UMBC Mock Trial caps off stellar season with eighth place finish at Nationals

The best way to describe this season for UMBC Mock Trial? We’re running out of room in the trophy case.

It’s been a year of change for UMBC’s premier speech and debate organization. With only six competing members left from last season, the program might have been expected to take a step back. Instead, UMBC Mock Trial took a giant leap forward – winning numerous tournaments throughout the season, fielding three teams for the first time in program history, earning a bid to the 35th American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) National Championship Tournament, and finishing eighth in our division and top-15 in the nation to end the year. It’s hard to capture everything the team has accomplished in just one post, but let’s take a look back at some of the highlights. (This is a long post. We’ve had a lot of highlights.)

After a vigorous recruitment campaign, the program welcomed the largest incoming class in our history. 17 of the 23 competing members at Regionals this season are in their first year of college mock trial, including all seven members of UMBC’s B team and 8 of the 9 members of UMBC’s first-ever C team. Even UMBC’s A team is young, with two freshman and two sophomores leading the charge. Only three seniors will graduate this spring, meaning the program is position for deep playoff runs in the years to come.

The 2018-19 season started close to home, as UMBC hosted the third annual Charm City Classic in October of 2018. The Classic is UMBC’s invitational tournament, and we were thrilled to bring that tournament to the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. Several of our coaches are alumni or current students at Maryland Law, and their beautiful facility boasts three courtrooms and a perfect space for an invitational. We hosted 24 of the region’s best teams, and were thrilled to hand the first-place trophy to our friends at Howard University. The Classic also had three scoring judges in every trial, one of just a small handful of tournaments across the country to accomplish that feat. We’re looking forward to hosting the Charm City Classic again in October of 2019.

UMBC’s first place team at Duke

After hosting the Classic, our teams started on the #RoadToPhilly! In November, UMBC’s A team traveled down to Durham for the Duke University Tobacco Road Invitational. After ballot sweeps of UT-Chattanooga, Washington & Lee, and South Carolina, UMBC split ballots with George Washington. This allowed UMBC to finish with a 7-1 record and claim first place at Tobacco Road! This was UMBC’s first invitational victory in several seasons; while we routinely place at invites, it had been quite a while since we came out on top. UMBC looks forward to returning to Duke next season and claiming the right to the “first challenge” for round one pairings as the defending tournament champions.

Duke was just the beginning of this year’s impressive run. The following weekend, UMBC A was back on the road at Haverford’s Black Squirrel Invitational. This tournament was at the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia, the site of the 2019 National Championship Tournament. After handily defeating the University of Maryland, College Park in round one, UMBC went on to grab an Honorable Mention with a brutal schedule, facing Cornell A, Cornell B, and the University of Virginia – all teams who will be joining UMBC at Nationals this year. Sydney Gaskins and Thomas Kiley won awards at Haverford as well.

After Duke, UMBC C traveled to Rutgers for their Scarlet Knight Invitational. Despite this being only their second tournament of the season, UMBC C had a fantastic weekend and posted a winning record (4-3-1) against tough competition! Freshman attorney Thomas Azari earned an Outstanding Attorney award, and our youngest team showed tremendous growth and progress in the face of a stiff challenge.

To cap off the season, we were back on the road with a team at UVA’s Great American Mock Trial Invitational (GAMTI) for the first time. GAMTI is widely considered to be the best invitational tournament in the country, and while UMBC narrowly missed placing, we were never swept and had two award winners. Sydney Gaskins earned another attorney award (this will become a trend) and Thomas Kiley won his second consecutive witness award as well.  Competing at GAMTI was a pretty unreal experience, and we hope to return in future years.

UMBC B and C at Johns Hopkins

In the midst of all of this, UMBC B was adjusting and dealing with the challenges of also being a young team. By the team the season moved to January, UMBC B consisted of seven members who were brand new at college Mock Trial. UMBC C was also hard at work preparing for their first 2019 competition, with a few new members for the spring and only one returning member on their squad. Despite these obstacles, UMBC B and UMBC C had excellent showings at Johns Hopkins University’s Blue Jay Invitational. Thomas Azari earned his second individual award of the season as an Outstanding Attorney, and Zac Linkins won an Outstanding Witness award at his first-ever college Mock Trial tournament!

Finally, UMBC A ended the invitational season with a bang. At Georgetown University’s Hilltop Invitational, UMBC A posted the first undefeated record in the history of our program. They went 8-0, with resounding victories over Fordham University, George Washington University (A & B), and Hamilton College to take first place at Hilltop. Sydney Gaskins earned an Outstanding Attorney award on both sides of the case, taking a nearly perfect 39 of 40 ranks on her eight ballots. Senior attorney/witness Nihir Nanavaty began an impressive streak of success at Hilltop as well, earning an Outstanding Witness award.

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UMBC’s undefeated A team after winning the Georgetown University Hilltop Invitational with an 8-0 record

With the invitational season over, UMBC’s three teams spent the month of February preparing for American Mock Trial Association Regional competition. Everything before February is unofficial, and the real “playoffs” begin with Regionals, where over 700 teams from around the country compete for bids to “ORCS” – the Opening Round Championship Series. Around 200 teams advance to ORCS each year, and only 48 of those teams earn bids to the National Championship Tournament. UMBC was thrilled to serve as an AMTA Regionals host for the second year in a row, co-hosting the Owings Mills Regional with our friends at Stevenson University. UMBC A and C stayed home in Owings Mills to compete there, while UMBC B headed up the road to Princeton, NJ for their Regional.

UMBC’s All-Region Award winners

After two days of hard-fought competition, UMBC advanced a team to ORCS for the fifth consecutive season! UMBC A posted a 7-0-1 record at the Owings Mills Regional and comfortably advanced to ORCS. UMBC B and C also had strong weekends in what was the first Regionals for nearly ever member of those teams. In addition to the ORCS bids, UMBC took home a metric ton of individual hardware at Regionals. Sydney Gaskins earned an All-Region Attorney award on both sides of the case, and President Ethan Hudson earned an All-Region Attorney award as well. Additionally, Nihir Nanavaty earned an All-Region Witness award on both sides of the case, and Emmanuel Olaleye earned an All-Region Witness for his work on the C team. Finally, Secretary Brandon Henry earned an All-Region Attorney award for both the C team and the Bye-Bust team.

After a dominant showing at Regionals, UMBC A was on to ORCS. They headed a few hours down I-95 to the University of Richmond, where 24 teams were competing for only 5 bids to the National Championship Tournament. After a brutal schedule with rounds against George Washington B, Washington & Lee, George Washington A, and Harvard, UMBC A ended the weekend with a 6-2 record and earned a bid to the 2019 National Championship Tournament in Philadelphia! Despite fielding a team where four of the six competitors were underclassmen, UMBC had an amazing weekend in Richmond and earned an NCT bid for only the second time in our young history. We couldn’t leave without individual hardware too, as Sydney Gaskins earned All-National Attorney honors on both sides of the case, and Nihir Nanavaty earned All-National Witness honors on both sides of the case as well!

Finally, the season had to come to an end, but in the best place possible: at the National Championship Tournament. UMBC boarded a school bus and rode the 1.5 hours from Baltimore to Philly in style, basking in the accomplishment of being one of only 48 teams remaining in the country to still be competing. But the team wasn’t satisfied with just making it: they had their sights on loftier goals. After an amazing Opening Ceremonies at the Franklin Institute, UMBC learned they would be facing Penn State in round one at Nationals. Penn State swept UMBC two years ago at Nationals, and the two programs face off frequently throughout the season. This year, UMBC got the chance to return the favor, sweeping all four ballots from Penn State in a resounding round one victory.

After sweeping in round one, UMBC drew two national powerhouse programs in rounds two and three: Cal Berkeley and Columbia University. UMBC fought both of these teams to a draw, splitting two ballots apiece in both rounds two and three. This put UMBC at 8-4 heading into the all-important round four, scheduled for Sunday morning. After the pairings were completed, UMBC was in the “high” round, and facing who else but the Bulldogs of Yale University. Yale is one of AMTA’s greatest programs, having been to the National Final Round for four consecutive seasons coming into 2019, and winning the 2016 National Championship. In order to keep them out of a fifth straight final, UMBC needed a sweep, which would have ended Yale’s season and put UMBC in the final round. After an electric round four, viewed by a packed courtroom of family, coaches, scouts, and Mock Trial celebrities, UMBC and Yale split their four ballots. This meant that UMBC ended Nationals with a 10-6 record, good enough for eighth place in their division and a top-15 finish nationwide.

UMBC’s NCT team on the steps of the Franklin Institute before Opening Ceremonies

The 2018-19 season was a long one for UMBC. We traveled more, spent more, and won more than any other year in our young history. UMBC A will begin next season ranked in the top-25 of teams nationwide, and we’ll return a group of 14-16 students with high level competition experience at invitationals, Regionals, ORCS and Nationals. UMBC A competitor Sydney Gaskins is headed to Drexel Law’s Trial by Combat in June, which is an individual one-on-one National Championship meant to determine the top individual competitor in the country. Finally, the team is hard at work preparing for the 2019-20 season, having just elected a new executive board and begun to plan a fall travel schedule.

But none of this is possible without you – the people who support us. We received amazing support this season from parents, friends, faculty, university staff, and so many other people who gave their money and their time to make this happen. In just a few short years, we’ve gone from a no-name program that people saw as an easy win, to a nationwide powerhouse that people fear and respect. Crab cakes and upsets: it’s the UMBC way.

In a few weeks, we’ll thank our seniors and send them on their way to bigger and better things. After that, we’ll turn the page and start preparing for next season. August 15th will be here before we know it, and then we’ll be on the #RoadToChicago and gunning to become AMTA’s 36th National Champion in 2020!

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.

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.

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.

A team at 2020 ORCS
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!

UMBC Mock Trial earns two bids to 2018 ORCS

UMBC Mock Trial is moving on to ORCS, as both the A and B teams had strong performances at Regionals and earned bids to the 2018 Lancaster, PA Opening Round Championship Series! This comes on the heels of a strong fall season and stellar performance at the final invitational tournaments of the 17-18 season.

DSC_9434After an outstanding fall campaign, capped off by the A team earning 4th place in the “A” division at Yale University, the teams spent winter break honing their theories and performances. On January 20 & 21, 2018, both teams headed back down I-95 to Georgetown University, for their annual Hilltop Invitational. Both teams shook off the rust and had great trials, and senior B team witness Krishna Gohel won an Outstanding Witness award in her first tournament of the season.

The next weekend, both teams traveled north to Cornell University for BRIC: the Big Red Invitational Classic. UMBC B had a fantastic weekend, earning Honorable Mention honors with a 5-3 record. UMBC B attorney Sydney Gaskins earned her second Outstanding Attorney award, and UMBC B witness Evan Kellner won his first-ever Outstanding Witness award.

DSC_9681After the invitational season ended, the teams didn’t sit back and relax. Both teams traveled to American University and Stevenson University for scrimmages, and hosted Towson University for a scrimmage. Finally, UMBC A and UMBC B faced off in the fourth annual “Black v. Gold” scrimmage, where many friends and family members came to campus on the last Sunday before Regionals to watch our two outstanding teams face off in their final tune-up before official AMTA competition season.

DSC_0160The following weekend was a great one for UMBC Mock Trial. At the Stevenson, MD Regional, co-hosted by UMBC and Stevenson University, both UMBC A and UMBC B earned bids to ORCS! UMBC A went 7-1, with ballot sweeps of New York University, Iona College, and Brooklyn College. UMBC B went 5-2-1, with ballot sweeps of Stevenson University and the City College of New York, as well as a pivotal win and tie against George Washington University A in round 4 to earn a second ORCS bid for the program. This was the second year in a row that UMBC Mock Trial advanced both the A and B teams to ORCS.

In addition to team awards, team members came home with several pieces of individual hardware. Senior Vice-President and A Team attorney Summer Akhtar earned an All-Region Attorney award, as did freshman B Team attorney Sydney Gaskins – her third attorney award of the season. Senior A Team witness Lily Felber earned an All-Region Witness Award, her second All-Region award, and Junior A Team attorney/witness Sam Dhawan earned an All-Region Witness award – his first witness award.

As the teams move forward to ORCS, it’s worth taking a look back at the remarkable season for the program so far. UMBC Mock Trial teams have earned seven team awards and ten individual awards, and traveled to seven of the most prestigious invitational tournaments in the nation. In just seven years, the program has grown into a nationally-recognized powerhouse, with much more still on the horizon. Both teams are now hard at work preparing to compete at the Lancaster, PA ORCS from March 23-25, 2018. UMBC A will look to return to the National Championship Tournament after their first-ever bid in 2017, and UMBC B will attempt to join them at the NCT for the first time.

UMBC Mock Trial concludes strong fall season

The UMBC Mock Trial Program concluded their most competitive fall season in program history this past weekend with a strong performance at the Yale Invitational. Both UMBC Mock Trial Teams – the “A” and “B” teams – won team and individual awards at multiple tournaments over the last several weeks.

22519090_1753312138064843_8204268358132920148_nOn October 14 & 15, 2017, two UMBC teams traveled to Fordham University in the Bronx, NY, for the Fordham University Sapientia et Doctrina IX, one of the earliest invitational tournaments in the country. UMBC’s teams competed unstacked at Fordham, as UMBC Black and UMBC Gold, with returning members and new members competing side by side to build team camaraderie and help new members develop and learn college mock trial. At Fordham, UMBC’s Gold team posted a 7-1 record and tied for first place with New York University, earning a second place trophy by virtue of a strength of schedule tiebreaker. Sophomore recruitment chair Ethan Hudson earned an Outstanding Attorney award as well.

23316531_1772378049491585_6085852846369018408_nJust two weekends later, on October 28 & 29, 2017, a newly stacked UMBC A and UMBC B headed south, as UMBC A made the trek down to Durham for the Duke University Tobacco Road Invitational, and UMBC B competed in Williamsburg at the College of William & Mary Colonial Classic. UMBC A posted a 4-4 record at Duke, and senior Vice-President Summer Akhtar won an Outstanding Attorney award. UMBC B left Williamsburg with a 5-6-1 record – solid results for two teams that had formed less than 10 days before each tournament and faced stiff competition at these elite-level tournaments.

Two weekends after Duke and William & Mary, on November 11 & 12, 2017, UMBC A and B reunited to travel together to the inaugural Rutgers University Scarlet Knight Mock Trial Invitational. Both teams had strong weekends, earning Honorable Mention recognition with 5-3 records. Additionally, B team attorney and freshman Sydney Gaskins earned an Outstanding Attorney award with a perfect 20 ranks – only the second attorney in the history of UMBC Mock Trial to win an award with perfect ballot ranks.

24831194_1802058079856915_6250445673777427591_oFinally, UMBC A and B finished the fall season on December 2 & 3, 2017 at the Yale Mock Trial Invitational in New Haven, Connecticut. Universally recognized in the mock trial community as one of the strongest invitational tournaments in the country, the Yale Invitational has an A and B division. UMBC A competed in the A division alongside 23 other teams who earned bids to the 2017 National Championship Tournament last season, and UMBC B competed in the B division with 25 other teams who advanced beyond Regionals in 2017. In the A division, UMBC’s A team finished in 4th place with a record of 6-2, after sweeping or splitting ballots with some of the top mock trial programs in the country. Both teams had strong performances at Yale in the face of challenging competition.

The fall season has concluded for UMBC Mock Trial, with four team awards and three individual awards at some of the best fall tournaments nationwide. With the fall season ended, both teams will now turn their focus to spring. UMBC A and B will be in action before the spring semester begins at UMBC, on January 20 & 21, 2018, at the Georgetown University Hilltop Invitational Tournament, and January 27 & 28, 2018 at the Cornell University Big Red Invitational Classic. From there, it’s barely a month before UMBC Mock Trial co-hosts the Stevenson, MD Regional Tournament on February 24 & 25, 2018, where both UMBC A and B will be pushing for bids to ORCS for the fourth season in a row.

UMBC Mock Trial concludes historically successful season

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UMBC’s A Team in LA

After the most successful season in program history, UMBC Mock Trial ended the competitive year in Los Angeles, California, where the top 48 teams in the country gathered for the National Championship Tournament. UMBC Mock Trial earned its place in that field with a bid out of the Delaware Opening Round Championship Series, and ten members of UMBC’s A team traveled to LA to participate in this elite competition. Attorneys Dylan Elliott, Zuhair Riaz, Brandon James, Summer Akhtar, Kayla Smith, and Sambhav Dhawan, and witnesses Lily Felber, Alex Ezigbo, Kaitlyn Kauffman, and Jonathan Ruiz, along with head coach Ben Garmoe and assistant coach Travis Bell, spent four days in LA scrimmaging and competing with case materials that were released less than four weeks before the tournament.

Brandon James (L) Alex Ezigbo (R)

Before the tournament began, the team spent an entire day scrimmaging with Northern Illinois University, and also scrimmaged the University of Illinois before round 1. Once the tournament began, UMBC Mock Trial had spirited rounds against the University of Richmond and Pennsylvania State University, and earned ballot splits with American University and Rhodes College. In addition to earning the first Nationals ballots in program history, UMBC Mock Trial added its first ever all Americans, as Brandon James was named an All-American Attorney and Alex Ezigbo was named an All-American Witness. The team also was named the first runner-up for the Spirit of AMTA Award, which is given to the team who best exemplifies the values of collegiality and fair play. It was a very successful conclusion to a remarkable year.

After returning from Los Angeles, the whole program came together to start a new tradition that will continue into the future: the end of season banquet and senior recognition. Seniors Dylan Elliott, Zuhair Riaz, Brandon James, Kayla Smith and Zachary Garmoe received their AMTA graduation cords in appreciation of their dedication and hard work over the past several seasons. These five graduating seniors were a part of the most successful years in UMBC Mock Trial history, winning a collective 23 individual awards over their time with the program. Dylan Elliott will be attending the University of Maryland School of Law in the fall, while Kayla Smith will head to Brooklyn Law School and Brandon James will attend the University of Baltimore School of Law.

The program is now working to prepare for its seventh competitive season. Newly elected President Jaedon Huie, Vice-President Summer Akhtar, Secretary Kaitlyn Kauffman, Treasurer Alex Ezigbo, and Recruitment Chair Ethan Hudson are hard at work planning the 2017-18 competition schedule and auditions. The 2017-18 case packet will be released around August 15th, and UMBC Mock Trial will be ready to start all over again!