Macalester Forensics Team Hits the Trifecta

Macalester Forensics Team Hits the Trifecta

Lexington Smith, Staff Writer

During spring break, students, faculty, volunteers and more gathered on Macalester’s campus for the American Mock Trial Association’s Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS). 

Over the course of three days, a total of 24 teams of students from various colleges across the country completed four tournaments. In each round, there are two scored ballots, meaning eight possible wins for a team over the duration of the event. Out of the eight ORCS tournaments happening throughout the U.S., 48 teams advance to the National Championships. 

Macalester has a long history in the world of forensics mock trials. In 1993, Toby J. Heytens ’97, now a judge for the United States Court of Appeals Fourth Circuit, started the first Mac Mock Trial team under the former Director of Forensics, Dick Lesko ’75. Heyten cultivated a strong team of debaters, winning multiple national titles and making a name for the Macalester forensics department.

Macalester’s team continued to succeed in Mock Trial events and were regularly ranked among the top 10 forensics programs in the country. However, with the immense growth in student participation around the United States and increasing competition the event has seen over the past decade, national titles have been few and far between. 

Now, great excitement fills the halls of the forensics department as Macalester prepares to send three teams to compete in the National Championships for each of the competitive adversarial speech events that stand out in forensics: Mock Trial, Ethics Bowl and Debate. Joining only Tufts in this outstanding trifecta qualification, Mac forensics students eagerly get ready for the National Championship Tournament (NCT) happening in Memphis, Tenn. the weekend of April 14-16. 

Three squads, composed of Macalester students across class years, prepared for the ORCS over the past seven months working in depth on a singular case. Students discovered their hard work paid off as Macalester students competed in the three day event, beating schools with forensics rankings exceeding the top 10 programs in the country. 

“On the first day of the tournament, the University of Minnesota’s A team hit our second squad and lost!” Coach Niloy Ray ’99 said. “And that was a big event because the University of Minnesota has been the highest ranked [school] in Minnesota for a while.” 

Heading into the final stretch of the tournament, Macalester began trial on Sunday, March 12, having to win both ballots in order to qualify for Nationals. Going head to head with University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), a school ranked ninth in forensics programs in the U.S., was especially nerve-wracking for the team, given the high stakes.

However, the students did not falter, with Macalester beating UMBC for one ballot and tying for the other, resulting in a close win for Mac. 

In addition to the nail-biting win, the ORCS presents awards to 24 individual students who were particularly outstanding during the competition. Of these 24 awards, Macalester students took home six. Ray’s pride in his students was radiant as he explained all they have accomplished this year. 

“The strongest Mac ethos or trait I see in my students is they are not meritocratic [in the sense that] there is a good balance within our team,” Ray said. “[With] what you do in these disciplines, it [can] feel like all that matters is winning. The hope is that decades after you have done this, you leave with tangible skills.” 

Ray continued to discuss how communication and teamwork are prominent aspects of Mock Trial that are often overlooked. 

“The real value is in the team sport nature of [mock trial],” Ray said. “It is really no different than the music ensembles or sports teams [at Mac].” 

Even with all the excitement, the forensics team is far from done. Now, 10 Mac students, including eight from the A squad and two competitors from the squads that did not qualify, have three weeks to prepare a new case for Nationals. 

Students, faculty and volunteers throughout the forensics department have an intense few weeks ahead of them but Ray has full faith in Macalester. Pressure increases and excitement flurries as all of Macalester forensics prepares for Nationals—wish them luck. 


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