Fifteen teams from across Canada competed in Toronto last weekend for the Reach for the Top national title. It was a very decorated field, with 16 championships among them going into the competition.
Saturday saw the round-robin portion. The big shake-up in the standings came from London Central SS defeating UTS in their match, which gave Central the head-to-head tiebreak for the top of the leaderboard. Kennebecasis Valley HS gave Central their only loss of the day, while Martingrove CI was the other school in the top four seeds.
Sunday playoff competition ended up playing out mostly as expected by seeding. In the play-in round, Kelvin HS gave a close 360-340 upset over the Renert School, but the eliminations still resulted in the top four seeds in the final four. St. George’s School and Eric Hamber SS, both from BC, gave the biggest scares in the quarterfinals, with St. George’s briefly leading over KVHS and Eric Hamber losing in the closest match (330 to 400 for Martingrove).
Monday was for the final four. In the first semifinal, KVHS jumped out to a quick lead over Central, hoping for a repeat of the win they pulled off in the round-robin. Central, however, picked up most of the points in the middle round of the game and finished with a 440-300 victory, sending them to their fifth national final. In the other semifinal, UTS repeated what they did in the Ontario final and took a strong 550-280 win over Martingrove to head to their ninth final. The final, a rematch from 2012, had the reverse outcome of the round-robin game and gave UTS a 520-280 victory over Central.
Congratulations to UTS for their unprecedented fifth title, and also congratulations to all the participating teams representing their provinces. The database link to the results is found here.
The top four teams (UTS, Central, Martingrove, KVHS) have been well-documented on this site, and they are no strangers to the high end of the competition. They are all perennial challengers to the title, and will be in the future. Some top players will graduate, but their clubs are so deep and well-organized that they will return with other players vying for the trophy.
The next four teams (alphabetical order of Eric Hamber, Kelvin, Old Scona, and St. George’s) demonstrate a divide in the field. While the BC teams gave close quarterfinals, there is a gap that keep the top four in the top four; 3 Ontario teams and KVHS have been the semis in three of the last four years. I believe the difference comes from those teams being able to play multiple tournaments throughout the year; it keeps them in competition mode all year and exposes them to more topics. I hope that other regions look to this model as a productive way of boosting teams.
On a side note, I often get concerns about the order of teams on my tournament pages. In the Ontario and national tournaments, there are no published ranks for several teams that are eliminated part-way through the playoffs (for example, 5-8 at Nationals). I list those teams in order of R-value; it stems from my original intention of using the R-value as a way to determine teams that deserve progression to higher tournaments, though for Nationals it is moot.
The bottom half of the field got consolation matches. As has been noticed in the comments of the last post, the consolation tournament can end up as the most productive use of your tournament fee: most consolation teams played at least as many matches as the champion, UTS! The consolation model is a good way to get more playing time in, but as has also been noted, it is a shame the eliminated quarterfinalists can’t find a way to get more matches.
The Renert School finished as the consolation champion for the second year in a row, beating fellow Albertans from Webber Academy. Both teams matched their best-ever Nationals result. Cobequid EC earned consolation third place over Fredericton HS.
Fort Richmond Collegiate from Manitoba was the only new team in the field. It is always good to see teams earn a nationals experience, and hopefully they can continue to challenge the regular front-runners in the province.
Marianopolis College was the Quebec representative. They did not have as good a result as some other years, but as I have said before, the Quebec system has inherent difficulties in developing consistent clubs. Next year will be an entirely different lineup, and they could have entirely different results.
Auburn Drive HS rounded out the field. While I suspect it is only a minority opinion, I feel the need to address the idea that they didn’t deserve to be there. In short, they did. The Reach national model is based on fair representation across all the provinces, which includes Nova Scotia. Up until the early 2000s, most provinces only sent one representative. With only one representative, it was difficult to tell if the provincial runners-up could have been one of the top teams in the nation as well (eg: Lisgar CI has three national titles despite no provincial titles). The Nationals field began expanding to include more runners-up, including from the maritime provinces. In 2010, the final was two maritime teams. In 2008, both New Brunswick teams made the semifinals. Regions go through ebbs and flows of relative strength, and the second qualification spots do help give representation if any provinces have resurgences. It is true that Nova Scotia competition and participation is at a low point right now, but there is nothing stopping them from being stronger in the future, so the runner-up slot should still remain as a route to Nationals. There is merit to discussing alternative qualification methods, but it should not come with dismissive attitudes to regions of Canada.
I’d like to finish on a more pleasant note, so I’m glad to hear of all the camaraderie and good spirits the teams had. Ultimately, everyone is there for the enjoyment of the same activity, and it displays true character to takes wins or losses in stride. Good luck to all the teams next year, and once again, congratulations to UTS this year!