Warrensburg – The University of Central Missouri Mock Trial team finished 10th out of 24 teams, some of those teams being from Division I schools, in the American Mock Trial Association regional competition in Kansas City on Feb. 7 and 8.
UCM awaits word on whether AMTA will admit the team to the Opening Round Championship Series for the second year in a row. UCM finished regional competition with a 4-3-1 record.
UCM competed in regionals against Division I schools, including Missouri University, Kansas University and University of Nebraska. Other Division II schools also competed.
UCM went into regionals after finishing regular season competition with back-to-back, first-place finishes in Joplin and Columbia.
Head Coach Adam Sommer said this year’s squad ranks at the top of list of teams he has seen at UCM. Sommer, in his second year as coach, competed as a mock trial team member when he went to school at UCM.
Sommer said the team has improved because members work with cohesiveness similar to an offensive line in professional football.
“It’s a combination of continuity and buy-in, paired with some remarkably talented students,” Sommer said.
In 20 regular-season trial rounds, Central finished with a record of 28-11-1, a 72 percent success rate.
In their regular season finale, UCM scored a perfect 8-0 record against four trial opponents in Joplin.
“As far as I know, this is the first 8-0 at any tournament this program has ever turned in,” Sommer said.
This year’s mock trial case involves the accidental shooting of an 11-year-old girl. Although not based on an actual trial, the case resembles crimes similar to those in real life.
At every mock trial, UCM spends two rounds competing as the plaintiff and two rounds as the defendant. UCM selects three witnesses and three attorneys to represent each side of the case. Cases are typically evaluated and scored by real judges or lawyers.
Prior to regionals, the team conducted a practice run through of the case at the Johnson County Justice Center on Feb. 5.
Sommer described practice in an actual courtroom as a privilege because they typically do not get to compete in that environment in regular season competitions. Most trials are in a university classroom or conference room, but postseason action takes place in a courtroom.
Sommer said some Division I schools triple UCM’s team budget.
Mock trials are beneficial, Summer said, with some students from past teams practicing alw in Colorado and Texas.
A member of last year’s team went to the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law on a full-ride scholarship due to his participation with the UCM mock trial team.
Another student, Alana Caruso, team captain and political science graduate, received $15,000 per year for three years for a law scholarship from the University of Missouri-Columbia.
Caruso praised Sommer’s mentoring.
“Adam is teaching us law and how to apply it to real life and then we tailor that knowledge to mock trial, which makes us more successful during arguments, during evidence collection,” she said.
This year’s team found success, Caruso said, due to passion and drive to improve.
At this point in the season, Broderick Hayes, senior English major, said he feels confident in the way this team’s level of preparation.
“We’re not really reinventing the wheel. It’s more fine tuning and taking care of the small details,” Hayes said.
Andrew Serrone, senior political science major, joined mock trial because he wanted to find an activity with a competitive edge and something that would stimulate his brain.
“It teaches you so many lessons that are applicable to the real world. Running a business, classwork, anything. Those lessons extend to any part of life,” Serrone said. “Going into the first tournament was absolute chaos and I ended up actually getting an award and I was hooked from day one.”
Hayes summed up how to achieve mock trial success in two words: “Professionalism and excellence.”