Reach champion rankings, 2017 part 3

Turn of the millennium

I’m continuing the ranking of Reach championship-winning clubs. The rankings from the CBC era are found here, while the first part of the modern era is found here.

This next set of clubs mostly had their highlights during the turn of the millennium, 1995-2005. Sandy Stewart, the founder of the SchoolReach program, retired by this point, but the Reach program was in good shape: subscriptions were at their peak, provincial and national championships return to television, and new question styles (like shootouts and relays) were introduced. Reach alumni from the 1990s started establishing university clubs at Queen’s, Western and Waterloo, though Reach failed in their early-2000s attempt to get a university subscription program. The Reach circuit, as a whole, may not have had as much top-end strength as today, but it had a healthier population.

Part 2 of the modern era rankings:

  • 7. Saunders (ON) [up 5]
  • 8. Gloucester (ON) [down 3]
  • 9. Fredericton (NB) [up 1]
  • 10. Cobequid (NS) [down 2]
  • 11. Merivale (ON) [down 2]
  • 12. Woburn (ON) [down 1]

The biggest change of the whole list is Saunders’ rise. While Saunders’ four Nationals appearances in the five Thorsley years is impressive, I toned down their ranking before by attributing it all to the strength of one player. I was mistaken. Like the 1990 Oilers, Saunders could find success again without their star, and finished the 1999 final with one of the highest losing scores ever. There was clearly a good foundation to that club, and they deserved to be higher than originally placed. Unfortunately, they have been pretty much dormant this century, so that stops them from getting higher.

Gloucester drops because of the rise of other teams. Gloucester was probably the best program in Canada for the span of years I mentioned earlier, using different player compositions in all their National appearances. However, with the club inactive, they will continue to drop as other teams achieve success.

Fredericton gets a slight boost from my awareness of three straight finals, 1994-1996. I knew about their long dominance of New Brunswick, but taking it to the Ontario teams in an era of Ontario’s 5-year high schools is impressive (the St. George’s coach of the time claimed his school would have had many more titles had Ontario stopped at grade 12). Fredericton is still around, and may rise again.

Cobequid, Merivale, and Woburn all drop from other teams rising. Cobequid has come down from their 00s peak, while Merivale and Woburn can’t crack Nationals despite some playoff success provincially. None of these teams should be at risk of falling below the inactive clubs of last week, though.

The final installment comes next week. You can deduce who is in the top six, but I’ll reveal my ranks and reasoning then. The remaining top teams are all active, all have Nationals success, mostly all got their break in the top-heavy part of new millennium. Stay tuned!

Reach champion rankings, 2017 part 2

The early modern era

Today I begin ranking the Reach championship-winning clubs for the modern SchoolReach era. The rankings from the CBC era are found here.

The SchoolReach subscription program began right after the final CBC episodes of 1985. Schools enrolled to get sets of questions that were used either for intramural/interschool tournaments or local TV productions. Ontario teams were very active in these “lost” years. By 1988, a graduated regional/provincial/national system was re-established, with the help of coaches like Eric Stewart (BC), Chris Zarski (AB), Patricia Beecham-Cooper (ON), and Hans Budgey (NS). A few tournaments had television coverage, but national championships were done off-air in the early 1990s.

The teams for today’s set of rankings come from this part of the modern era. The clubs ranked 13-18 all had their one national title in the ’80s or ’90s and none returned for another nationals appearance (as far as I can tell). Most are inactive now.

Part 1 of the modern era rankings (sorry, I can’t make a numbered list start at 13):

  • 13. Bell (ON)
  • 14. Frontenac (ON) [up 2]
  • 15. St. Joseph’s (ON) [down 1]
  • 16. Earl Haig (ON) [down 1]
  • 17. Tagwi (ON) [up 1]
  • 18. Memorial Composite (NS) [down 1]

All of these teams were in the bottom 6 in 2015, but here’s my reasoning for the shuffles:

Frontenac had the single most dominant year of any of these teams. Their 1999 provincials R-value of 175% is not fully verified (derived from margins of victory rather than raw points), but was the best on record until Lisgar this year. At nationals, they beat national regulars (for the 1990s) Saunders 600-410 in the final; that is the highest championship-winning score and the highest combined score in a final. Frontenac deserves a little boost, but not as high as Bell, who could sustain some provincials appearances into the 21st century.

The Tagwi-Memorial swap is minor. Originally, Memorial had the edge because of their follow-up victory over the NAC champs from the U.S., but Tagwi never got their opportunity to try it. It was another disappointment for the Tagwi champs, coming after the fact that they never got the Reach trophy due to it being stuck in legal ownership limbo between Kate Andrews HS and the reincarnated SchoolReach program. Anyway, I have now given Tagwi the slight edge because their club remained active far longer than Memorial.

Next time, I’ll review the 7th to 12th place clubs. That cluster of teams, who mostly had their success near the turn of the millennium, will see the most change.

Reach champion rankings, 2017 part 1

The CBC era

I first ranked the Reach for the Top championship-winning clubs in 2015. I summarized the list here. They were split into CBC and modern eras, because there is significant differences in how clubs approached and prepared for the competition. I will be revisiting the rankings this summer.

I’ll emphasize that the lists are about championship-winning clubs. A school at least needs one title for a rank, regardless of how many consecutive final appearances they have. Clubs are ranked instead of individual teams: I try to take in a school’s whole body of work, rather than determine whether the 1973 team was better than the 2003 team. Because they earned a title in each era, Cobequid Educational Centre appears twice.

Part 1 is the CBC era list. Very little has changed, because the era is over and I don’t get much new information. Without further ado:

  1. Lorne Jenken (AB)
  2. Gonzaga (NL)
  3. Vincent Massey (Etobicoke, ON) [up 1]
  4. Oak Bay (BC) [up 1]
  5. O’Leary (AB) [down 2]
  6. Hillcrest (ON) [up 1]
  7. Glenlawn (MB) [down 1]
  8. Cobequid (NS)
  9. Roland Michener (ON)
  10. Kelvin (MB)
  11. Dakota (MB)
  12. Banting Memorial (ON)
  13. Central Peel (ON)
  14. Queen Elizabeth (NS)
  15. Deloraine (MB)
  16. Neil McNeil (ON)
  17. River East (MB)
  18. Kate Andrews (AB)
  19. Rideau (ON)

There are only minor changes. Here’s my rationale:

O’Leary has dropped. They have 2 known final appearances: the 1972 win and the 1974 loss. The 1972 win was the largest ever paradigm shift in the CBC era, and one of the most important ever. O’Leary is credited with the idea of practicing all year to lead up to a tournament. Unfortunately, they were quickly outclassed by their provincial rival Lorne Jenken at their own game. I think my earlier impressions placed too much emphasis on their innovation without considering the hard reality of not many results. Interestingly, their drop benefits Oak Bay, who pretty much solely represented British Columbia in all the years before 1972 and didn’t make use of a practice model.

Hillcrest is up slightly. I’ve had the opportunity to see more Ontario provincial games from the 1970s/80s. Hillcrest is more frequently there, but they lose out by not being the top (southern) Ontario team of a particular year. Their 2 final appearances is better than Glenlawn. Glenlawn had more national tournament appearances, but not the high finishes. I think I gave Glenlawn too much credit as the “highest-scoring final winner”; that title has since been lost to the discovery of Frontenac’s 600-410 victory.

For curiosity’s sake, I would place Dryden (the three-peat silver medallists of the 1970s) in the 7-9 range. I would consider them better than fellow northern Ontarians Roland Michener, who got their multiple national appearances in the relatively easier 1980s.

The upcoming modern era rankings, which I will split into three parts, will see a bit more change. Some of that is due to results since 2015, while other changes come from discoveries from the 1990s. These rankings will show up later in the summer.

The 1979 National Final

Back when J.R. wasn’t shot yet.

This week, I’m trying something a little different. Thanks to people that have saved old tapes, some Reach for the Top games are available online. Today, I’ll give commentary on the 1979 National Final game.

The 1979 national tournament took place in Montréal and was broadcast by CBC. Bill Guest was the host, and Paul Russell was one of the judges.

The 1979 Final pitted the northern Ontario champion, Dryden HS, against the southern Ontario champion, Banting Memorial HS. Dryden HS, from Dryden, is no stranger to the final – the team and their (I assume) captain Brad lost the 1977 and 1978 finals. They’d be eager to break that “slump”, and got to the final by defeating Lorne Jenken (AB) in the quarters and Cobequid (NS) in the semis (both Reach champs). Banting, from Alliston, is less experienced on the national stage, but benefited from a weaker draw that only saw Gonzaga (NL) as a real threat. The database page for the 1979 tournament is here.

Note: video of this match was uploaded by 1978 champion Dino Zincone here, but beware that it is a Flash video with a bloated file size and might not be safe for all browsers.

1979 National Final start
Northern Ontario (Dryden) against Southern Ontario (Banting Memorial)

Questions 1-8 are assigned to one player at a time (with no bounceback to the other team). The Russian literature category leads to a lot of Pushkin guesses, and teams end it tied 20-20.

Team scrambles were slightly different then. The scramble was worth 5 points, and there are four questions exclusive to the winning team. Brad made an anticipatory buzz during “what is the capital of…” and correctly assumed the reader would continue with “…Ethiopia”. Their exclusive questions were much more difficult, but they got 20 of the 40 points about Eritrean independence and the Ogaden War. 45-20 Dryden.

The next four questions were audio samples of artists up for Junos that year. Banting swept it to take the lead. Brad responded by 40-ing the “What am I” about polo. 85-60 Dryden.

Banting tidies up on questions about medical terms, then Eric casually answers “asbestos” for a team scramble (no mention of health effects…). By question 28, the score is 125-85 Banting.

Four visual questions about 20th century art goes mostly dead, including one to identify the artist when the signature is in view…

Bible, Marc Chagall, Verve 33-34
I wonder who created this?

Another batch of eight assigned questions. This set, about anagramming phrases into names, is also done differently: the first players of each team compete on the buzzer to answer two questions, followed by the next two players, and so on. Brad nails both of his and helps get Dryden back to a 115-145 score at the ad break.

Banting has the edge on the snappers after the break, but Jim (Dryden) solves math sequences and Brad almost sweeps a set of questions on Montréal’s bridges. Banting is barely holding on to a 195-185 lead.

Comeback
Brad knows local bridges and tightens the score.

A list question is next. It takes an interesting twist from the modern version. There are many more answers available, but the first person to buzz earns just 5 points per answer. A player from the second team can then buzz to earn 10 points for any remaining answers. Might make for some odd tactics – do you let a weaker team go first and hope they only answer 2 or 3, or do you rush in and try to exhaust the list for fewer points? Anyway, neither happened here for this list of the nine muses: Brad gets one for 5 points, and Paul gets one for 10 points. What a letdown.

The deflation may have shifted “momentum” in Banting’s favour. They make quick work of a team scramble about kinetic energy to give themselves a nice cushion for the endgame. Brad picks up 30 points between the classical music and religious books categories, but they enter the final snapper round with a Banting lead of 250-220.

Brad destroys the buzzer during the snappers. Figuratively, of course: there is no doubt that his buzzer was still functional at the end of the game. Brad buzzed in first in all but one of the 16 snappers… and only got five. Meanwhile, Banting collectively earned six snappers while buzzing in second each time. Final score, Banting Memorial 310, Dryden 270. Banting is the 1979 Reach for the Top national champion.

1979 Final score
That face when you’ve lost three straight finals…

Analysis of this game comes down to one thing: Brad’s buzzing. Brad’s trigger-happy finger probably cost the game; over the course of the match, Banting picked up 185 points by buzzing second to Brad. That’s more than half their score! Dryden’s team was incorrect 39 of their 64 buzzes, though some of it was guessing at the end of the question. Banting, meanwhile, was much more calm on the buzzer (20 incorrect of 52) and didn’t let Dryden pick up any points from second buzzes. A little more discipline probably could have swung three questions (and the title) Dryden’s way. I though Dryden should have had picked up more experience from their past tournaments, but instead we see the heartbreak of losing three straight finals. Neither team really impressed me with their knowledge base: Brad’s pickups on Ethiopian wars and Montréal roadworks were good, but both teams left a lot of questions dead that probably would have been taken by stronger teams from earlier in the decade. Based on scores, Cobequid was possibly the strongest team in the field, but I haven’t been able to see the match where Dryden eliminated them.

Both finalists disappeared from the national scene after this match. Banting played a bit into the SchoolReach era, but no longer competes. Dryden ending up losing northern Ontario titles to Roland Michener and Renfrew over the rest of the CBC era, and isolation from any major urban centres probably stopped them from subscribing to SchoolReach. Among other teams in the tournament, Gonzaga, Lorne Jenken, and Oak Bay had all won titles before, while Cobequid would go on to win two years later (and also in 2005).

I hope this was an interesting look at “old” Reach. I will probably do this again, considering the decent number of games out there and the time to fill in the offseason.