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Mock Trial Topples Ivies; Advances to Nationals


It was a big and historic win for Hamilton’s Mock Trial team as a successful outing at the Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS) resulted in a bid to the national Collegiate Mock Trial competition, taking place from April 8 to 10 in Lancaster, Pa. This marks the first time Hamilton’s Mock Trial team – which is entirely student-run – has qualified for nationals since 2015.

The top 48 teams in the country compete at this level, including Hamilton’s A team. Members include Nicholas Garvey ’23, Kiley Hartman ’23, Brooke Kessler ’22, Peri Kessler ’22, John Rutecki ’22, and Elise Wilson ’22.

Hamilton’s road to nationals began in February with a successful regional competition against Cornell, Stanford, UCLA, and the University of Kansas. On March 19 to 20 at ORCS, Hamilton topped Cornell, Syracuse, and NYU to earn the points necessary to receive a bid to nationals.

Sisters and co-captains Brooke ’22 and Peri Kessler ’22 said getting to nationals is the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication. “We made certain changes to the team to service this goal,” Brooke said, including increasing weekly practice time and shifting how they used that time to improve both the writing and performance of their material.

We’re proud that we’ve fostered a really positive team culture in which we support each other and can also constructively critique each other to make our performances better.

“We [watched] trial tapes from previous nationals and ORCS competitors and studied what makes top-ranked teams so good,” Peri added. “We’ve taken what we’ve learned from those trials and used it to coach the team. We’re proud that we’ve fostered a really positive team culture in which we support each other and can also constructively critique each other to make our performances better.”

Unlike many of their competitors – including teams from Yale, Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Georgetown, and UVA – Hamilton’s team is entirely student run. “This means we don’t have any lawyers or other kinds of coaches helping us. Our scripts and speeches are our own, and we take a lot of pride in that,” Brooke said.

This year’s team was successful due to several factors, including its small size. “Because everyone had a hand in everything, and everyone had a role on each side of the case, we were all intimately familiar with each and every script, objection argument, and speech,” Brooke said. “We were able to work collaboratively in a way we hadn’t before.”

“I think what makes this team different is the level of dedication to the activity and the collaboration. In mock trial, you win and lose as a team,” Peri said. “When a team member is cross-examining a witness, for example, each member can watch and know that it is a product of everyone’s hard work.”

The co-captain sisters meet regularly with team members one-on-one to refine examinations and speeches and drill the rules of evidence. They also prioritized going to as many tournaments and scrimmages prior to the competitive season as possible. “Experiencing the stress and unpredictability of trial is invaluable when preparing for higher-level competition. Prior to competing at ORCS, we had gone to 10 invitational tournaments and scrimmages,” Peri said.

Hamilton’s Mock Trial team has less than three weeks to get ready for nationals and has to prepare an entirely new case. “We’ve never prepared a case in this shortened timeline before, but we are excited for the challenge,” Brooke said. “To get us ready, we will be practicing every single day and working to put together a cohesive case on both the prosecution and defense sides that plays to our strengths as a program.”

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