Mock trial team sets eye on championship

From left: Jackson Hadden, Kate Hobbs, Tess Irving, Rawan Abuelreich, Colleen Busby, Athena Niayesh, and Jacob Benjamin. Courtesy of Gordon Park.

The Fresno State Intercollegiate Mock Trial program could be headed for a victory it has seen only once before in its 12-year history.

Three groups from the mock trial team recently beat other universities at national mock trial competitions. Two of the groups are scheduled to compete at Fresno State in March in the Opening Round Championships (ORC), said the team’s head coach and co-instructor, Gordon Park. Despite three teams winning bids to enter the competition, only two are allowed per school.

It will the be the first time the university hosts the opening round of competition. The Fresno State coaches will choose a maximum of 10 students, who will play the roles of attorneys and witnesses in its all-star teams to compete in the opening championships after the weekend wins.

Four teams competed simultaneously over the weekend in regional qualifying tournaments in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and in Claremont, in the Los Angeles area. Two Fresno State teams competed at each tournament. The top seven teams to win at each regional tournament would earn a bid to enter the opening round competition, which will be hosted at Fresno State March 25 through 26. The American Mock Trial Association considers the competition at Fresno State the “ORC of Death,” citing its difficulty and competitiveness.

The first team to win a bid for the competition was an “E” team which competed in Colorado Springs. The team, considered to be less experienced, was made up of a returning senior and a second-year mock trial student as well as five new mock trial students, three of whom are freshmen, Park said.

The second team, an “A” team, also won at the Colorado Springs tournament. It was a more experienced team, and beat two other “A” teams from Utah and Colorado.

At the same time that the “A” team was celebrating in Colorado, the mock trial’s “B” team in Los Angeles won first place. It secured the Fresno State mock trial team’s third bid for the opening round championship tournament. A Fresno State “D” team was also competing in Los Angeles.

Park said coaches and officers from the American Mock Trial Association have reached out to congratulate the teams at Fresno State. After all, Park said, it is a first-time record win of three bids for the university’s mock trial program. Park added that the three bids help the team’s national ranking as well as public image.

“We now hope to win one of the six coveted bids from our Fresno tournament to allow us to compete at the national championship finals,” Park said.

The Opening Round Championships at Fresno State will take place at the Kremen School of Education. Opening and closing ceremonies are planned for March 25 and 26 at the Save Mart Center’s Leon Peters Auditorium.

The national championship finals are scheduled for mid-April and are hosted by University of California, Los Angeles.

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