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SU Mock Trial Team ends season in Iowa

SU Mock Trial Team

SU Mock Trial Team

Danielle Waugh

After a year of arguments, this group of SU students calls themselves best friends.

The SU undergraduate Mock Trial Team spent the year competing in trial competitions, traveling across the country. They ended their successful season in Des Moines, Iowa where they competed at the National Championship from April 17 to 19.

Team members include seniors Michelle McClafferty, Brian Mueller, and Michael Schaefer, junior Matthew Cujak, sophomores Andrew Rice and Danielle Waugh, and freshmen Ken Alter and Amanda St. Hilaire. They are coached by a local attorney, Bob Smith, along with two SU Law alumni, Iman Abraham and Meghan Bashar.

“Of the eight years I’ve been in mock trial, this was the best team I’ve ever been on,” Brian Mueller said.

Mock Trial is an undergraduate competition sponsored by the American Mock Trial Association. Students are given a fictitious case to prepare arguments and cases for both sides.

This year’s case was a libel case. The plaintiff, a gubernatorial candidate, sued a national news organization for a story they ran accusing him of murder.

In preparation for the case, the students practice roles as attorneys and witnesses to put on a real trial in front of jury members that evaluate them and determine a winner.

“You have to be charismatic, that’s all there is to it,” Andrew Rice said. “If you have some charisma and a work ethic, you can succeed and win trials.”

Out of the 600 collegiate teams in the country, the Syracuse team was one of 48 that advanced to the national championship in Des Moines.

The road to Des Moines was not an easy one. First, a team must be one of the top 8 teams in their regional competition. In Syracuse’s regional tournament on February 14, they placed first.

Then, they competed at the Open Round Championship Site in Easton, Penn. on March 13 to 15. In order to advance to nationals, a team had to place in the top 6 at their ORCS. Syracuse placed fourth, knocking out Harvard University who was highly favored to win the championship title.

In Des Moines, Syracuse competed against The University of Iowa, Drake University, The University of Richmond, and Eastern Kentucky University. “I think we were on par with everyone we competed against at nationals,” Matthew Cujak said. They ended their season with a record of 17-6-1.

“We all work very, very had and that’s why our team was so successful,” Ken Alter said.

Throughout the year, the team practiced a mandatory 12 hours a week, and met for individual sessions outside of team meetings.

“Part of the reason winning is so rewarding is because the commitment is so high,” Mueller said. “When you beat someone, you really earned it.”

The rewards of mock trial go beyond the courtroom.

“The social dynamic was incredible,” Alter said. “I’ve made friends with everyone on our team, and friends from other teams we’ve competed against.”

Amanda St. Hilaire agreed, “When you see people that often, it’s hard not to get close to them.”

Coming off a year that exceeded their expectations, the team hopes to continue their success next year. “My prediction is that we’re going to continue to compete on the national level, and hopefully take the title,” Alter said.

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