After a weekend retreat at Hillsdale College’s Rockwell Lake Lodge in Luther, Michigan, the speech teams said they are excited to compete in a new season of their intellectual sport.
Members of the mock trial, forensics, and debate teams hopped into vans Sept. 2 to prepare for a year in competitive speech before new recruits join. They also partook in leadership activities and team-building exercises to reform relationships with their teammates.
“The retreat is extremely beneficial because we’re figuring out how we’ll present a set of facts to the court,” said junior Laurel Nitzel, mock trial team member. “Understanding how to use our witnesses is one of the hardest parts, so it’s great to do this foundational work before the freshmen even try out for the team, and preparing for the season away from the whirlwind of Hillsdale is extremely beneficial.”
After doing some activities as an entire group, the teams would split to address their own competitions’ needs.
The mock trial team worked on case studies by breaking down the prosecution and defense’s sides of the debate, choosing how to present to the court a given set of facts, and learning how to use witnesses.
“We face top colleges and universities, including the University of Chicago, Yale, Cornell, so every round is a challenge that we as a small school have to rise above,” said sophomore Rachel Umaña, mock trial team member. “But as Hillsdale students, we are polished and polite, where the other schools will just go for your throat. The ivy league schools we face underestimate us, and that really seems to harm them.”
The team benefited from the attendance of its coach, Neal Brady, Hillsdale County prosecutor, and its two donors, a lawyer and an actor, who help the team financially in addition to giving its members real-world advice for the tournaments.
“The tight-knit community Hillsdale offers really brings us together as a team, too, because we act as a family and always know that we have each other’s backs in the courtroom,” Umaña said.
The forensics team polished up the content of existing speeches, which they will recite at competitions. The team is in a rebuilding phase, but it has interest from freshmen already, junior Kyle Huitt, forensics team member, said.
“Our real aim is to be as competitive as we can possibly be with schools that are much larger and have much better funding than Hillsdale,” Huitt said. “We have a lot of programs that try to compete in higher divisions, and that’s really what forensics is trying to do now.”