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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.