GW Mock Trial will begin its next competitive season ranked No. 1 in the nation after finishing in second place in a national tournament last week.
The rankings, which are determined by a team’s performance in the last three National Championship Tournaments, place GW ahead of Harvard University and the University of Virginia, who will begin the next academic year in second and third place, respectively.
“It’s been a steady progression of success,” said junior Andrew Blackwell, president of GW Mock Trial. “And since we’re not graduating any seniors from the team, we’re looking forward to continuing the trend.”
Members of the runner-up team included Blackwell, junior Laura Bentele, sophomores Lindsay Bowles, Jacob Chervinsky, Kevin Homiak, and Daniel Theveny and freshman James Bonneau. A second GW team also placed in the top 15.
“We’ve been very lucky,” Homiak said. “Year after year we’ve had a lot of talent on the team because we’ve been able to pick from a pool of very qualified people.”
Bentele, who received individual honors for her expert witness performance, compared mock trial to a Division I sport because of the stiff competition and long hours practicing. Team members said the time commitment could reach up to 40 hours per week.
“To outsiders, the number of hours we spend seems absurd, but it’s something we’re passionate about,” she said.
Blackwell and Bentele, two law school hopefuls, said the long hours preparing were worth it because they felt the success would help them in their future careers.
“Saying you did ‘college mock’ is the legal equivalent of telling a basketball player that you played ‘college ball,'” Bentele said. “It’s very well respected within the profession.”
Unlike moot courts in law schools – which simulate an appellate court – mock trial is a staged trial. They include witnesses, judges, cross-examination and opening and closing statements.
“We become well-versed in the rules of evidence and aspects of case theory,” Blackwell said.
Alex Shoucair, who was honored for his witness performance as an HIV specialist, said that beating teams such as Georgetown and New York University was particularly satisfying.
“Unlike GW, a lot of teams are given significant funds, class credit for participation and a professional coach,” Shocair said. “It’s nice to win against the odds.”
Former University president Stephen Joel Trachtenberg donated a couple thousand dollars from his personal funds for GW Mock Trial last year because he “knew they were winners.”
“I’m very pleased that they’ve lived up to the potential I anticipated,” Trachtenberg said. “I like betting on people, and if I can play a role in nurturing talent, I’m happy to do it.”
This year, Robert Chernak, senior vice president for student and academic support services, provided GW Mock Trial with $10,000 in addition to the money allotted by the Student Association. The donation came from a fund that was created to cover requests from student organizations when the allotment they received from the SA was inadequate to cover important programs, events or competitions.
“The mock trial team had put forward a very persuasive proposal for funding this year,” Chernak said. “Success such as this cannot be understated in bringing enhanced prestige and reputation to our University.”
This article appeared in the April 17, 2008 issue of the Hatchet.