After placing top 10 in the country last season, Cornell Mock Trial will once again prepare to face off against 46 of the best collegiate teams at nationals next month — a tournament that will pit teams from across the country in an imitated court setting, testing participants on their acting, legal and speech skills.
Cornell’s Mock Trial club was only one of two programs in the nation to qualify both its A and B teams for the competition — a testament to the club’s “determination,” according to Emma LoMastro ’20, vice president of Mock Trial. The A team is reserved for the club’s most experienced competitors, while the B team is composed mostly of underclassmen, LoMastro said.
“Because of the amount we practice to get to nationals, this needs to be your number one thing,” LoMastro said. “Most weeks in the fall, [we practice] like two or three times a week for two hours.”
The road to the national tournament, which will be hosted in Philadelphia from April 4 to 7, began with a series of competitions that took place earlier in the year — first regionals at Penn State, then the American Mock Trial Association Opening Round Championship Series in Long Island, New York.
The results of those contests — which LoMastro said reflected the team’s “confidence, articulation … speaking skills and problem-solving skills” — were enough to send two Cornell squads to the highest profile, college-level legal competition in the country.
In advance of the contest, the teams received a new case centering on defamation issues. Case materials typically include a compilation of pre-trial documents and witness statements, and teams must be prepared to handle the roles of both defendant and plaintiff — a task that will demand hours of work from participants in order to “make sure we understand the law and the objections,” LoMastro said.
Last year, Cornell’s two teams placed fourth and ninth in the national championship tournament, and LoMastro has high hopes that Mock Trial will once more replicate its success. The club’s B team is, in fact, “better than most A teams in the country,” she said.
While strong expectations leave little breathing room for the award-winning team, LoMastro said that the most rewarding part of the year-long struggle to nationals has been watching younger members grow into their portion.
“I’m most proud of how the underclassmen had grown to understand what mock trial really is and understand the law behind it,” she said. “They really engaged with the activity and went beyond their portion of the trial.