Tufts Mock Trial (TMT) has qualified for the third year in a row for the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) National Championship Tournament and will compete for the national title in Minneapolis, Minn. this weekend.
Tufts will be sending its A team to nationals, though TMT’s B team nearly made the cut, according to TMT President Lindsey Wright.
TMT placed third at nationals last year in a pool of 48 teams.
Tufts’ A and B teams last month reached the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) in White Plains, N.Y. where six teams received bids to nationals. Tufts A and B teams placed 6th and 7th, respectively. Although the two teams had the same final record of 5−3 — along with two other schools’ teams — Tufts A team had a higher Combined Strength score due to the difficulty of schedule and received the sixth and final bid, according to Officer of External Affairs for TMT Brian Pilchik.
After the ORCS, the members of the A team were rearranged from the other Tufts teams to have the ten team members with the greatest chance of winning the tournament, Wright, a junior, said.
At a mock trial competition, students play witnesses and lawyers. Attorneys deliver oral arguments, object, ask questions and direct cross−examinations, according to Pilchik, a sophomore. At nationals, TMT will compete in four trials, each capped at three hours, he explained.
The top two ranking teams at nationals will compete in a final, fifth round, which will be recorded and sold on DVDs. The winner will receive the Richard M. Calkins award and a large, travelling trophy.
TMT is feeling confident going into nationals.
“We have a pretty interesting take on the case that I don’t think anyone has seen before, so we have the element of surprise on our side,” Wright explained. “If you throw something at them they’re not ready for, you can throw the team off their game pretty easily.”
Wright said that TMT is known to other mock trial competitors as a particularly adept team that often intimidates the competition.
“I think what is going to separate the great from the good at the championship is those that can be as flawless as possible,” AMTA Tabulation Director Kristofer Lyons told the Daily. “[Mock trial is] just the best combination of speaking, acting and debating all around.”
This year, TMT entered four teams into the regional competition. Across the country, 571 teams participated, all with the goal of reaching nationals this weekend.
All teams across the country practice the same trial throughout the season, which they execute for a final time at nationals, and the AMTA throughout the season releases some adaptations to the case. This year is a criminal case about a student driver, returning from a bar, who is accused of causing a death on the way, according to Pilchik.
Each trial has two judges who score the teams on various qualities and then decide which competitor will receive their vote. Wright emphasized the subjective nature of this system and said the team would like to recruit more actors.
“Something people don’t realize about mock trials is that our people are actors,” Wright said. “Everyone’s playing a character, even the attorneys.”
In order to travel to nationals, TMT received buffer funding from the Tufts Community Union Senate and also fundraised through T−shirt and mug sales on its website.
Some members of TMT joined the team with no experience, and Wright noted the helpfulness of the seniors in teaching the new members how to compete in mock trial.
Next year, TMT hopes to send two teams to the national championship, according to Pilchik.
“Now that we’re getting there consistently, it’s looking like we can get two teams there in the future,” he said. “The A team will have many returning students next year.”