Welcome to Reach Scores!


This is Reach Scores, a place to find out about, well, “Reach” scores.

Many Canadian high school students played, watched, or otherwise heard of “Reach for the Top”. It began as a CBC television program in the 1960s, left the airwaves, and returned as the classroom-based “SchoolReach”. Lists of alumni and champions are readily available on the web.

But what about scores? Unlike, say, high school sports, scores of Reach games are not easy to find. The Reach for the Top organization publishes results of tournaments they manage (Nationals and some provincial championships), but the pickings are slim for regional or historical results. Every now and then you’ll find a YouTube video or a news archive of a single game from a tournament, but it is often in the context of a school tooting its horn, rather than providing a larger scope of gameplay and competition for a region or time period.

I’d like to change that. I have already uploaded some tournament results on a wiki-style site (use this index of tournaments as a start) for historical interest. People ought to be able to find results without needing to dig through an internet or library archive, and I hope to make it more convenient for them. I will use this blog for updates, including planned recordings of games. I will probably also add analysis (such as my “R-value”) and opinion. Contributions, results or otherwise, are welcome through the contact methods listed on this site.

Thank you for visiting!

Ontario goings-on


Here are some SchoolReach regional updates as leagues start determining who gets to move on to provincials.

I know of four qualifiers so far. Cameron Heights CI (Waterloo), Glenforest SS and St. Joseph CSS (Peel) and Stratford Central SS (Huron) have earned their invites. Other than St. Joseph – though even then, I may be confusing them with the dozens of “St. Joe’s” in Ontario – the remaining schools will be attending for the first time in my records (mostly back to 1999). Waterloo CI, Heart Lake and Mayfield, and F.E. Madill, respectively, had been the “usual suspects” of those regions.

Valley Reach has Carleton Place HS, Almonte DHS, Renfrew CI, and another school (unknown to me) in their top four. Games will start being televised this week, so please don’t phone up your grandmother in Pembroke for answers!

The Windsor-Essex region has Assumption at 9-0 and Vincent Massey at 11-1 with results still to come, though the qualifier will likely be one of these two with a large gap back to third place St. Joseph’s (11th at 2017 provincials).

The ONQBA provincial championship will also be held next weekend. Chaminade, Lisgar, the anonymous Richmond Hill school, UTS, Westmount and White Oaks will be sending teams to Toronto for the quizbowl title. UTS A is the favourite and will be looking to take the title away from Ottawa for the first time ever. Lisgar and Westmount should be close and act as a preview of how well they can do at Reach provincials. White Oaks had a high R-value at UTS’ fall event despite a low placement, and while they probably won’t be at the strength of those top 3, it will be a measuring stick to see if they’re good enough to make their first jump into Ontario Reach playoffs, after years of finishing in the 11-20 range.

Congratulations to the Ontario qualifiers so far, and good luck to the remaining teams!

Quick updates


Here are some quick updates for the week:

Kennebecasis Valley HS continued their lengthy run of success on the New Brunswick circuit, with their senior team sweeping the field to victory at the Nackawic leg of their regional tournaments. Fredericton HS came second, while KVHS also won in the junior division.

From a few weeks ago, Royal St. George’s College comfortably won the southern Ontario site of History Bowl. Their closest margin of victory was 70 points, and they swept the field of “Central Richmond Hill”, Westmount, and Chaminade. A member of RSGC also won the individual History Bee at that event. Ottawa’s site will be next on the agenda on March 3.

If anyone was curious about the recordings from Lisgar’s Reach tournament, they won’t be released until at least after Westmount uses the questions. The questions may possibly be used elsewhere as well.

Calgary and Lisgar

13 Nats appearances in past 3 years in this post

After some wait, I finally have results tables again.

First up is the Calgary-Foothills SchoolReach regional tournament. This region has produced four National appearances in the past two years from Renert School, Rundle College, and Webber Academy. The tournament is still in progress with the two Renert teams still undefeated; results are found here. I don’t have a schedule of matchups that have occurred so far, so I can’t give R-values yet. The set PPG of 181 (probably closer to 200 when factoring out some forfeits) feels low for a regional tournament – they have been in the 230-250 PPG range in recent years. Considering that there are Nationals-bound teams in the field, this doesn’t look good for high points scores in other upcoming regions.

This is in contrast to the scoring blitz that was the 2018 Lisgar Reach tournament. UTS and Kennebecasis Valley once again joined the Ottawa-area teams in a tournament that has become a preview of Nationals. Results of the senior division are found here. UTS “A” won the tournament with a tidy points haul, losing only to UTS “C”, who finished second. Lisgar and KVHS rounded out the top 4 bracket. In the junior division, Glebe went undefeated and gave second-place Ashbury their only losses, while two KVHS teams tied for third.

The senior field at Lisgar was stacked. UTS “A” picked up almost 60% of the points available and only had an R-value of 144%. In the past, the junior division used essentially the same set as the seniors, so their results could be included too. For this year, there was enough difference to require separating them. This means there were no “weak” teams in the field to make UTS look relatively stronger. The bottom two finishers, Glebe and Almonte, are expected to end up in the top 20 at Ontario Provincials, while 4th through 9th were covered by a 55 PPG difference. In fact, the whole field can be circled as:

  • Almonte won against Glebe
  • Glebe won against Colonel By
  • Colonel By won against UTS B
  • UTS B won against Lisgar B
  • Lisgar B won against Lisgar C
  • Lisgar C won against KVHS
  • KVHS won against Lisgar A
  • Lisgar A won against UTS C
  • UTS C won against UTS A
  • while UTS A won against Almonte

Also, I made recordings of matches at the tournament, though I think I should withhold releasing them until a decision is made about using the questions at another site (TBD).

History Bowl also began their Canadian leg yesterday, but I don’t have results from Hamilton yet.

Other regions are starting up soon, so there are busy times ahead!

Back in action

A Nationals preview?

After a hiatus for exams and holidays, tournaments are coming back on the schedule. SchoolReach regions will start soon, if they haven’t already, and a few other events are returning.

Lisgar’s independent Reach-style tournament will be held next Saturday. It doesn’t bring in the crowds of UTS’ event, but it is a surprisingly good preview for national championships: for the last three years, the Reach Nationals winner came second at Lisgar’s tournament. KV and UTS will be back, so it is quite possible for the national champion to again emerge from here. Lisgar will not be as much of a factor because strong players will be in hosting duties. Locally, Colonel By probably has the best chance of being the top Ottawa team (even with their situation of not playing SchoolReach), though Glebe will use this event as prep for SchoolReach regionals and a potential provincial qualification. I will be at this tournament, and I will hope to record some matches like I did last year.

History Bowl is returning to Canada. First up is the Southern Ontario site in Hamilton also next Saturday. UTS will not be attending (going to Lisgar), but they will get another qualification shot at a later Toronto site. Royal St. George’s and Westmount will be the favourites among the field to qualify, and with UTS away, RSGC has the potential to put in some incredible scores with a squad that is now in their senior year together. History Bowl’s Canadian championships will be held at RSGC in late April.

One more week until some new results! Good luck to all the teams!

The 1970s paradigm shift

Let’s do this: LOOOORNE JENKEN

Last summer during my ranking of CBC champions, I referred to a paradigm shift that changed the game. In 1972, O’Leary HS of Alberta won a title by practicing earlier in the year; Lorne Jenken followed up in 1973 with probably the greatest single-season jump in innovation.

In the earliest years of Reach for the Top, the TV show brought in hastily-assembled teams. Sometimes a teacher ran a test to select the team, while there are a few cases of fielding the student council or making a team elected by students. Schools wanted their institution represented well on television, and there was attention to good manners and dress, but not necessarily hard knowledge. Other than Oak Bay from BC, there weren’t any “dynasties” where a school would readily bring a trained team year after year.

By the 1970s, the attitudes of teams on TV had changed. Students weren’t necessarily in their nice suits and dresses, and the players were starting to treat it as something to win rather than a means of making the school look good. The prize system may have helped: in the 1960s, only the school won bursaries; by the 1970s, the students themselves started receiving trips, books, and scholarships. Students now had another incentive to win the tournament.

O’Leary appears to be the first school to use a year-long practice method and win a title. I don’t know very much about their method other than that Lorne Jenken built upon it. Selecting a team at the beginning of the year – and having them study from encyclopedias, newspapers, and literature – was a new concept for the time. It allowed a team to split their topic strengths and build some chemistry before being thrust into the TV studio. I haven’t seen any footage of their 1972 title run, but in their 1974 final, they were very knowledgeable, not very TV-friendly, and only lost to Gonzaga by getting flustered from the Newfoundland home audience. They were much stronger than the teams in audio I’ve heard from 1960s games.

Lorne Jenken would have competed with O’Leary in the Edmonton area, and was no doubt inspired by O’Leary’s title. In the fall of 1972, new coach Ken Kowalski made a start-of-year intercom announcement asking for interested students – the meeting room filled up. I don’t know the logistics after that meeting, but somehow that large group of students became a credit course for Reach for the Top. Scheduled school time for a team would have been unheard of for the time, and is rare today. During the course, Kowalski and the students built a mock set of the studio with buzzers, studied books and old tournament questions, and perhaps most significantly, wrote tens of thousands of questions. Question writing is the preferred practice method of top teams today, but nobody was doing that in 1972. That class at Lorne Jenken was getting work done.

Side note: Lorne Jenken HS has since become Barrhead Composite. It is sometimes difficult to find information on the team because some people refer to it as “Lorne Jenkins”. Sources with “Jenkins” tends to be people recalling from the past, though it also appears on Reach’s list of champions. Meanwhile, Barrhead’s website mentions their old name of “Jenken”, as does some old news stories. I am sticking with “Lorne Jenken” for their name.

Lorne Jenken bested O’Leary at their own game in 1973. Lorne Jenken took the Alberta crown and went to Ottawa for their first nationals trip. I don’t know the identities of their opponents, but they beat teams from Nova Scotia, Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec to win the title. Two consecutive titles (and almost a third in 1974) coming out of this Edmonton rivalry probably gave teams notice that change was afoot.

There was a shift in how teams played after the O’Leary/Jenken run. Players were aggressive on the buzzer, well-studied, and much more bonded as a team. Rather than assembling a group of seniors, teams would start bringing in younger players to acclimatize them for a later year. Reach of the later 1970s was in many ways similar to the modern era, and with a few adjustments, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those teams could have competed against today’s clubs. Dynasties formed: Lorne Jenken (7), Gonzaga (6), and Dryden (3) all had multiple national appearances, and the first two-time champion (Vincent Massey CI) re-emerged in this time. The CBC era was in a golden age.

The golden age faded around 1980. The previously-mentioned dynasties no longer appeared, prizes and viewership were reduced, and teams of the mid-1980s didn’t look as strong. The first threat of cancellation occurred in 1983, and Reach ended up being dropped from CBC in 1985.

O’Leary HS did not make nationals again after 1974. They were outclassed by Lorne Jenken in Alberta competition for the rest of the CBC era, and no longer participate in SchoolReach.

Lorne Jenken missed a 1974 appearance, but took the Alberta title for a further six consecutive years (1975-1980). They never reached the final again, but made it to the semis at least twice. The 1985 edition of the Canadian Encyclopedia referred to Lorne Jenken as the best Reach for the Top team ever. By the end of the decade, though, most strong schools had adopted practice and writing methods developed by the Alberta team. The school dropped in performance after the departure of their coach, Ken Kowalski, and their modern incarnation, Barrhead Composite, also no longer participates in SchoolReach.

Ken Kowalski was a local hero after the 1973 title and subsequent national appearances. In 1979, he left teaching and ran for a seat in the Alberta legislature. He credited his win to the positive reputation from his teams’ Reach successes. In 1997, he was elected Speaker of the assembly in Alberta and retained that position until his retirement in 2012, becoming the second-longest tenured politician to preside over the legislature.

The 1972/73 shift is the biggest single-season upheaval in Reach. If you write questions, use a practice buzzer set, or even just schedule time for intramural SchoolReach, thank Ken Kowalski and that little hotbed of activity around Edmonton.

Super Saturday

Three events to wrap up 2017

Yesterday saw a small flurry of tournaments to end the 2017 calendar year. Teams got one more chance to test their skill before most circuits start their SchoolReach regionals in late January and February.

In actual SchoolReach, Kennebecasis Valley HS hosted their leg of the New Brunswick tour. Younger divisions were well-populated, but the senior level drew just 5 teams. Oromocto HS and Bernice McNaughton HS made their first senior appearances of the year. KV’s “A” team once again swept the field, and they finished with a 260-220 final over Bernice McNaughton. The New Brunswick circuit reconvenes in February.

U of T’s “novice” NAQT event was the big draw of the day. Despite the title, all levels of teams participated. Chaminade, UTS, Westmount, White Oaks, and several anonymized clubs made up the 12-team field. UTS A handily won the tournament, with their closest match coming against their own B team, who finished tied for second. An anonymous school from Richmond Hill (they have a lengthy tenure in GTA tournaments), Westmount, and a solo player from upstate New York rounded out the top five. Stats from the Toronto event are here.

Carleton also hosted an event using the question set from Toronto. Seven teams from Almonte, Ashbury, Colonel By, Lisgar, and Nepean participated. This was Ashbury’s first appearance in true quizbowl, though in the past they had played SchoolReach and History Bowl. I had to leave early, but Lisgar’s MVP made his first appearance this year and helped the A team to convincing wins. Stats from Carleton are now available here.

Hamilton is also starting up their SchoolReach regional league, but the championship won’t be decided until spring.

Now that there is a competition down-time for holidays and/or exams, I will again go on a short hiatus. I will probably get one post each in December and January before the season restarts.

Local introductions

Getting to know you…

The big UTS tournament introduced the contenders, but now the local events have started up.

New Brunswick had its first SchoolReach tournament on Saturday, held at Sugarloaf Senior HS. There were four teams at the senior level and ten in the intermediate level. Kennebecasis Valley HS “A” went undefeated in their double round-robin and won the tournament. Fredericton HS was the only other representation at the senior level, but hopefully there will be more variety of schools as the regional tournaments move on to other parts of the province.

On the quizbowl front, McMaster hosted “MacIntro III” last week. UTS, Westmount, and a team that needs anonymity were in attendance. UTS was still not at full strength, but convincingly swept the field and answered roughly 80% of the questions they heard. Westmount and the “A” team from the other school also put up strong numbers that could have won in a different field. Stats for the tournament are here.

The following weekend, Lisgar hosted with that set of questions. This brought out local teams, including some that don’t play in the Ottawa SchoolReach league. Ten teams from seven schools participated, with Colonel By SS going undefeated. Stats for the tournament are here. Colonel By and Lisgar did not run their true “A” teams out of respect for the “novice” spirit of the tournament. I think Glebe was missing one of their “A” players, but they and Nepean are close to what to expect for regional competition later this year. With Colonel By not in the SchoolReach league, those two will be in a tight fight for the provincial qualifications (assuming Lisgar is already in the mix for one of the spots).

U of Toronto and Carleton U will run quizbowl tournaments on December 2 that will bring out more “A” teams. New Brunswick also continues their SchoolReach regionals that day.

If tournaments are starting up in your part of Canada, I’d be happy to share it. Local tournaments are a great way to warm up before the official events in the spring.