Mock trial team wins first place at Colgate University tournament

BY SHIRA KIPNEES ’15
Staff Writer

The College’s mock trial team won first place at the Fourth Annual Colgate Classic Invitational during the weekend of Nov. 10, beating over 17 other teams from the region. The team won all four of its trials.

At the tournament the group competed against teams from Seton Hall University, Colgate University, Villanova Universtiy, and The King’s College.

In addition, the team received two individual commendations. Templeton Timothy ’15 received an outstanding witness award and Mark Harmon-Vaught ’15 received an outstanding attorney award.

Harmon-Vaught, co-president of the mock trial team, explained this success came with a lot of hard work and was especially impressive in light of the newness of the team.

“This success is especially important to us as we are only in our third year of competition,” Harmon-Vaught said. “To take first in such a tournament is almost unheard of in such a young team. Our strong performance demonstrated the excellence not only of our veteran members, but also the hard work and dedication of our newer and less experienced members.”

Anna Teeter ’13 and Amanda Duckworth ’13, co-presidents of the mock trial team, Benjamin Edlin ’13, captain of the team, and Laurie Barth ’12 founded the team in 2010. The team consists of 12 official members with a competing roster of 10 members.

“It’s just great to have been able to watch the team grow from an idea to a real competitive force,” Duckworth said. “I remember when it was just four of us in the basement of Stager trying to scrounge up enough money to buy the case for the year. It’s an honor to have been a part of the development of this team.”

Harmon-Vaught noted the team hopes in the future to have two full teams competing. He also noted that this year was the first year the team was able to receive some outside help in order to prepare for competition.

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“This year — for the first time — we were able to bring in two excellent mock trial coaches to guide us in our preparation,” Harmon-Vaught said. “The success of our team is due largely to the dedication and tenacity of our founding members and the hard work and cooperation of everyone on the team.”

The team put significant work into preparing for the competition. According to Harmon-Vaught, the work consisted of careful reading, examination, and analysis of the facts, writing of examinations and arguments, presentation before the group, and internal scrimmages. Helping the team in making its preparations were two local attorneys, Matt Kelly and Rebecca Bartos.

“Preparation for competitions is no easy task, but it is one that we achieve by cooperation and by challenging one another to grow and to do their best,” Harmon-Vaught said.

Harmon-Vaught explained there are four trials involved in a competition, spanning an entire weekend. There are two trials on Saturday and two on Sunday, which generally last between two and a half and three hours each.

Harmon-Vaught believes mock trial benefits the participants in many ways.

“Mock trial presents a unique opportunity for students to develop both critical thinking and performance skills,” Harmon-Vaught said. “It combines components of academic research and preparation of complex cases with a performance component through our case presentation. It is a challenging and competitive activity that helps students develop logical thinking skills, public speaking abilities, and teaches them how to form cogent and persuasive arguments.”

“Throughout my time at F&M, mock trial has been a constant source of fun and intellectual stimulation,” Duckworth added.

While the mock trial team does receive some funding from F&M, it does not have any designated pools of funding that it can use at any time. According to Harmon-Vaught, the team relies upon the generous support and time given to them by administrators at the College.

“We receive funding from F&M, but mostly as a result of the generosity and support of administrators such as Dean O’Day, Beth Throne, associate vice president for Student and Post-Graduate Development, and Professor Laurie Baulig, our faculty advisor,” Harmon-Vaught said.

“However, when people think about F&M’s competitive teams, they usually imagine athletics. Mock trial falls into the category of an ‘academic’ team,” Harmon-Vaught added. “Unfortunately, academic teams just do not have the same popularity or notoriety as our peers in athletics do. We are not able to tap into any pre-designated pools of funding, particularly for our lodging, which tends to be our primary expense.”

Harmon-Vaught also explained that he hoped the team’s successes this year would encourage people to join the team to help expand in the upcoming future. He noted students do not need to be on a pre-law track to participate.

“We hope that our successes this year will drive us forward to increase team membership, participation, and support in the future,” Harmon-Vaught said.

“Working closely with our coaches, faculty advisor, and school administrators, we hope to develop a strong presence on our campus,” Harmon-Vaught added. “Our mock trial successes really put F&M on the map in the world of academic competition. We hope to continue our strong performance in order to best reflect the academic excellence of the school.”

Harmon-Vaught also noted the team’s success could help it secure a spot in the National Tournament. If the team performs well at its regional tournament in February, it can qualify for the 29th Annual American Mock Trial Association Nationl Championship Tournament in April, hosted by the University of Virginia School of Law.

The next competition for the team is the inaugural Temple University Mock Trial Competition, which will take place on Dec. 1 and 2.

Questions? Email Shira at skipnees@fandm.edu.

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