Hillsdale Mock Trial team 1215 won a bid at regionals last weekend in the Opening Round Championship Series, where team 1213 will compete in April. Teams 1213 and 1214 competed in Arizona’s Cactus Classic Invitational the weekend prior, to gear up for regionals.
“It was a great tune-up tournament,” said Jonathan Church, lecturer of rhetoric and public address and head coach for the mock trial program. “Team 1213 went 8 – 0 and placed second.”
The regional competition last weekend saw similar successes. Although team 1213 did not win a bid, its defense team went 4 – 0, and personal awards for attorney were given to senior Andrew Shaffer and junior Jean-Luc Belloncle, with senior Connor Daniels winning a witness award for his role as the defendant.
“At the end of the day, 1213’s regionals this year was harder than the ORCS our A team went to last year,” Church said. “Hitting University of Alabama, Rice University, and New York University — all top-ranked AMTA teams at one tournament — is just not what regionals is supposed to be, but it’s unfortunate and it happened. The way we look at it is it’s impressive to get four ballots out of that line up.”
Team 1215, who won the ORCS bid, finished first, winning six ballots and tying one, only losing one ballot in total.
“There are some cool firsts there, too. That’s only the second time we’ve finished at the top of the pile at a regional tournament, so that’s big. It’s also the first time we’ve ever gotten a direct bid to ORCS from a C number,” Church said. “We hit Elmhurst University and University of California Riverside’s A team — they were good. That was a big win, in my opinion, the win of the weekend for the C team.”
Team 1215 also won multiple personal awards, including attorney awards for freshman Curtis Herbert and sophomore Johannah Freyenhagen and a witness award for freshman Nathan Butler.
Junior Jacob Hooper, who is captain of team 1215, said he was proud of his team’s success.
“Leading them was great, our freshmen have such great energy and I really didn’t have to do too much to make sure that they kept plugging away,” Hooper said. “I’m really proud of them.”
“The whole room exploded with energy,” Hooper said, referring to when it was announced that team 1215 had the highest record. “I was jumping up and down and screaming, I lost my voice for three hours after that. Two of our attorneys got awards, I got an honorable mention, one of our witnesses got an award. I don’t think I’ve ever had a happier mock trial moment.”
Due to COVID-19, all AMTA tournaments are virtual this year and the team has not been able to travel at all. Hooper said that while he misses in-person competition, there are some upsides to the online format.
“Compared to regionals last year when we were in person in Dayton, Ohio, it was a little easier in a sense,” Hooper said. “The rooms we were competing in are rooms we’ve had class in before. I get to go home every night and sleep in my own bed and use my own bathroom, we aren’t driving to a hotel. In that aspect it was a little more relaxing.”
Freyenhagen, who won an attorney award, said she appreciates the geographic diversity of regionals this year.
“The super cool thing is that we’ve been able to go against so many Western teams that normally we wouldn’t go against,” Freyenhagen said. “They have a different way of doing mock trial and a different mindset of how they want to argue the case.”
Since the AMTA caps the number of bids to ORCS at two per collegiate program, team 1214 will compete for the second bid the weekend of Feb. 26 – 28.
Church said he is hopeful that 1214 will perform well and that the program will win a second bid to ORCS.
“The takeaway from this year is that it has been a year of growth in the program. We have never been this deep. We always have a good team, sometimes we have two good teams, but this year we have three really good teams,” Church said. “The program is in a nice place, and God-willing we’re going to have a situation where we have two bids and we can look at our 30 program members and see who gets to fill the ORCS slots.”