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Wednesday, April 24, 2024
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UB Mock Trial team wins bid to national semi-finals

UB won regionals for the first time in 11 years

<p>&nbsp;UB’s winning A Team goes to Cincinnati in March to compete.</p>

 UB’s winning A Team goes to Cincinnati in March to compete.

After two days of hard competition, Mock Trial teams from across the region filled Norton Hall on Feb. 18 to find out which team was going to Cincinnati in March to compete in the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), the equivalent of national semi-finals. 

One of the four teams UB sent to regionals received a bid to ORCS with a weekend total of 6-1-1, beating teams from Cornell and the Rochester Institute of Technology.

“When they announced that we were moving on, it felt amazing,” Tristan Sarris, a sophomore history major who serves as the club’s tournament coordinator, said. “I’m pretty sure I lost my voice for the next day, I was screaming so much at the award ceremony.”

UB’s winning A Team consists of seven students, most in their first or second year — a rarity among successful teams — and is advised by Nicole Crossland, a third-year law student at UB.

To win, the team had to prepare both the prosecution and defense of a fictional court case created by the American Mock Trial Association (AMTA). Some students act as attorneys and must learn the rules of evidence, write opening or closing statements, and draft direct and cross examinations of witnesses. Other students play witnesses and must memorize one or more affidavits to properly answer questions during the trial.

With such a heavy workload, preparing for regionals was no easy feat.

“This is a group of people who have a goal, and they have worked tooth and nail to achieve that,” Crossland said.

Preparations started in the fall semester with invitationals and scrimmages.

The spring led to team stacking — matching teammates based on skill level rather than years of experience — and a new stressful intensity the closer regionals came.

“We’re all a little crazy,” Sarris said. “I remember the first day of the semester, we all met to practice until, like, midnight.”

Spring also led to a change in the e-board: a new president. Over the course of three weeks, Jess Williams, a sophomore majoring in law and political science, had to book 60 rooms with UB, find 144 judges within Buffalo’s legal community to score competitions and coordinate volunteers who would lead competitors around campus. She also had to prepare her materials as an attorney.

Her efforts were successful; regionals went off without a hitch.

“That was the most stressed I’ve been in my life, but it was so, so worth it,” Williams said. 

Though the team is planning to prepare for ORCS much the same way they prepared for regionals, they will first have to adjust their strategy and rewrite material based on AMTA’s case changes. Then they will address their weaknesses, including their improvisation skills.

Simultaneously, Williams and the other members of the Mock Trial e-board will deal with the UB Student Association’s financial paperwork.

Making it to ORCS means UB’s Mock Trial program will now be nationally ranked — one of many benefits to their impressive win.

“We get the opportunity to grow even stronger as we go to more competitive invitationals and go against more competitive teams,” Williams said. “We can grow as a program and hopefully do even better next year.”

If UB’s team makes it through ORCS, they will go on to the National Championship Tournament in Chicago this spring. If not, the team remains optimistic.

“Regardless of how we do at ORCS, we’re going to have four rounds of film that we can watch to see where we went wrong,” Paisley Messer, a student coach and junior majoring in political science, French and linguistics, said. “And we can use that to, next year, maybe go that extra mile, get a Nationals bid. You know, who knows? We’re a young program, we have a lot of room to learn and grow.”

UB’s Mock Trial teams will hold auditions in the first week of classes next fall.

Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor and can be reached at 



Xiola Bagwell is a copy editor at The Spectrum. She enjoys reading and writing fantasy/romance novels, watching lighthearted movies and spending time with her friends and family. Xiola is a linguistics major, minoring in Spanish. 



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