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Two UI mock-trial teams headed to nationals

BY BONNIE ERLBACHER | MARCH 31, 2010 7:30 AM

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For the second-consecutive year, two mock-trial teams will represent the University of Iowa at the national championships in Memphis, Tenn., from April 16-18.

The road to nationals isn’t an easy one, said UI junior Vince Geis.

The field of competitors started out as 600 registered teams vying for 48 spots at the championships. After a year of invitationals, teams compete in one of 25 regional tournaments, with the top eight teams from each advancing to a super regional known as open-round championships.

Six teams are chosen from each region.

Students play the roles of attorneys and witnesses as they alternately argue both sides of a legal case — a murder case this year.

UI senior Ravi Narayan, the Mock Trial Club president, said commitment and community are key to the teams’ success. This is the UI’s ninth-consecutive year appearing with at least one team at the national competition.

“I’m glad I got to be part of a community, after spending so much time with people who share the same interests as me,” said Narayan, who is captain of team A.

Being highly regarded — the UI’s group is the third-highest ranked team in the nation — makes everyone optimistic about the upcoming tournament, he said.

Neal Schuett, the mock-trial head coach, said this year’s teams have a good shot at winning the national title because they have strong leadership and some All-Americans back from last year’s fourth-place team.

“Getting to the national level of competition is an achievement itself,” said Schuett, who formerly worked for The Daily Iowan.

Members agree mock trial has given them many opportunities.

UI senior Kierra Baker, who has been involved with mock trial since she was in junior high school, said the program gives her the chance to learn about specific law and court rules and expands her persuasive-speaking skills.

“It’s a lot of work, but you get really close to everyone on the team,” she said. “In the end, we have a lot to show for it.”

In the fall, the mock trial student organization holds tryouts to recruit members. Roughly 40 of the approximately 70 hopefuls make up five to six teams of six to eight people.

At the beginning of the season, the teams meet three times a week with each session lasting two to three hours. To prepare for nationals, the teams practice five days a week.

Schuett, a former mock-trial member, said the program has grown during his involvement.

“We used to have three teams, now there are six, and with more teams, it’s more competitive, which makes it harder to maintain a national ranking,” he said.

Schuett also said the location of tournaments have changed considerably — most of the competitions used to be in the Midwest, but they now have branched out to both coasts.

According to members, the toughest competition UI students will face likely stem from Northwood University, University of Virginia, the University of California-Los Angeles, and New York University.

Geis, the captain of team B, said it can be stressful going up against the best of the best. But that’s not enough to discourage the spirits of Hawkeye mock- trial members.

“The top teams are going to be tough, but we’re not scared,” he said. “We want to show that we’re better than them.”


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