Friday, February 8, 2013

Tufts Mock Trial Dominates in Season Opening

"All arise!" The sound of pretrial chatter is replaced with sudden silence. The quiet is short-lived, as fourteen seats squeak across the tiled floor and the competitors scramble to their feet. The judges have arrived; court is in session. As the judges unbutton their coats and begin to examine their ballots, attorneys at defense and plaintiff counsel-tables begin to eye one another. If they hadn't done so already, they are sizing up the competition. Behind each team's three attorneys stands a witness, dressed in anything from formal court-wear to an elaborate costume, offering perhaps a hint of the character each will play on the stand. Two time-keepers sit in a box by the judges, clearing their stopwatches and double-checking their time cards. "You may be seated," begins the judge. "Does the plaintiff have any preliminary matters?"

Such begins any one of the four trials in a mock trial tournament, and such began the series of matches this weekend in Manchester, New Hampshire, comprising the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA)'s Regional competition. The weekend marked the beginning of the 2013 mock trial season, where 600+ teams competing nationwide will have the opportunity to win their way to the National Championship in Washington D.C.

The tournament structure is three-tiered: First, Regionals, held in 25 locations nationwide. The top 7 teams from each advance to one of 8 Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS). The top 6 teams from each ORCS win bids to Nationals, to compete for the championship title.

This weekend marked the first Regionals of the season, with schools competing in Rhode Island, North Carolina, Minnesota, California, and, most notably, New Hampshire. Tufts, which enters four teams (A, B, C, and C', the latter two stacked to roughly equivalent chances of success) into the tournament, sent Tufts A and Tufts C to Saint Anselm College for the first round of competition.

I live-tweeted the tournament on the Tufts Mock Trial Twitter account, syndicated on the official Tufts Mock Trial website. Here are the highlights:

The results from the rounds, as they came in:

And then, of course, the awards ceremony:

With stunning team results:

The results were phenomenal. With a 7-1 record, Tufts A took third place, securing a bid to ORCS. The dropped ballot (the "loss" in the record) went to Brandeis, a 1-1 round which left their team, similarly, with a 7-1 record (and second place). Incredible rapport and civility on the part of both Boston schools led Brandeis to recommend Tufts A for the Spirit of AMTA, the tournament's sportsmanship award. Our team walked away with a bid, SAMTA, and three individual achievement awards.

But the real thrill came after the top teams were announced, when the more contentious bids were awarded. With a stunning 6-2 record and an individual award of their own, Tufts C brought a second bid home for Tufts University. The Jumbos went wild.

The double-victory comes as an incredible compliment to the entire organization. As Tufts C co-captain Nick Teleky put it, "TMT doesn't have just one group of really good people; we have an entire program full of incredible talent." That's easy enough to say, but with results to back up the claim, TMT is poised to succeed this year, and in years when those current freshmen and sophomores are running the show.

Next up, Tufts B and 'the other' Tufts C will head down to Boston for their Regionals later this month. We're expecting big things.

Meanwhile, it's time for our team to prepare for the next stage of competition. AMTA will introduce some changes to the case, and our strategy will need to evolve (both to keep up, and because, like everything a perfectionist attempts, it's never "finished"). It's our job to decide how to improve. "Unlike other programs that rely on a coach, our team works through a collaborative process, older members sharing their knowledge with younger," explains Tufts C co-captain Andrew Copland. This system of peer-mentorship and collaborative decision-making gives us the chance to cultivate and perfect our members' best ideas and tactics. But more importantly, it enhances the sense of teamwork and friendships that keeps mock trial fun. That's right, we have fun preparing for court.

But we know there's there's plenty of work ahead, and so we're grateful to have the incredible motivation of this weekend driving us forward. The gleaming trophies, the photos on Facebook, and the memories of competition are certainly inspiring. But perhaps the best fuel for our fire comes from a post one coach left on an online mock trial forum:

It reads: "Boston College's A team was going 3-3 into round 4 and had the misfortune of drawing Tufts A. That type of nightmare scenario could happen to the best of us."

But drawing Tufts A isn't a nightmare. Drawing Tufts-anything is.

The 2013 season of mock trial has begun. The court is in session. You're rising to your feet. You glance over at the other table.

And then you see us. Tufts Mock Trial. Or should we say, #nightmareScenario.

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