UMBC Mock Trial advances to 2020 National Championship

After a whirlwind season of travel all over the country, UMBC Mock Trial finished on a high note. UMBC A went 7-1 at the Lancaster, PA Opening Round Championship Series (ORCS), which was good enough to earn a bid to the 2020 National Championship! But before we get too far into that, let’s *ahem* take a step back and see how the season went for Maryland’s top-ranked Mock Trial program.

This past season, UMBC Mock Trial brought in our largest class ever, welcoming nearly 20 new members after fall tryouts. Those members joined one of three teams – UMBC Black, UMBC Gold, or UMBC Red, and headed out on the road to learn the ropes during the fall invitational season. After a hybrid team competed at the George Washington University Habeas Hippopotamus Invitational, all three teams competed together at our own tournament, the Charm City Classic.

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UMBC’s three teams and coaching staff after hosting and competing at the Charm City Classic, held at the University of Maryland School of Law.

After Charm City, our unstacked teams headed out for a few more tournaments, competing at Duke’s Tobacco Road Invitational and Haverford’s Black Squirrel Invitational. We then rearranged our teams into UMBC A, UMBC B and UMBC C. Just days after the fall stack, UMBC C traveled to Patrick Henry College for their Sentinel Invitational, a four-team scrimmage with two Patrick Henry teams and one team from George Washington. UMBC B finished the fall at Carnegie Mellon’s Swear Me In, Scotty Invitational, while UMBC A headed to DC and earned an Honorable Mention at the Great American Mock Trial Invitational, also known as GAMTI.

After a few weeks of rest, our teams returned motivated and ready to go in January. UMBC A traveled to New York to kick off 2020, as they spent a snowy weekend in Brooklyn for the Columbia University Big Apple Invitational Tournament – aka CUBAIT. A few days after returning from NYC, UMBC A headed to the airport for what was supposed to be a quick trip to Chicago. Fog and snow made the travel day a long one, and after two unscheduled detours to Grand Rapids, the team made it and had a great weekend in the Windy City. While UMBC A was in Chicago, UMBC B headed down the road to Georgetown University’s Hilltop Invitational, and UMBC C took a quick trip around the beltway to the Blue Jay Invitational hosted by Johns Hopkins University.

With the invitational season behind them, UMBC Mock Trial’s three teams spent the next few weeks preparing for Regional competition. UMBC A went first, traveling to DC for the Regional tournament hosted by American University. UMBC A posted a 7-1 record at Regionals, easily advancing to ORCS and extending UMBC’s ORCS streak to six consecutive years. A team attorneys Sydney Gaskins and Ethan Hudson were each named All-Region Attorneys, and witness Natalie Murray earned an All-Region Witness Award as well.

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A team at Regionals after earning their bid to ORCS!

The next weekend, UMBC B and C traveled to Owings Mills for the Regional tournament co-hosted by UMBC and Stevenson University and held on Stevenson’s campus. This is the third consecutive year that UMBC and Stevenson have co-hosted the Baltimore-area AMTA Regional tournament, and for the third year in a row, a UMBC team advanced out of our Regional! UMBC C had an amazing weekend and went 6-2, earning a second bid for the program and the first bid for our C team in program history! UMBC B had a fantastic weekend as well despite a brutal schedule, and five team members earned All-Region Awards: attorneys Brinda De Tchappi, Kaylee Reyes, and Tyler Pollock, and witnesses Hamzah Yousuf and Brandon Henry.

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C team after earning their bid to ORCS!

For the third time in four years, UMBC sent two teams to ORCS, as UMBC A and B traveled to Lancaster, PA for the Opening Round Championship Series hosted at the Lancaster County Courthouse. The two teams arrived in Lancaster on Thursday afternoon and settled in for an evening scrimmage to get in some last-minute work, and then headed to the courthouse on Friday afternoon to begin the weekend.

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B team attorney Amir Ledbetter and witness Hamzah Yousuf running a direct examination during the pre-ORCS scrimmage.

This was the first year of AMTA’s new ORCS pairing system, which divides the ORCS field into four groups by their power rankings. This meant that UMBC A, the second-highest ranked team in the field, was in the “A” group and would face a team from the “D” group, while UMBC B was in the “C” group and would face a team in the “B” group. Both teams had fantastic weekends at ORCS, and at the end of the weekend, UMBC A earned our second consecutive bid to Nationals! UMBC A went 7-1, sweeping the University of Pennsylvania, Fordham University, and American University, and splitting the “A vs. A” round against 2015 national champions Harvard University. UMBC B also posted a winning record at 5-3, the first winning record that our B team has ever achieved at ORCS! They swept Rutgers University and St. Bonaventure University, and split ballots with Georgetown University.

In addition to the Nationals bid and winning records, UMBC earned several All-National awards as well. Junior A team attorney Sydney Gaskins, a 2019 All-American and double All-National winner, topped that with a double All-National Attorney award again – but this time with a perfect 20 ranks on both sides of the case. Sydney is only the second person in the 10+ year history of ORCS to go 20/20 as an attorney. Sydney’s teammate, witness Dominique Ross, earned an All-National Witness award for her spectacular portrayal of the defendant. Finally, sophomore attorney and B team captain Lauren Wotring earned an All-National Attorney award as she led the B team to a stellar performance.

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UMBC A after earning their bid to Nationals!

Unfortunately, as with everything else, COVID-19 caused the season to come to a grinding halt just days after ORCS. AMTA announced later that week that the 2020 National Championship, set to occur in Chicago on April 17-19, 2020, was indefinitely postponed. While there is still hope for some sort of national tournament later this summer, it appears that ORCS may have been the end of the 2019-20 season. If that’s the case, it was a truly spectacular end for the program, with a third Nationals bid in four years and several team and individual honors.

With the competition season behind them, the team gathered over Webex for elections and the end of year banquet. At elections, the program chose six new leaders:

  • President: Sydney Gaskins
  • Vice-President: Thomas Azari
  • Treasurer: Thomas Kiley
  • Social Chair: Lauren Wotring
  • Recruitment Chair: Natalie Murray
  • Diversity Chair: Kaylee Reyes

During the banquet, the program said thank you to our three amazing seniors: Ethan Hudson, Zac Linkins, and Tyler Pollock. All three seniors are multi-time award winners, and all three will be sorely missed.

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UMBC Mock trial gathers over Webex for our end of season banquet.

Even though the year didn’t end how we thought it would, it was an amazing season for UMBC Mock Trial. Every member is anxiously awaiting the release of the new case in August, and we can’t wait to get started on the #RoadToSanFran!