Hillsdale College Mock Trial teams took second place this weekend at Michigan State University in the Red Cedar Classic Invitational, competing among some of the best teams in the country, including MSU, Penn State, and Pittsburgh University.
Team 1106, one of Hillsdale’s two mock trial teams, snagged second place with 6.5 wins and 1.5 losses under the leadership of captain Nathan Cheng, falling only half a ballot short of first place, which was won by Michigan State. While Team 1107, captained by Andrew Simpson, did not place with their score of 5 – 3, two of its players scored individual awards for their work.
After each trial, players are given ranks by the judges that are non-contingent on the score of the team. At the end of the tournament, these ranks are added up for each player.
Sophomore Lucas O’Hanian scored 17 ranks as a witness, earning an outstanding witness award, and freshman Sophia Klomparens scored 19 ranks as an attorney, in her competition debut. The team, which lost many, has been working hard on case theory and practical preparation under their coaches John Church and Lindsey Church, who both graduated in 2017, and Neal Brady, a Hillsdale County attorney. Case theory is the team’s approach to the facts of the case and how to use these facts, events, and witnesses to shape their narrative for the defense or prosecution. While most case theories at the start of invitational season are unperfected and basic, Team 1106 tried an unconventional approach to the case, which involves strangling and criminal assault.
“Our defense is insane and no one else has it,” said sophomore Kiara Freeman, a witness on Team 1106 and new member of the Mock Trial team. “The last time that we were on defense one of the judges had his team come in to watch us and see if they could learn from our defense. The opposing teams were not prepared for our defense at all.”
Cheng, Team Captain of 1106, said that they plan to expand their theory more through the invitational season.
“We’re doing a defense theory that most people are not doing,” Cheng said. “As people pick up what we are doing, a lot of teams are going to be stealing our defense theory, so we’re going to have to keep on refining it.”
Much of Team 1106 and Team 1107 were experiencing their first tournament as rookies.
“I was so impressed by how well all of the new people did, and our team has a lot of new people,” said junior Natalie Taylor, an attorney for Team 1106. “All of them were outstanding. As a whole, this is the best incoming group of freshmen we have ever had.”
The team has been putting in the effort toward success, according to O’Hanian.
“John [Church] is taking it up a notch in terms of freshmen being required to engage in the case theory, add to it, and understand it,” O’Hanian said. “It’s a much more hands-on coaching style.”
The Mock Trial team’s next tournament will be held at University of Illinois Urbana.
“I’m really encouraged,” Cheng said. “Tryouts for new members were really good. We have a lot of natural talent, and if people perform as well as they did and continue to develop their potential, we have a really good shot at getting to regionals, getting to ORCS, maybe even getting to nationals.”
Taylor, a veteran on the Mock Trial team and the director of media relations, said she is excited for the rest of the season, despite the loss of several of her teammates from last season.
“We’re calling this a ‘rebuild year’ because we have lost so many people,” Taylor said. “But being on this tournament showed me that just because we are rebuilding doesn’t mean we are not going to be a very high-powered team this year.”