Mock trial team impresses at national championships

UO Mock Trials team

The UO Mock Trial team recently wrapped up its most successful season to date, placing 10th in its division and 19th overall out of 48 teams at the National Championship Tournament of the American Mock Trial Association.

The tournament, held April 15-17 in South Carolina, was the team’s first time at nationals.

More than 600 collegiate mock trial teams started the competitive season, and only 48 teams advanced to the national championship. Among the top 10 percent of teams nationally, UO Mock Trial was in prestigious company in South Carolina, including such seasoned competitors as Stanford, Harvard, Berkeley and Cornell.

“I could not be more proud of the team” said Trond Jacobsen, the director of forensics who holds a doctorate in information science. “What they have accomplished is truly a remarkable testament to the grit and determination of Oregon students and the caliber of education offered at the UO.”

Mock trial was founded in 2010 and fielded a team for their first formal competition in 2012. Since then the program has advanced rapidly, participating in its first invitational tournament in 2014, followed closely by placement at regional championships that same year.

Recently, the program has been assigned to the nationally recognized forensics speech and debate program under the Robert D. Clark Honors College. With this partnership, mock trial members are able to receive academic credit.

Gregory Mina, four-year team captain and a senior in the honors college, remembers the program’s humble beginnings: “When I started four years ago it was student run. The budget was only $300. To even buy the case (foundational to the sport) from the American Mock Trial Association is like $600, if that gives you some idea. We had no travel money, so even if we ever did get invited to tournaments (which we didn’t) we couldn’t have afforded to go anyway.”

Joining mock trial with the forensics program has been game-changing.

“(The partnership) helps us with funding, yes, but also helps us get invited to invitational tournaments like Stanford and UCLA,” Mina said.

Most mock trial teams are “pay-to-play,” meaning students pay their own way. At Oregon, the forensics program funds team initiatives so that everyone with the chops can compete regardless of financial situation.

“The opportunity to go to nationals has been one of the most incredible things that has happened in my college career,” said Phillip Kriegel, a senior in the honors college studying computer science, math and Spanish, and who was instrumental in leading the team to its recent success. “It’s not often that you can join a program in its infancy and then help it grow into something that is nationally recognized. Mock trial is something that has profoundly impacted my life.”

“I like to define mock trial as a team form of speech and debate,” Mina said. “It incorporates legal writing, acting and improvisation into one competitive round. I like the team-building aspect the most. I see talents in people and get to help bring them out.”

Learn more about mock trial at the University of Oregon at http://uomocktrial.com.

—By Caitlyn Kari, Clark Honors College Communications