The Reach for the Top national championship will be upon us in less than a week, and 16 teams will gather in Toronto to compete for the title. Last year’s winner, Lisgar CI, did not qualify this year, but many other former winners will be in attendance. Here is a preview of the competitors (sorted by province):
St. George’s School
- Most recent national result: 10th (2016)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (1991, 2004)
Eric Hamber SS
- Most recent national result: 2nd (2016)
- Best national result (on file): 2nd (2016)
Sir Winston Churchill SS
- Most recent national result: 7th (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 5th (2008)
After fielding two new teams last year, BC returns some regulars with a very competitive history. St. George’s was possibly the most dominant team of the 1990s and had an almost-uninterrupted national attendance streak from 1991 to 2008. Eric Hamber will have its runner-up 2016 finish still in mind, while Churchill has been the most regular BC attendee this decade. The provincial order of finish (listed above) may mean nothing; last year, the BC teams finished nationally in reverse order. All three teams will be looking for quarterfinal spots.
The Renert School
- Most recent national result: 9th (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 9th (2017)
Old Scona Academic School
- Most recent national result: 8th (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 4th (2014, 2016)
- Most recent national result: 12th (2016)
- Best national result (on file): 10th (2014)
Despite losing their 2017 MVP, Renert is getting better each season and comes to nationals with a provincial title won over Old Scona. Both those teams gave scares to the bigger teams during the round-robin last year, but the nationals field is strong and they’ll have to fight for a return to the quarterfinals. Webber will probably be a step below them, but getting in the top 12 elimination bracket or a best-ever result would be a good goal.
- Most recent national result: 5th (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (1970)
St. John’s-Ravenscourt School
- Most recent national result: 10th (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 7th (2007)
Fort Richmond Collegiate
- Most recent national result: none
- Best national result (on file): none
Coming off a strong fifth place last year, Kelvin won their provincial title this time, and will be the Manitoba team to watch. They won’t have their MVP from last year, but the lineup will still be a threat through to the playoffs. St. John’s-Ravenscourt and newcomer Fort Richmond will vie for the elimination bracket as well, though they have less nationals experience than their provincial champion.
University of Toronto Schools
- Most recent national result: 2nd (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (2002-03, 2012-13)
- Most recent national result: 3rd (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (2014)
London Central SS
- Most recent national result: 6th (2016)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (2007, 2009)
Like last year, the Ontario teams enter as favourites and should be headed for at least the semifinals. UTS’ main team has won every tournament they have competed in, but they have been beaten before and could be prone to a round-robin upset. UTS will be competing for their fifth national title. Martingrove and Central also have made several appearances at nationals over the past decade, and one of them will likely face UTS in the final. It should be close between these two; they did not face each other at provincials, but look for their round-robin match as the game to watch on Saturday (added note: Martingrove beat Central 410-280 in the final of the UTS fall tournament).
I don’t know who won Quebec, but the educational structure of the province makes it difficult to field a strong team. It will either be a high school limited to grade 11 students, or a CEGEP team consisting only of students competing together for one year. Occasionally a team makes a good run (Dawson’s 2nd place in 2003 or Marianopolis’ 4th seed in 2014), but a midfield finish is more likely.
Kennebecasis Valley HS
- Most recent national result: 4th (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (2010-11, 2016)
- Most recent national result: 11th (2012)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (1995)
Kennebecasis Valley HS once again continues their attendance streak since 2005, having picked up three titles and a further three finals appearances during that run. They should be the greatest threat to the Ontario trio, and gave quite a scare to UTS in the semis last year. However, they have finished below the Ontario teams in other tournaments this year, so they will need to put in a superlative performance. Fredericton is included on this list if they end up being the 16th team; they were a powerhouse in the 1990s, but have spent recent years fighting for second place in tournaments with the other New Brunswick schools behind KV.
- Most recent national result: 14th (2016)
- Best national result (on file): 1st (1981, 2005)
(Auburn Drive HS)
- Most recent national result: 16th (2017)
- Best national result (on file): 10th (2008)
Cobequid is the most frequent Nova Scotia representative this century, but they have dipped since their late 00s peak. The health of the Nova Scotia circuit is waning, and lack of participation in the province (especially after the end of the Dalhousie tournament) fizzles the competitive sparks among the remaining teams. Cobequid will still put up a challenge to the midfield teams, but they (and Auburn Drive if they attend) will probably spend Sunday in the consolation bracket.
Those are most of the teams. Quebec is unknown to me, and the 16th team will likely be from one of the Maritime provinces, so I have included those provincial runners-up on the lists. There is an outside chance that the fourth Ontario team (Royal St. George’s College, conveniently a stone’s throw from the tournament site) could be called in as a replacement; they would immediately jump to quarterfinal contention in that case.
Teams will spend Saturday in a full round-robin. This will sort the entire field leading up to the playoffs. The national round-robin uses shorter packs than usual to fit more games in; a smaller question sample size can lead to occasional surprise results. However, there is new editing management that will try to weed out points from repeats and introduce subjects that haven’t been heard before. It will be a long day, but there will be times for breaks on Sunday.
Playoffs are on Sunday. The top four seeds earn byes while seeds 5 to 12 start off the elimination bracket. Most elimination games occur one at a time on stage, so there will be some downtime while teams remain in contention. For midfield teams, the consolation bracket could be the best bang for your buck; once you are eliminated from title contention, you get to play as many as five extra games to sort out ranks 9 to 16. Monday sees the semifinals, finals, and a closing ceremony.
Good luck to the national competitors! Represent your province well, and enjoy yourselves.