Trial teams set record, advance to nationals

For the first time, Baylor's Mock Trial group will send two teams to compete at the national level.  Lariat File Photo
For the first time, Baylor’s Mock Trial group will send two teams to compete at the Opening Round of the National Championship Series in Memphis, Tenn.
Lariat File Photo

By Dane Chronister

For the first time in the Baylor Mock Trial Team’s 15-year history, two teams are headed to compete at the national level.

The team earned two bids Jan. 30 – Feb. 1 while competing at a tournament in Dallas hosted by UT Dallas to go to the Opening Round of the National Championship Series in Memphis, Tenn.

Composed mainly of undergraduate students, the mock trial team meets at the law school for 15 to 20 hours a week when not competing and argues a fake court case for practice. The team has competed in tournaments all over Texas and competed in Chicago this past month.

The team is made up of more than 30 members, a dramatic increase from the three participants the group had only three years ago. The team hosts a full round of tryouts in the fall, with approximately a 15 percent acceptance rate. The group works with advisers in the Baylor Law School to help students choose a law school, take the LSAT and pursue a legal career.

Chicago senior Taylor Hoogendoorn is the president of the team and has helped lead the team’s charge toward success.

“Two years ago we didn’t qualify, but this is the first year we’ve sent two teams to the first round of the Opening Round of National Championship Series,” Hoogendoorn said.

Baylor is one of four schools including Florida State, Rhode College and the University of Texas, to send two teams to compete in the national championship tournament.

Almost 30 schools will compete in Memphis, and the top six squads will earn a spot in the finals in Cincinnati during April.

As the Baylor pre-law director and coach for the mock trial team, Elizabeth Cano said she has her team’s success in mind.

“This year’s team is extraordinarily talented and the students work very hard. I have high expectations for the teams’ performance in Memphis and beyond,” Cano said.

Dallas freshman Rebekah Voth, a member of the mock trial’s A-team, has high hopes for the future of the program.

“I think I bring a new perspective since I’ve never been a part of a mock trial team,” she said. “I have more of a speech and communication background and I try to use more of an emotional and sympathetic appeal.”

To Voth, there is definitely a tactic to the trials and it has given her a great opportunity to use her communication and impromptu speech skills from her high school classes.

“You have to be thinking on your feet and listening to what your opponent is going to say because they might hit you with something you weren’t expecting and you have to be prepared,” Voth said.

Voth said the mock trial team has helped her enhance her abilities and career skills. She said she feels others can gain from their experience on the team..

“I feel it has made me a better speaker. It has taught me a lot about the law for sure,” she said. “We are given a ten-page document of rules of evidence we have to understand and know.”

Lombard, Ill., senior Danny Huizinga is a previous member of the Mock Trial Team. He said he has a lot of confidence in the program because of the current leadership and the competitiveness of the team.

“I joined Baylor’s Mock Trial Team my freshman year, but quit after one semester, thinking that the team would die out quickly since there were only a few members. Taylor, on the other hand, made it his mission to turn the team around,” he said.

With the mock trial team aiming high and shooting for a national championship, the team looks to Hoogendoorn’s skills to finish the job.

“Under Taylor’s strong leadership, people flocked to try out, and Baylor Mock Trial now consists of three fully competitive teams that travel around Texas and the country representing Baylor,” Huizinga said.