Several members of the University of Portland mock trial team are heading to the National Champion Tournament for the first time in club history. There are around 2,000 teams at different universities across the country, and only the top 48 make it to nationals, according to the team’s coach, Perry Kantor.
“In three decades of searching for its first-ever National Championship appearance, our program stands on the shoulders of every UP Mock alum,” Captain Mario Sarich said. “To represent them — and our University — on the biggest mock trial stage, we are humbled.“
Of the approximately 40 competitors on the Mock Trial team, eight qualified at the March regional tournament to advance to nationals: Megan Musquiz, Mario Sarich, Katherine Rojas, Kira Vollans, Ryan Thoms, Morgen Dempsey, Madison Johnson and Hazel Stange.
Normally, students would get to travel for this competition. This year, however, the tournament is over Zoom on April 16-18. Despite this, the students are still excited for the event.
“Even though it’s on Zoom, we are doing it with people who are our friends,” one of the captains, Musquiz said. “It just feels very stable in a way and back on track… We’re just really excited, I mean it’s the first time we’ve ever gone.”
In Mock Trial, students simulate a court case following the Federal Rules of Evidence. Students practice and compete with the same case for the whole year at the regional level. But for the national competition, students have only three weeks to prepare. The case for the national competition involves a scenario with a landlord and some tenants, and some dubious pesticide poisoning.
The UP group that made it to nationals consists of juniors and seniors who want to have fun with their final season, according to Musquiz. The team has felt nervous about competitions in the past, but in this case they are just excited to make it to the "big one.”
“We’re not stressed, I think it’s because we're coming in as the underdogs,” Musquiz said. “We have literally nothing to lose. We’ve gone this far, we can send theories that are kind of crazy.”
While some members of the team are graduating in the spring, there are still other teams in the club that have the ability to grow and keep competing.
“It’s a big deal, it’s got so many benefits, being able to go not just because it’s fun, and it shows that you’re good,” Kantor said. “But also, there are long term benefits to being a team that has gone to nationals. It gets you invited to more tournaments and build relationships with other really good competitive programs and you can use those relationships to hone yourself. Teams that go to nationals a lot tend to stay able to go to nationals because they get to compete with all of the best teams all of the time.”
Fiona O’Brien is a reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.