A New Beginning
Twenty-three Mock Trial teams descended on Oxford, OH, all hoping to take one of the seven bids to the Louisville Opening Round Championship Series tournament (ORCS). Though six inches of snow the night prior to the tournament left several teams wondering if they’d even make it as far as regionals, every team was determined to fight for their place at ORCS. Past invitational tournaments were irrelevant, rankings went out the window, and all that mattered was taking as many ballots as you could. AMTA Playoffs are unforgiving, and Miami would need to prove that they deserved a position in Louisville.
Making Your Mark
The members of Miami White (1078) featured five first years and only one second year Mocker. With six members, the Mockhawks had a grueling tournament ahead of them. Each member would have to compete in all four rounds - an extremely tiring challenge.
The first round would pit the freshman of Miami against the freshman of Notre Dame D. Excited to win a bid at home, Cristina Morales went on to provide a strong portrayal of Hayden Duran, and would help the Mockhawks to open the tournament with a bang - taking two ballots +36 +16. It was the highest point difference in the first round, placing the Mockhawks above every other team in first round rankings. "It's the start we've been working for," opener Allie Cin told her teammates.
Since the White Team had such a large victory margin in the first round, they were paired against the University of Chicago’s Chicago Fire Invitational Champions, Ohio State University B. In a round that became known as "The Battle for Ohio", Miami ran it's plaintiff side of the case against OSU in the James Lewis Mock Trial Room at Farmer School of Business . Miami rose to the occasion. Second-Year witness Kyle Denman led the charge against the Buckeyes, and Captains Bella Seeberg and Chase Shelton dazzled judges with their Direct Examination of Dr. Emerson Couples. The round was packed, the gallery full of spectators, and the competition was intense. The White Team was playing at a higher level, and the ballots would reflect it – a -2 loss and a tie. "That's not a loss," said coach Alex Block. "Every baby has to go through their 'trial by fire'. Last year, it was Cincinnati A. Last week, it was Northwood A. With a tie and close loss, it shows that Miami rises to challenges. That bodes well for the future of the program.”
At 2-1-1, the White Team sat in the middle of the pack. They drew plaintiff side once more, but this time against Xavier A. The White team prepped themselves for another promising round, and utlizing an intense closing by Austin Worrell, Miami won one ballot +10. However, judging is often polarized, and the Mockhawks would lose the other ballot -2.
Sitting at 3-2-1, Miami's bid was dangling in the ballots. They were on the cusp of placing, but they needed to take both ballots to stand a chance. Teams with only four wins rarely make it out of regionals. Miami would have to roll the dice on a defense round against University of Cincinnati B. Cincinnati would bring out it's star talent. They only needed one ballot to be in the running, and if Cincinnati took two, it was a guaranteed placement in ORCS. The Bearcats weren't holding any punches either. Their case in chief starred eventual All-Regional Witness Hannah Fereshtehkhou, but Miami would reveal stars of their own. Kyle Denman said, "We knew what we had to do – there was no other option but to take both ballots.” They did just that. Miami took both ballots +4 +9, and now left it up to the Tab Room to determine their status in terms of a tiebreaker.
Tabulation Officials did more than just find Miami's place. They also awarded Chase Shelton an All-Regional Award for his testimony as Dr. Emerson Couples. Austin Worrell would also receive recognition as the Highest Ranked All-Regional Witness at the tournament, earning a perfect score as Plaintiff Closer, and a near perfect score as Defense Closer. Now all that was left was the bid. It would be the tie against OSU that carried Miami. Since ties count as half of a ballot, they help elevate teams above their competition. While it was a dogfight to earn a bid with 5 ballots, Miami took the sixth bid with 5.5 ballots. "I'd like to think we made our mentors proud today," Austin Worrell later said.
Snowed in at home
The new snow was a familiar sight to the competitors of Miami A. Just three weeks ago, a paralyzing blizzard forced New York City to close their airports, stranding the Mockhawks in Brooklyn for three days following the NYU's Downtown Invitational. By the time the Oxford Regional had rolled around, the A Team was finally freed from their jet lag, and they began to focus on the goal: a shot at the National Championship in Cincinnati.
First, the A Team would play EKU B's plaintiff case. Opener Matt Meeks would deliver a strong opening statement for the defense, and the direct examination of sophomore Sam Hobbs led the team to a +11 +16 sweep of the Colonels. "See, there's a bigger picture than just getting a bid," competitor Ben Sandlin told us "For some of us, our freshman year began with Lawrence [Hilton], and ever since we've been with him, we've never lost a ballot at regionals.” The goal was to be 24-0 after three years of competition.
The afternoon round pitted the A Team against University of Dayton's plaintiff side. Miami, focusing like a hawk on their 24-0 goal, devoured the Flyers with a sweep of +32 +51, allowing the A-Team to take the lead in the tournament for Highest Point Differential. "We separated ourselves that round. We showed we were Miami," witness Zach Stevens would comment after the round.
Round three presented a heavyweight matchup: Miami A plaintiff against Eastern Kentucky A defense. EKU, a regional powerhouse and having been recently coached by the A teams’ very own Lawrence Hilton, posed one of the biggest threats to Miami A at the Oxford Regional. EKU, lead by attorney Caleb Taylor and witness Troy Cox, hoped to follow up on a fourth place finish at the challenging Vanderbilt invitational. Miami struggled. Their theories did not impress the judges, and they went into closing arguments down one point on one ballot. "That's when John Spear took over," coach Gus Lazares described. Spear launched into one of his most impressive performances of the year, winning the judge over, and earning Miami two ballots, +1 +4.
Round four was the final obstacle. They sat 22-0, and were ready to take the last two ballots over Indiana University B. Using a strong performance by Captain Monika Mudd, the A-Team took the presider’s ballot +5. Still, in Mock Trial, there's always an outlier. The second judge tied the ballot, keeping Miami at 7 wins.
The closing ceremonies were not as suspenseful for Miami A as they were for other teams. They were at the top of the pairings and knew no matter what they would take a bid to ORCS. However, it was not knowing the results of the last round that agonized them. When the announcement came that the A team had won the first bid of the tournament with 7.5 wins, they were ecstatic. After all, a tie was not a loss and they kept their reputation of having never lost a ballot at a regional tournament. Miami A was glad to take their earnings after several hard fought rounds, and no one was complaining about 23-0-1. John Spear would earn his third All-Regional Attorney Award, and Najeeb Ahmed would receive honors as an All-Regional Witness.
The race is on
The end of regional competition marks the three-week preparation window for the Opening Round Championship series, or better known as ORCS. The Louisville ORC holds stiff competition: Northwood, Bellarmine, Ohio State, and Illinois. For the White Team, that means the year is over. Since schools can only send two teams to ORCS, freshman and sophomores on the developmental teams can now look back on their season, and celebrate their successes. For the members of Miami A and Miami B, they can look forward to long nights in Farmer going over new case changes before ORCS. The race is on, and any teams competing without love and honor will be sitting at home come April.
The A Team:
Record: 7-0-1 | CS: 12.5 | OCS: 73 | PD: +120 | Team #: 1075
Coaches: Lawrence Hilton, Gus Lazares
Competitors: Matt Meeks, Monika Mudd, Taylor Seay, Najeeb Ahmed, Sam Hobbs, Christina Romine, Ben Sandlin, Zach Stevens, Elias Demeropolis, John Spear,
Record: 5-2-1 | CS: 19.5 | OCS: 59.5 | PD: +71 | Team #: 1078
Coaches: Dan Herron, Alex Block
Competitors: Bella Seesburg, Chase Shelton, Austin Worell, Cristina Morales, Allie Cin, Kyle Denman
Austin Worrell (π/∆, 20/19 ranks)
John Spear (∆, 19 ranks)
Najeeb Ahmed (π, 18 ranks)
Chase Shelton (π, 16 ranks)