In order to qualify to the American Mock Trial Association's National Championship Tournament, hosted this year in Orlando, FL, programs must qualify first out of their region and then out of one of eight Opening Round Championship Series (or ORCS). Earlier this year, MMT blew through regionals, going 27-3-2, and qualifying all four of their teams to ORCS. Those four teams were whittled down to two, the A Team and the B Team, the maximum number of teams a single program can bring to ORCS. Now, amongst considerably tougher competition than regionals, MMT is tasked with making it out of ORCS and, this weekend, on home turf in Hamilton, OH, Miami will vie for two spots in Orlando.
But mock trial powerhouse NYU and strong regional contenders like the University of Cincinnati and The Ohio State University will also be searching for bids. The A Team has faced the nation's toughest competition all year long but their record against those competitors was a neat .500. On the other hand, the B Team dropped only 4 ballots the entire season, an impressive feat. Yet, they hit only one team ranked in the nation's top 40. But any questions those records might have raised seemed to be answered at regionals, when both the A and B teams went undefeated on their way to being crowned regional champions at Washington, PA and Cincinnati, OH respectively. That's why prognosticators favor Miami to win Hamilton, too.
"There's a momentum here that I haven't felt in any of my other three years," said A Team co-captain and All-American Alex Block. "I look at the two teams we have and it becomes a matter of desire. We have the talent. But do we want this? If we really want it, we will be national champions."
Coaches Lawrence Hilton and Melissa Schuett have spent the few weeks after regionals before ORCS putting the spit and polish on his B Team. With a record of 30-4-2, there weren't a lot of glaring holes. Now the challenge is getting a team with little post-season experience ready to peak at just the right time.
"We went into this season knowing we could be one of the greatest teams in MMT history," said B Team co-captain Matt Meeks. "Not just one of the best B Teams, one of the best teams. But we're not there yet. We need a national championship to do it. And it begins at this ORCS."
Coached by Dan Haughey and Neal Schuett, the A Team's strength comes from their veteran presence and the originality and life they breath into the activity. While double-sided witness Zowoi Malakpa, a senior who has been the cornerstone of the witness bank all year long, won't be able to compete at ORCS, first-year mockers Oliver Zoellner and Katie O'Keeffe look to be extraordinary stopgaps. At their regionals, both Mr. Zoellner and Ms. O'Keeffe took home outstanding witness awards.
"We got really lucky," said fourth year witness Lauren Yates. "Losing Zowoi for ORCS was a huge blow but then Oliver and Katie popped up and we were like 'okay, now we can breathe a little easier.'"
Jazmine Kee, another freshman, joins the A Team for the second consecutive tournament as well. Every other member of the squad is a senior and that's an intangible this team thinks will push them to compete at the next level.
"I look around and I see a bunch of personalities that push me to succeed," said senior Brad Ouambo. "I'm proud to be a part of this team and I'm proud of what we are going to accomplish."
The Hamilton, OH ORCS is hosted by Miami University and Miami Mock Trial. The competition will commence with one round on Friday evening, two on Saturday and a final round on Sunday. All trials will be held in the Butler County Government Services Center, a beautiful courthouse with spacious, well appointed courtrooms.
Last year, with only one team in competition, MMT went 8-0 at ORCS. The year before, Miami went 8-0 and 7-1 and qualified two teams. If Miami qualifies to nationals this weekend, it will be for the 21st consecutive time, a streak bested by only one other program in the nation.
More about the Miami teams competing here.
More about the Hamilton, OH ORCS here.