By Cheryl Toomey, University Relations Graduate Assistant
The UTC Mock Trial team is on fire after winning five and tying one of their eight cases at American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) Regional Tournament this February. For the first time in their fifteen year history, the team has won a bid to nationals.
Mock Trial is a trial simulation competition in which teams of six to ten students play the parts of lawyers and witnesses before a real judge. Attorneys are judged on their ability to make their case, while witnesses are judged on their ability to play their part while keeping with the information in their affidavit.
After the invitational tournament at MTSU in Fall 2013, the two UTC Mock Trial teams were combined into one team consisting of those members who scored the highest. Stephanie Fast and Che Sokol co-captained the new combined team at Regionals.
“I think the fact that we performed well at the invitational competition we went to helped us to be more confident going into regionals,” says Fast, who won 3rd place for attorneys at Regionals. “This is the first time that UTC’s Mock Trial team has advanced past the regional level competition. It has been a great boost of morale. We went into this competition with a relatively small amount of preparation. I think this victory has shown us that we have what it takes and I am excited to see what we are able to do in the next round and in the future.”
From March 21-22, the UTC Mock Trial team will be attending the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), which is the second round of the AMTA annual national tournament structure. ORCS tournaments host the top teams from each of AMTA’s Regional tournaments that took place in February. Of the twenty six teams that competed in the Regional tournament in Atlanta, UTC was among the top eight chosen to go on to ORCS. UTC is one of 192 teams that will advance and compete in the ORCS round of competition. The top six teams from each ORCS tournament will advance to AMTA’s National Championship Tournament in April.
UTC will be joining such schools as Harvard, Duke, and Auburn at ORCS.
“It’s so cool because so many of our members aren’t planning to be lawyers. We’re in the company of these well-funded teams from universities with well-established law schools, whereas Mock Trial at UTC has traditionally just been recognized as a fun organization to join. I think we’re one of the only teams going to ORCs that isn’t attached to a law school,” says Sokol, a double major in English and French.
The victory at the Regional Tournament marks the first time that that the UTC Mock Trial team has won more rounds than they have lost or tied.
“When I first started as a freshman, we were all freshmen with no experience in Mock Trial except for two people. Now that we’re older, a lot of us have more experience,” explains Sokol. “Even out of the younger members, a lot of them came from doing Mock Trial in high school. So we have a lot of experienced people and the newer members can practice with them. It makes us quicker on our feet rather than being overwhelmed.”
The UTC Mock Trial team is particularly excited to have excelled at Regionals after having been snowed out of several practices leading up to the tournament.
“I thought that we weren’t going to be prepared enough, but everyone really picked up the pace and practiced hard for the tournament and pulled through,” says Sokol. “I’m so proud of my team for working so hard, particularly at something that they don’t have to do. Few of us are political science majors or pre-law, so this is something that doesn’t affect their grades or their performance at this university.”
Michael Giglio, an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Political Science and a local lawyer, is the faculty sponsor for the Mock Trial team.
“I am incredibly proud of these kids. This is a really big deal. They have put in the work and now are having to work even harder and longer when normally they would be resting up for Spring Break!” says Giglio. “Hopefully, the leaders on next year’s team and in following years will learn from this year.”