EC’s mock trial team takes second place in Midwestern regionals, advances to national championship tourney

Photo courtesy of Mary Walsh   The EC mock trial team poses with their trophy after taking second place at the Midwestern regional tournament. 

Photo courtesy of Mary Walsh

The EC mock trial team poses with their trophy after taking second place at the Midwestern regional tournament. 

By Kenneth Edison, Editor-in-Chief

Follow him at @krazo1

For the second time in EC’s history, the underdog mock trial team looks to capture a national championship as they travel to Ohio for the national tournament on March 23.

The 10 person team, one of the nation’s smallest, qualified for the opening round of the national mock trial tournament (ORCS) when they placed second at the Midwestern regional tournament, beating out teams from Northwestern University and University of Michigan.

“Since we’re a small team we kind of all talk and think the same way,” said EC senior Gina Lealil, a second year member of the team. “When we’re in the middle of a trial we can’t really talk to each other because we’re in front of a judge and you have to treat it like a courtroom, but we can just shoot each other a look and our teammates already know what we’re thinking.”

Many of the larger schools often view the EC mock trial team as an easy win, which Leali pointed out as an aspect that makes their victories that much more satisfying.

“When we go against Northwestern or University of Michigan everybody downplays who we are and what we can do,” she said. “They think ‘oh this is going to be an easy round’ and they relax a little bit and then we come in and took the ballots from both of those schools and they got mad as hell afterwards.”

The de facto coach of the mock trial team Judge Thomas Dudgeon attributed the groups recent success to the experienced nature of the current roster, as most mock trial students usually only participate for a single season.  

“What makes this group special is that with some of these members they’ve been with us for two seasons. I haven’t had a team yet were we’ve had a real core of people that have been with us for two years,” he said. “They’re not cocky, but they know what they can do. And they’re not going to be intimidated even when going up against the powerhouses of what we do.”

As the date of the ORCS tournament draws nearer, the members of the mock trial team have begun a new level of preparation as they prepare to make their attempt at history.

“It feels like it’s almost kicked into another gear, we know that all the competition that we’re going to have in this tournament is going to be top notch. So we’re really trying to prepare for that,” said EC senior Ali Ahmed, one of the second year members of the team.

Despite the heavy level of preparation, the competitors will not actually know who they are competing against, or whether they will be defending or prosecuting until 30 minutes before the actual trial.

“You find out your opponent 30 minutes before the round starts and it’s up to you to run and grab your phone to figure out what you’re up against,” said Leali “You don’t know if you’re prosecution trying to put someone away or if you’re defending your client. So we just have to flip a switch in our brain 30 minutes before.”

“The toughest part is that we don’t even know who the witnesses are either,” added Ahmed. “We are given a pool of witnesses beforehand and only three can be picked and you don’t know who they’re going to pick until 30 minutes before. And then from there you have to prepare cross-examinations for that.”    

Despite being one of the smallest teams in the nation, the members of the mock trial team claim to use their underdog status to their advantage.

“A lot of schools are so big they have an A team and a B team, some of them even have a C team and a D team,” said Ahmed. “It’s an advantage and a disadvantage. On one hand there’s less minds, less things to bring to the table, but at the same time it’s more cohesive because there’s so few people that we just work better together.”