MTSU’s mock trial team placed third in its division and in the top six nationally at the American Mock Trial Association’s 28th annual National Championship Tournament April 13-15 in Minneapolis, Minn.
“Each year, the national championship tournament becomes more and more competitive,” said Dr. John Vile, University Honors College dean and mock trial coach, adding that only 48 of the approximately 600 teams that begin the season qualify for the national tournament.
“If mock trial were basketball, placing third (and losing only to the national champion) would be a bit like making the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament,” he said. “It really was an extraordinary kind of thing.”
What Vile found “extraordinary” was the fact that MTSU did not qualify for the nationals out of its region and ranked No. 11 out of 12 teams considered tops to receive at-large berths. “This is our Cinderella year,” he said.
MTSU placed third behind overall national champion Duke University and runnerup University of California at Irvine in the Faith L. O’Reilly Division. Both compiled 7-1 records. Other teams in the top 10 in the division included Northwestern University, Rhodes College, George Washington, Macalester College, Columbia University, Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania.
Champion Rutgers University compiled a 7-1 record to capture The Hon. Edward Toussaint Jr. Division. Harvard (6-2) and the University of Maryland (5-2-1) were second and third, respectively. Other top-10 teams in the division were Miami University of Ohio, New York University, UCLA, the University of Virginia, Furman University, Howard University and Washington University in St. Louis.
Divisions were chosen by random draws, Vile said.
“We gave George Washington its only two losses,” Vile said of the 6-2 team.
MTSU dropped both defense ballots to Duke in the second round, then won both prosecution rounds against Michigan State and both defense ballots against the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
“Based on the win/loss record of our opponents, we met one of the strongest fields of any team in the entire tournament,” said Vile, who is assisted by local attorneys Brandi Snow and Shiva Bozarth. Both also are MTSU mock-trial alumni.
Co-captains Rachel Harmon, senior international-relations major from Atlanta, and Samantha Farish, a junior political science and psychology major from Cookeville, Tenn., led MTSU to its 6-2 finish.
Constance Grieves, a senior political-science major from Nashville, joined Harmon and Farish in playing attorney roles.
Team members playing witness roles included Brooke Borcherding, a sophomore political-science major from Watertown, Tenn.; Margaret Noah, a junior philosophy major from Nashville; Thomas Palombo, a sophomore political-science major from Pittsburgh, Pa.; senior Kaitlin Beck, an economics and French major from Murfreesboro; and J.D. Thompson, a freshman political-science major from Alamo, Tenn.
Most team members were part of a specials honors section of a political-science class in courtroom procedures, Vile said.
This year’s AMTA championship challenge was a hypothetical case in which a college student was being prosecuted for DUI and murder after an accident in which another college student was killed.
The tournament consisted of four rounds of competition, each with two scoring judges. Teams played two rounds on the prosecution side and two teams on the defense.
MTSU teams received financial support for the Department of Political Science and the Honors College as well as from student activity fees.
— Randy Weiler (Randy.Weiler@mtsu.edu)