Hillsdale Mock Trial team cel­e­brates their success. Courtesy | Hillsdale College Mock Trial

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.”