Mock Trial builds towards Nationals with strong Regionals showing

By Sarah Knispel

The Macalester Mock Trial team, one of the top programs in the country, qualified for the opening round of the national championship during a regional tournament the weekend of February 10. Macalester’s A and B teams competed in a field of 23 teams at the University of Wisconsin-Superior, taking first and seventh place respectively. The eight top-scoring teams at each of 24 different regional tournaments will advance to the American Mock Trial Association’s Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) at eight sites across the country. Macalester’s teams will head to Waukegan, Illinois to compete in early March. The top six teams from each opening round series will advance to Nationals, to be held in Minneapolis. In addition to the top awards for both teams, three Macalester students won individual awards. Co-captain Samantha Gupta ’12 won an Outstanding Attorney Award, and Brett Campbell ’15 and Hannah Brown ’15 took Outstanding Witness and Outstanding Attorney awards respectively. Campbell and Brown’s awards were the most exciting part of regionals, said Dick Lesicko, director of Forensics at Macalester. “Neither of them had done Mock Trial in high school,” he said. “It’s exciting to see them get recognized.” Campbell and Brown, members of the B team, will have a lot to live up to when they reach Nationals. Macalester’s Mock Trial team has enjoyed a highly successful 18-year run. Every year, Mac has placed one or more teams into postseason, and at least one Macalester team has advanced to the national championships 16 times. Last year, the Mac team placed fourth in the country. The A Team isn’t nervous, though. “Living up to expectations isn’t really a thing,” said co-captain Nathanael Smith ’12. “Not to jinx it,” said Gupta, “but we have a lot of returners this year, and everyone is always better after we’ve been competing. Nobody’s gotten worse.” Both Gupta and Nathanael, along with co-captain Joshua Rubin ’12 are on Macalester’s A Team, which has a higher percentage of upperclassmn. The B team is mostly underclassmen, with no seniors on the team. Both teams will advance with two teams from UMTC, and one team from Hamline, University of Wisconsin-Superior, St. Norbert College and University of Minnesota-Morris. Despite a great track record­—three members on the team have already won All-American awards—the teams can’t be sure how well they will do in a round because scoring is often frustratingly subjective. Once a team gets to regionals, they are judged by sitting judges and practicing attorneys rather than Mock Trial coaches. These professionals are less aware of the way a Mock Trial should function, so frequently their scoring is “wacky,” Brown said. “In football, you win by scoring more points,” Smith said, “In Mock Trial, you win by how much the judge liked your shoes.” The team was slated to win regionals, so the co-captains went in feeling confident, aside from one moment of doubt. Their judge was an old man who they “were convinced didn’t want to be there, didn’t know where he was, or a combination of the two,” Gupta said. When judges are deliberating, they usually stick to comments about the round, Rubin said. But he overheard their judge “explaining where on a baby’s butt you insert a vaccine. The case is not about babies or vaccines.” “He was a crazy person,” Smith said, “It’s scary when you get crazy people scoring your rounds.” Lesicko agreed. Although he thinks scoring is often “arbitrary,” he is glad that these first-years will get to experience the opening round championship, so they can see “just how good they can be.” “That’s incredible feedback,” he said. Lesicko has certain trepidations, however. Both teams have a good shot to advance from the opening rounds to the final rounds of nationals, he said, but “I think the C.S. [in O.R.C.S.] really stands for ‘crap shoot.’ So much depends on judges and what’s gonna happen in the [last] round.” Two years ago, Macalester’s team only needed to beat St. Olaf to advance to the final rounds. They lost by four out of 280 available points. In the end, winning isn’t the most important thing for the Mock Trial team. Lesicko said it’s important not to let one loss define a season. After spending all winter break attending invitationals to prepare, the Mock Trial team’s goal was to make it to the opening round and they have. For the seniors, though, winning is the only way they’ll get to continue to debate. The tournaments are single elimination, so when they lose a round, they’re finished. The three co-captains are dreading their last round. Gupta expects to cry. “Even if we didn’t go on, I’d be happy,” Brown said. However, “because we did, and we have a really good team, I want us to advance. We’re gonna do our darndest.” refresh –>