but this is a natural side effect of the qualification system. If you finish in the top X of teams at a regional tournament, you qualify. Unfortunately, teams in South Dakota are nowhere near as good as teams in quizbowl hotbeds like Illinois and Missouri, so lots of outmatched teams show up and are slaughtered by regional powerhouses [take game number 1 on these stats, for instance].
By Sunday, teams 6-4 and above make the playoffs, and a bunch of rounds of what is essentially double elimination are played as you watched the weaker teams get eliminated over and over and end up tied for 50th. 6-4 teams only need one loss to be eliminated, which made the third place run by Loyola [IL] all the more miraculous— they won 9 straight to get to the third place game. But Loyola lost in that game to Ladue, setting up a one game final against LASA for the title.
The game was absurdly close. Neither team pulled away ever. Near the end, Ladue earned 15 points by buzzing in early on a math tossup and took the lead. After their bonus, Ladue had taken the lead, and the moderator declared the game over and Ladue the champion. The 200+ people in the auditorium to watch the final stood and applauded. Then someone whispered something into the moderator's ear and he sheepishly revealed that he had read 23 tossups, not 24, and that he skipped a question somewhere. He read it; it was a current events tossup on Zimbabwe, which LASA got, winning them the game. Ladue looked understandably crestfallen— they had literally been told they had won the game, and then the moderator yanked it away like Charlie Brown's football. The final score was 455-440, the highest combined score of a final ever.
While the final was astounding and exciting, there was some less great moments, as well. Not every team could be as good as LASA and Ladue, and some games were miserable 80-50 slogs. After I read a relatively close 180-120 game, the coach of the losing team took his team to the corner of the room and began screaming at them that HE DID NOT COME ALL THIS WAY TO LOSE! Sometimes, the people who coach quizbowl are not the most well-adjusted people in the world.
All in all, it was a fun experience, and who could complain about free airfare and lodging just to read quizbowl questions for a weekend? I'll do it next year, but first, there's ANOTHER national tournament right here in Maryland— the NSC. It's slightly different. Maybe we can convince Magary to come.