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Mock trial team wins Arizona tournament

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The team brought home first and third-place awards from the Grand Sonoran Showdown Mock Trial in Arizona. Courtesy Kaitlyn Sims

A team of Fresno State students brought home first and third-place awards from the Grand Sonoran Showdown Mock Trial in Arizona over the weekend, as well as individual recognition for several members.

The tournament on Saturday and Sunday, hosted by University of Arizona, included two teams from Fresno State’s mock trial team and 26 other West Coast collegiate teams.

The team, coached by Gordon Park, consists of nearly 40 students. The students are divided into smaller teams; Blue, Silver, Red and Gold, which are sent across the country to compete in tournaments, regionals and championships each year.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the performance we had and the way we finished,” said sophomore economics major Kaitlyn Sims, crediting the team’s chemistry for their success.

Each team creates a prosecution and defense side for a case, and then teams are matched up against other schools, Sims said.

Each round has two judges who each fill out a ballot scoring each part of the competition, said Sims, who is the team’s recruitment chair and also the opening defense attorney for the Blue team. Each tournament has four rounds, and there are a total of eight ballots to be filled.

Whoever wins the most ballots is the winner, she said.

The Blue Team took first place with seven wins and one loss in the tournament, as well as two individual victories when Sims was recognized as an outstanding attorney and Jenna Mersereau as an outstanding witness. The Red team took third place with a 6-2 score and also earned the same awards for Denise Barnes and Alyssa Malinoski, respectively.

Grant Mason, the Blue team’s co-captain and treasurer, said the team put in a lot effort that paid off. The team went up against schools from across the country, including UC Santa Barbara, and UC Berkeley, Pomona College and University of Arizona.

“As a team, we can always improve and we have all kinds of things we want to work on to be even better, such as witness roles and handling objections better,” said Mason, a double major in political science and philosophy who has been on the team for five years.

Mason said he joined the team because he wants to be a lawyer and believed it would be a good experience.

He has participated in numerous competitions throughout in Tennessee, Arizona, San Diego, Los Angeles Sacramento and Las Vegas,. He also was the student tournament director for the second annual fall invitational held at Fresno State, known as the Dog Pound Challenge.

Sims competed in mock trial all throughout high school and is in her second year with the Fresno State team. She said the experience is more than just trial advocacy techniques and benefits everyone who gets involved, whether they are pre-law students or not. It also improves public speaking skills, teamwork and a person’s ability to think on the spot.

She used her own experience at the Arizona tournament as an example because she competed with a bye team and as a fill-in witness for a school that had a team member suddenly fall ill and miss the tournament.

A lot of the tournaments have a “bye team” that is made up of students from different teams, Sims said. The team is used as a fill-in for tournaments that have an odd number of competing teams.

“You pick up so much,” she said. “It’s hard to find a similar experience anywhere else.”

Sims said the overall experience of competing and the victory in Arizona adds to the adrenaline rush for the team’s upcoming competitions.

The Blue team will ride their victory to Tennessee on Thursday, where they will compete in a tournament comprised of more than 40 schools. The Red team also will be competing in a tournament at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.