Hillsdale College’s Mock Trial program rearranged all three teams at the beginning of this semester, putting all of the strongest players together. The restructuring is intended to give the team an edge in tournaments that could advance them to nationals.
“All the people who had scored well in the previous semester, we kind of grouped them into two teams,” senior Abby Loxton said. “Unlike last year, the program is large enough and strong enough to make such changes and have them be significant.”
Because the teams have so much strength, Miller decided focusing that strength in two teams would give them the best chance of advancing. There are now two “A‑teams,” called 1028 and 1029, and a “C‑team,””called 1030.
“Hillsdale has enough strength on its team this year that we would really like to advance multiple teams past regionals,” mock trial coach Keith Miller said.
Three members of the team who spent last semester in Washington, D.C., are returning to competition this semester. Juniors Bailey Pritchett, Laura Rose, and Philip Hammersley participated in the WHIP program in the fall.
“It was a blast,” Hammersley said. “But it’s good to be back competing with the team and seeing everyone.”
Hammersley, Rose, and Pritchett were able to participate in one tournament last semester in D.C., where they took first place. When they came back, they were already up to speed on the details of the year’s case.
“They’ve integrated with us really smoothly,” said senior Abby Loxton, a captain of 1029. “It’s been an incredibly positive experience.”
Miller said he enjoyed seeing how well the three returning veterans had learned their parts.
“I got to see Bailey perform one of her characters this past weekend, and I mean, it’s killer,” he said.
The team’s first spring semester tournament took place in Ohio Northern University the very first weekend after classes started. Team 1029 took third in the tournament, going undefeated up until the final round. Miller said they were close to tying that round, and if they had, they would have won the entire tournament. Team 1028 placed in the top 10, out of 38 teams.
Loxton attributes the program’s ability to strategically organize its teams to the way the program has grown. With 23 competitors, the program is larger than ever.
“It’s not that we had substantially a lot more freshmen this year,” she said. “It’s that we had a lot of returners.”
That allows the top two teams to be composed of experienced players who need little coaching.
“Since there are no inexperienced people, it’s not like we need to be teaching people. There are captains in name, but everyone’s pulling their weight,” Loxton said.
Hammersley said he was immediately able to tell a difference.
“We have a lot more experience,” he said. “This year, we have a better sense of what we’re doing and how to move forward, so I feel like it’s more organized and more focused.”
The next tournaments will be the regional tournaments at the end of February, where results will actually affect teams’ ability to advance to the next level of tournament, called open round championships.
“It’s still obviously a lot of pressure, and you can never guarantee what’s going to happen,” Loxton said. “But I’ve never felt this confident going into regionals.”
Miller said the success is largely due to the students’ hard work.
“The amount of time they’re putting in is truly remarkable,” he said. “That’s why we’re going to go places.”
Hillsdale’s forensics and debate teams both started off the spring semester with a tournament at Butler University.
The forensics team took third overall. Junior Brandon Butz placed fourth in Impromptu Speaking, and freshman Chris Landers placed fourth in Persuasion and sixth in Programmed Oral Interpretation.
On Jan. 25, the forensics and debate teams will travel to St. Louis, Mo. to compete in the “Gorlok Gala” tournament at Webster University.