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Hillsdale College Mock Trial qual­ified for the Opening Round Cham­pi­onship Series at their tour­nament on Feb. 17. Lauren Either | Courtesy

Both team 1126 and team 1127 qual­ified for The American Mock Trial Association’s Opening Round Cham­pi­onship Series at the Ypsi­lanti, Michigan Regional Tour­nament at Eastern Michigan Uni­versity on Feb. 17. The last time two Hillsdale teams qual­ified for the ORCS — the highest round a Hillsdale Mock Trial team has reached — was their 2016 – 17 season.

To qualify for the cham­pi­onship series, teams needed to place in the top seven of the 21 teams com­peting at the regional tour­nament.

But in the first round, both teams dropped both ballots.

“Round one, we hit Michigan A, which is ranked number five in the nation,” said sophomore Sophie Klom­parens, who plays an attorney for team 1126. “We had to win every­thing else from that point on to have a chance of winning.”

Junior Andrew Simpson, who plays an attorney for team 1127, talked about how the loss impacted team per­for­mance.

“It really moti­vated the team. Everyone was in peak per­for­mance,” Simpson said. “They were probably the best rounds of the season.”

Klom­parens said team 1126 had to treat every team as if it were a reigning champion.

Mock trial tour­nament staff don’t reveal the ballots for the last round of com­pe­tition, letting the results only be seen at awards. Tour­nament staff announced the awards starting with first place, cre­ating sus­pense for teams like Hillsdale’s that were on the edge of qual­i­fying.

“We knew we had won the ballots from rounds two and three,” Klom­parens said. “But we were worried about the judges in round four.”

Team 1126 ended up taking fifth place with six ballots while team 1127 took seventh place and the last bid to the next round with 5.5 ballots. Sophomore Mason Aberle won an attorney award with 18/20 points.

“It got down to the wire,” Simpson said. “There was the stress of not knowing. If we had lost, our season would have been over.”

Now each team waits for case changes to come out on Feb. 24, so it can prepare for the Opening Round Cham­pi­onship Series in earnest.

“Everyone has a lot of raw talent, so we’re going to focus on refining it,” Simpson said.

With their comeback per­for­mances, both teams can look forward to at least one more tour­nament.

“I was super proud of how people pulled through,” Klom­parens said. “We’ve been working so hard on this case for months and this tour­nament was it.”