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Students participate in the retreat Rachel Umana | Collegian
Stu­dents par­tic­ipate in the retreat. Rachel Umana | Col­legian

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.”