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.

2018 Previews

Still waiting on Newfoundland.

I’ve been away for the start of the school year, but with tournaments underway, I’d better get back in the saddle.

The 2018 season is going to be very talented. A lot of teams have been able to keep strong players who will now be entering their senior year, including the four national semifinalists from last year. Some highlights (from an Ottawa-centric view):

Locally (Ottawa), the starting point is the 2017 champs. Lisgar CI is losing almost everyone to graduation, except their Nationals MVP. However, that player will have less support and interest this coming year. I don’t think Lisgar is going to be in National contention this year, though they will still be good enough to continue their provincial qualification streak. Their main local threat will be Glebe CI, who see most players return. Interestingly, Glebe has reached Ontario playoffs each time they have qualified for provincials, so they should be kept on the radar. Beyond Lisgar and Glebe, I think there’s a drop-off with respect to Reach; Colonel By SS, however, will be a contender in other quiz events.

Provincially (Ontario), we seemed destined for a very deep playoff field. UTS is the early favourite – they have several players returning and have a full complement of supporting players in the younger grades to bolster the strength of the team. They will hope to do one better than their finals loss last season. The other National qualifier from last season, Martingrove CI, is another deep squad that always excels in the provincial tournament; they will probably take one of Ontario’s qualification spots again. The third Ontario spot (presuming the system remains the same) will be hotly contested. Lisgar and UCC will probably be weaker this year, but could survive the playoffs. London Central SS has been a mainstay since their 2007 run, and usually finds a way to at least the third round of playoffs. Royal St. George’s College has been on my radar for four years; they have proven themselves through UTS’ independent tournaments and History Bowls, but somehow always struggle at Provincials. If they can get that monkey off their back, they should be a team that breezes through the Nationals style of play. Westmount has been slowly getting better each year ever since their coach came to the program, and they should make playoffs, but I think they still have one more year to go before their big season. I don’t know enough about Assumption’s, PACE’s, Centennial’s or the Oakville teams’ composition to judge how they’ll do yet, but they round out the “usual suspects”.

Nationally, KVHS is the other team to watch out for. They are another deep team like UTS or Martingrove, and should win New Brunswick, if not sweep it altogether. Their advantage over any of the remaining national teams is their constant tournament participation. Ontario is miles ahead of the other provinces, not necessarily because of population, but because of the very active scene of independent tournaments held throughout the year. Development is much better against other teams on fresh material than sitting in a lunchroom with old questions you’ve heard before, and there appear to be gradual changes afoot at Reach that will favour teams that broaden their knowledge base. I know that there have been attempts at tournaments over the years in BC and Alberta, but the staying power in Ontario (and to a lesser extent, New Brunswick) is the factor that will keep certain provinces on top.

A major tournament has already been held, UTS’ fall tournament. It’s too early for me to have any details, but the four National semifinalist from last year were in attendance, and other contenders like Central, Westmount, UCC, and Assumption will make their early mark on the measuring stick. I’m not convinced that the format will do a good job of ranking teams, but I hope to eventually get the raw numbers for a deeper look.

Finally, do not be demoralized if I haven’t mentioned you. Lots of things get overlooked in the early season, and the picture doesn’t become clearer until as late as the provincial tournaments. If you’re an Ontario team, there are plenty of opportunities to gauge yourselves; if you are elsewhere, try to get an event going (2017 National attendees were offered the 2017 Lisgar tournament set for holding a local competition; though if you’re reading this, you’ve probably been spoiled on content from the earlier recordings…).

Best of luck for 2018!

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.

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.

2017 Nationals Results

Lights! Camera! Inaction!

Last weekend, UTS and the University of Toronto hosted the 49th* national championship of Reach for the Top. 16 teams from seven provinces had a full day of round-robin competition before vying for the title in the playoffs.

*Reach claimed it was the 51st, but only 49 championship seasons have occurred due to the stoppages after the CBC era.

The full results are uploaded here. Lisgar CI claimed their third national title in a close 460-410 final over the University of Toronto Schools; it was an anticipated clash of titans and a rematch of the provincial title which UTS won. My rundown of the teams, in order of rank (note: for this tournament, I broke standings ties by round-robin seed):

  • Auburn Drive (16th). Nova Scotia’s clubs were greatly hindered by job action this year; only five teams went to provincials. Let’s hope this year was only a blip and that teams can have more support next year. As for this particular team, I never saw them until their final consolation game. They kept close with SJHS in the first half and won an excruciatingly long shootout, but saw their tournament end there.
  • Rundle College (15th). Schedule quirkiness meant I saw Rundle for 9 of the 15 preliminary games and became their unintended fan club. As a surprise invite from their fourth-place finish in Alberta, expectations were not high. Their top player will return next year, so hopefully they can build from this experience for another shot at Nationals.
  • St. Paul’s (14th). I think there was a different line-up between provincials and nationals, because the Manitoba champs fell short of the other teams from their province. Hopefully this means the school has a large pool of players to choose from, and can re-assemble for another provincial title run next year.
  • Collingwood (13th). This rank will simply go down as “oops”. They temporarily disappeared after one of their consolation losses and defaulted a win to lower-seeded Saint John. They would have been in contention for the consolation bracket title otherwise.
  • Saint John (12th). They got a lucky break from Collingwood, but ended up fourth of the final four consolation teams. They will be in tough to qualify for nationals next year, because the competition for second in New Brunswick is very tight. Interestingly, I only ever saw them win: in the round-robin over Rundle and the playoffs over Auburn Drive.
  • Marianopolis (11th). This team was a bit weaker than some CEGEP teams of the past, but they pulled one of the few upsets in the playoffs with a second-round consolation win over Renert.
  • St. John’s-Ravenscourt (10th). Just getting to nationals was impressive: Horton’s drop-out meant that SJR organized a team trip from Winnipeg less than a week before the tournament. They didn’t show too much rust and even managed to beat their provincial champions in the round-robin!
  • Renert (9th). Renert & Co. did improve from last year. Their highlight was either almost defeating KV or getting the most games of any team by taking the long route to get to the consolation bracket title. A tournament MVP came from this team (I don’t mention names due to a blog-wide policy of keeping players anonymous).
  • Old Scona (8th). Unlike their provincial compatriots, Old Scona did pull off a win over KV, but fell back to eighth seed by the end of Saturday. Eighth seed unfortunately meant an early match with UTS, where even a 480-240 loss to them would be considered a good result.
  • Sir Winston Churchill (7th). They seemed, on paper at least, to be the strongest team from BC, even though Collingwood beat them in both the provincial final and the round-robin match (they won the play-in match over Collingwood, though). They led UTS going into the final snapout of their match, but couldn’t pull off what would have been the biggest upset of the tournament. Their mix of ups and downs averaged them out to the middle of the pack.
  • Templeton (6th). For a team’s first appearance at Nationals (either in a long while or ever – not sure), they did very well. They almost beat Martingrove in the round robin and finished as the highest-placing BC team. Considering that they were nowhere even on the provincial scene before this, they would certainly be the “most improved” team. A tournament MVP came from this team.
  • Kelvin (5th). R-values suggest the 5th-8th place teams have razor-thin differences in strength between them, but Kelvin got the wins. Kelvin was on my radar as the Manitoba runners-up, but I didn’t expect them to get as high as fifth. Well done, though I didn’t get to see them play. A tournament MVP came from this team.
  • Kennebecasis Valley (4th). I think that even before the tournament began, KV was destined for fourth: they weren’t quite up to the level of the Ontario teams but were definitely better than anyone else. They got within 30 points of Lisgar in the round-robin, but a loss to Old Scona almost cost them a playoff bye. The semifinal match against UTS was very impressive, though. They capitalized on UTS’ mistakes and frustrations to keep within 20 points late in the match, and nearly gave the favourites their first loss of the tournament. With good players returning, I would not be surprised to see a late-round rematch next year- perhaps even in the final for once!
  • Martingrove (3rd). Like KV, Martingrove seemed set for their final position as a step behind Lisgar and UTS. A mere 250-230 loss to UTS in the round-robin gave the Ontario champs a little scare, and they easily handled Templeton in the quarterfinal. The semifinal wasn’t pretty though: a poor run during the team scrambles sapped any momentum they had and allowed Lisgar’s MVP alone to earn more points than them. Nevertheless, they were part of the good camaraderie among the Ontario teams and hopefully they’ll show up at more tournaments next year in their quest to keep their Nationals attendance streak alive.
  • UTS (2nd). UTS was my pick as the strongest team on paper, despite what the R-value said. They swept the round-robin while rarely fielding their true A-team; it cost them a few extra points, but who needs points for seeding when you’re 15-0? Unfortunately, the team was mired in production difficulties in both of their final-day matches. They were not on top of their game and only narrowly beat KV before taking the loss in the final. I think the delays and frustrations ate away at them, but they also had to deal with Lisgar’s MVP getting a second wind on the last day. It was a very good final match, and they had a great season overall (including a 6-1 record across formats over Lisgar A). They should be just as strong next year, so best of luck for another title run!
  • Lisgar (1st). Best ever regional result. Best ever provincial (round-robin) result. 2nd best ever national (round-robin) result. Analytically, this title is not a surprise. Realistically, it was anything but. The team played sick (barely getting to the stage) and they entered the playoffs knowing they had taken nothing but losses to UTS all year. There was not a lot of optimism among them for the final morning. However, that semifinal was a much-needed boost in confidence and set them up for a stellar (minus the 25-minute delay) final. Who needs shootout wins anyway? While Lisgar’s MVP (also selected as a tournament MVP) returns, no one else does, so this was expected to be Lisgar’s last chance for a while. They got the title, and now they can go back to their regularly-scheduled programming of quizbowl.

A great tournament by all the teams. The matches I saw both in-room and on-stage were great to watch, even if I ended up rooting for the Rundle underdog half the time.

The tournament organization was pretty good. Logistics has never been a problem for Reach, and for their price tag, you expect the perks and efficiencies. Games were on time, staff were prepared, food was ready, and results were prompt. Sunday’s stage games were also well done, even if there was an audience of just me and the coaches at times.

Unfortunately, Monday was a mess. The small change from SchoolReach to Reach for the Top – filming the event – was a world of difference for the negative. Floodlights blew the breakers in the first game and wrecked a buzzer. The need to announce players on the replacement buzzers forced a “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” scene where a person hid behind a banner to identify the light that went off. Pre-games became fidgety with ridiculous insert shots of buzzing, applause, and phony reactions. Games stopped twice when camera SD cards filled. Most notoriously, the delay of “reviewing the tapes” (rather than using a tried-and-tested method south of the border of leniency on vowel pronunciation) dragged the final into a 90-minute affair. UTS’ auditorium is not a television studio. Reach needs to either get back to a real TV production or start embracing less intrusive broadcast options, like Twitch or Youtube streaming. Disrupting players for the sake of pretty video (that will never come to light) shows a complete disregard for what should be the most important part of these tournaments – the academic performance of the players. UTS was definitely compromised by the production, and while I don’t dispute the title, I think we were robbed of an even better final. I know some changes will be underway at Reach, and I hope the Monday routine is part of that.

The final gala was good, though. Much more concise and meaningful than some of the provincial galas.

But I shouldn’t let my rambling detract from recognizing the most important things: the players who all showed excellent skill, teamwork, and friendliness; the coaches who coordinate not only the management of a strong team but the logistics of getting them to events; and the volunteer staff who keep the games going in a timely manner.

To those graduating, best wishes for your post-secondary pursuits (hey, try quizbowl). For those returning, good luck in your title run!

Finally, a blog note: this is, obviously, the end of the Reach season. For the off-season, my priorities are an explanation of the R-value (and follow-ups with old provincial analysis), a look at some historical games, and an updated Reach champion ranking, which I last did in 2015. Stay tuned!

2017 Nationals brief results

At least the table’s up.

I’ll be brief because of my quick turnaround time after leaving Toronto, but I will provide more information on the weekend.

16 teams from across Canada descended on Toronto last weekend to determine the Reach for the Top national champion. Teams played a full round-robin, followed by championship and consolation playoffs.

Lisgar CI defeated the University of Toronto Schools 460-410 in the final. The full preliminary table, as well as all playoff games, have been added to the database. This is Lisgar’s third national title.

Congratulations to all of the teams and participants in the National championships. It represented a year of hard work for everyone, and all of the teams should be proud of their performances. Best of luck in the pursuits that lie ahead!

2017 Nationals preview

Horton hears a Who-am-I!

After a quick turnaround from Ontario provincials, the Reach for the Top national championship will be decided next weekend. Sixteen teams have been invited from across Canada to compete in Toronto for a title that has passed between schools for more than fifty years. Those teams (sorted by province):

British Columbia

Collingwood School

  • Most recent national result: none
  • Best national result (on file): none

Sir Winston Churchill SS

  • Most recent national result: 11th (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 5th (2008)

Templeton SS

  • Most recent national result: none
  • Best national result (on file): none

Two new teams from BC this year. I thought Templeton may have earned one appearance in the mid-2000s, but I have no records for that period. Meanwhile, Sir Winston Churchill is a very regular qualifier, though they have struggled to get out of the bottom half this decade. I have no information about the BC competition, but at least one team from the province has made top 6 with >100% R-value in almost every year of the past decade. New teams are very much an unknown: will a lack of experience hurt them, or are they a surprise that comes out of nowhere?


Old Scona Academic School

  • Most recent national result: 4th (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 4th (2014, 2016)

The Renert School

  • Most recent national result: 15th (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 15th (2016)

Rundle College

  • Most recent national result: none
  • Best national result (on file): none

Old Scona leads the Alberta cohort again with yet another Nationals qualification; they are probably the best modern era program to not win a title (yet). Despite all the appearances, they are often stuck in the 5th-8th range indicative of quarterfinal losses. Renert School gave a close match in the Alberta final, but they would need a big improvement from last year to make some noise in their second appearance. Rundle College is actually the 4th-place Alberta team after the third finisher dropped; I think they will looking for just a few wins as a goal.


St. Paul’s HS

  • Most recent national result: 8th (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 3rd (2010)

Kelvin HS

  • Most recent national result: 7th (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (1970)

Note: Kelvin’s best result in the modern era is likely their 4th place in 2003. Manitoba is a very active province (for its population) in SchoolReach, and that has fostered good competition as far back as the early CBC years. In recent years, the two Manitoba teams usually make the quarterfinals, and I would not be surprised to see a similar result this year.


University of Toronto Schools

  • Most recent national result: 3rd (2015)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (2002-03, 2012-13)

Lisgar CI

  • Most recent national result: 3rd (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (2008, 2015)

Martingrove CI

  • Most recent national result: 5th (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (2014)

These three Ontario teams will enter as favourites. Lisgar is fresh off of record R-values at the regional and provincial level, while UTS got through a tough playoff run after an unexpected low seed. Martingrove is a step below, but this is their fifth consecutive Nationals appearance, which is no small feat in the fierce Ontario competition. I think a UTS-Lisgar final is likely, but both teams have had surprise losses in the last 15 months at various levels of competition (the UTS regional loss last year being most noticeable). Watch out for one of these teams to break Kennebecasis Valley’s national R-value record of 145%, set in 2010.


Marianopolis College

  • Most recent national result: 9th (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 5th (2014)

My previous opinions on CEGEPs in Reach still hold. That being said, I respect that the team is legitimately competing. Unfortunately, CEGEP team compositions are entirely new each year, and without current results from the provincial tournament, I have no way to measure how strong the team is.

New Brunswick

Kennebecasis Valley HS

  • Most recent national result: 1st (2016)
  • Best national result (on file): 1st (2010-11, 2016)

Saint John HS

  • Most recent national result: none
  • Best national result (on file): none

Kennebecasis Valley will defend their national title in their record-continuing twelfth consecutive national appearance. They lost some players to graduation, but their incredible consistency in fostering talented players means that the squad is the best challenger to the Ontario juggernauts this year. I think they should still at least make the semis. Despite often finishing highly in New Brunswick, I think this is Saint John HS’s first national appearance; they just always got locked out by Fredericton in the ’90s and KV in the ’00s before Reach started awarding a second invitation.

Nova Scotia

Auburn Drive HS

  • Most recent national result: 10th (2008)
  • Best national result (on file): 10th (2008)

Horton HS

  • Most recent national result: 10th (2007)
  • Best national result (on file): 3rd (1998)

Nova Scotia is a blast from the past this year! Both teams return after a decade’s absence, with different histories. Auburn Drive had one good year in 2008, then got stuck in the provincial midfield with Cobequid and the other HRM teams dominating. Horton, meanwhile, is reviving their club from a dormancy since 2010; before that, they were the team to beat in the province in the ’90s and early ’00s. Cobequid’s run of national appearances (all but one year since 2009) has ended with a third place in the provincial competition.

And those are the 16 teams. Everyone plays each other in the lengthy Saturday round-robin, which will seed teams for the Sunday/Monday playoffs (nearly every game is played individually, so the playoff process takes time). I foresee the quarterfinals containing the three Ontario teams, KV, Old Scona, and a team each from BC and Manitoba. The final quarterfinal spot is a tossup between Marianopolis or a second team from BC/Manitoba. Lisgar will probably get the highest R-value, but they have a history of faltering in critical playoff games: they have won 8 of their 18 semifinal/3rd place/final matches at the provincial and national levels (UTS has won 30 of 46 and Martingrove 10 of 16, in comparison).

I will be at Nationals. Thanks (and a disclosure) for the Lisgar team providing transportation during my sleeping hours. Despite the registration form, I will not act for Lisgar (or Reach) in any capacity; I will be an independent observer. This also means R-values will be delayed, but I will provide what updates and scores I can through the Twitter hashtag #ReachNats17

Good luck to all the competing teams!