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The Mock Trial team meets success in its 2021 season
Courtesy | Megan Williams

The Mock Trial team won two tour­na­ments to open its 2021 season. 

Last weekend, two of the three teams, team 1300 and team 1299, attended an invi­ta­tional tour­nament at Case Western Reserve Uni­versity in Cleveland, Ohio. The 1300 team won third place against the Uni­versity of Michigan. 

Freshmen Camille Floyd and Abigail Wagner received out­standing witness awards; seniors Jacob Hooper, Jean-Luc Bel­loncle, Stephen Edelblut, and freshman Njomeza Pema received out­standing attorney awards.

The 1298 team gained an 8 – 0 record as cham­pions of the Uni­versity of Iowa Corn­huskers Invi­ta­tional tour­nament. Sophomore Caleb Sampson won an out­standing witness award, freshman Abby Davis received an out­standing attorney award, and sophomore Konrad Ver­baarschott won an attorney award.

On Oct. 16 and 17, the 1299 team com­peted against Patrick Henry College, Tufts Uni­versity, and Yale Uni­versity to win second place at the Penn State tour­nament. The 1300 team won fourth place at a Uni­versity of Michigan tour­nament after com­peting against Eastern Michigan Uni­versity, Notre Dame Uni­versity, and Penn State. Junior Johannah Freyen­hagen won an out­standing attorney award. 

Tour­na­ments are two days long, with four sep­arate trials. The case remains the same throughout the year, but over the course of a weekend tour­nament each team is both the pros­e­cution and defense. This season’s criminal case is sus­pected aggra­vated arson. 

The success of Hillsdale’s Mock Trial team is impressive due to the size of the col­leges the team com­petes against, according to Kirstin Kiledal, department chair of rhetoric and public address and director of forensics for the Mock Trial team. As an original founder of the Mock Trial team, Kiledal said she watched the team grow from one small team to three selective teams over the course of a decade. 

For junior and team captain Ethan Tong, the Mock Trial team has become a second family. 

“My best friends are in Mock Trial,” Tong said. “They are people who share the same values that I do and share the same com­pet­itive and aca­demic drive. We are serious about being a family and caring for each other.”

Freshman Natalie LeBlanc said she tran­si­tioned from par­tic­i­pating in debate in high school to mock trial at Hillsdale College. The team atmos­phere pushed her out of her comfort zone and intro­duced her to a new family at Hillsdale, she said.

“I feel a lot more respon­si­bility now because how I did affected other people, not just myself,” LeBlanc said. “Now that I feel that I’m part of this team, who are my family in a lot of ways, I really want to help them.” 

The team prac­tices together each Monday and Wednesday evening. Toward the beginning of the season, it focuses on mem­o­rizing parts. As the season pro­gresses, the team improves cross exam­i­na­tions, adds more per­suasive ele­ments, and refines arguments.

“For the next couple of tour­na­ments, which we have coming in the next couple weeks, I hope we’ll be able to focus on just doing what we did last week but better,” senior and team captain Jean-Luc Bel­loncle said. 

Not only is the Mock Trial team working towards making their argument better, but being back in person to compete instead of through Zoom makes tour­na­ments better as well, according to Tong and Belloncle. 

“It is far nicer to be able to travel to dif­ferent states and dif­ferent schools to compete against people instead of just doing it in Lane class­rooms,” Bel­loncle said. “It’s also a far dif­ferent expe­rience just from a per­for­mance per­spective because it’s very dif­ferent talking to a camera or a screen, which is what we were doing last year, as opposed to actually being in a courtroom or a classroom this year and talking to people who are actually present in the room.”

The Mock Trial team has two tour­na­ments left before beginning its road to the national tour­nament. According to Kiledal, the team has been half a point away from qual­i­fying mul­tiple times. However, she says the members handled the loss like true Hillsdale students.

“They have not fallen into the sense that it’s somebody else’s fault. They have their moment of dis­ap­pointment and they grow from it,” Kiledal said. “Last year they were so close to Nationals, and this year they are working hard to get past that hurdle.”