Mock trial team ranked highest at Regionals

Truman State’s mock trial teams’ skills were put on trial Saturday and Sunday at the 2015 Kansas City Regional Competition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where Truman’s A and B teams received bids to the next level of competition.

The A and B teams had records of 8-0 and 5-3, respectively. The A team was the highest-ranked mock trial team at Regionals, where it competed against teams from schools such as Washington University, Missouri Southern University and UMKC.

The next level of competition, the Open Round Championship Series, will take place March 14-15 in Louisville, Kentucky. This is the last step before the national championships.

Sophomore Kyra Cooper said with its record of 8-0, Truman’s A team defeated some prestigious teams, such as the team from Washington University in St. Louis.

Mock trial is set up so each team must act as the defense and plaintiff at each tournament, meaning each team has to prepare cases for both sides, Cooper said. The fictional case made up for competition this year involved a shooting by a 11-year-old, she said.

Score is kept by two judges who rank each team member on a scale of one to 10 for various categories throughout the trial, such as opening speech and closing speech, Cooper said. She said overall, presentation style is the most important aspect to doing well in a tournament.

It is unusual for the A and B teams to make it beyond regionals, said senior Sophia Monti, mock trial secretary. She said having both teams advance from Regionals never has happened for Truman. She said she thinks the A team has a pretty good chance of making it to nationals this year.

Monti said snagging the highest-ranked position against well-known teams like Washington University has helped elevate the prestige of Truman’s mock trial team going into ORCS and hopefully nationals.

“I am so proud of how far the team has come,” Monti said. “We’ve always been a competent team, a team that’s done well, but never a team that’s done insanely well. This has really opened the door for us to be able to do that in the future.”

The success the team has experienced in competition this year has a lot to do with the team coming together as a whole, Monti said. This year has brought a new level of cohesiveness to both teams and the organization’s work in preparation with the case materials, Monti said. She said many were returning members or had previous experience with mock trial teams during high school, which served Truman’s teams well during competitions this year.

“This weekend, it was very evident that we knew everything we were talking about,” Monti said. “We knew all the details of the case, we knew where to expect problems to arise and where our strengths were, but I think that for us to go on, we just need to build on our momentum and fine-tune everything.”

The mock trial team recently re-established its two teams and solidified each member’s role in the trial, which contributed to its success at this weekend’s competition, said junior Stephen Blunk, mock trial treasurer.

“We’ve been meeting every night or every other night, which culminated into this past weekend’s success,” Blunk said. “We did pretty well in other tournaments, but we definitely feel like we’re reaching our stride now.”

Blunk said he has seen the team grow into a family in the two years he has been involved. He said the team members enjoy hanging out with each other and working the long hours it takes to put a case together.

“[This year’s success] stems out of the cohesive nature of our team, meaning that we actually want to be together,” Blunk said. “We hold each other accountable to a higher standard, and we’ve all improved as a result.”

Currently, Blunk said the teams are awaiting case changes to come out during March, but are working to solidify cases and presentation by rethinking case theories.

Blunk said there are many options how to argue the case the teams are given. The team members are given about 120 pages of material, and then they form a case theory to narrow their focus and figure out how to make a solid presentation of their case, he said. Right now is just about focusing on what worked and what didn’t and deciding where the team might need to change its philosophy as they head into ORCS, Blunk said.

“I’m really anticipating seeing what this team can do,” Blunk said. “They’re willing to put the work in — doing something like this is not easy. It takes the whole team. It’s been really rewarding to see this group of individuals come together collectively towards a goal.”