By Laura Wiersema ’18
Students on the Simpson College Mock Trial team hit the ground running this year. Six of them competed against teams across the Midwest the weekend of Feb. 10-11 at the American Mock Trial Association’s Cedar Rapids Regional Tournament after knowing nothing about mock trial a few short months ago.
Despite being a novice team, Simpson Mock Trial finished the tournament above or on par with programs operating with decades of experience, such as St. Ambrose University, the University of Minnesota and Loras College.
“I’m very proud of our work, and especially proud considering that most of the students did not know what mock trial was just a few months ago” said Tyler Buller, the Simpson Mock Trial coach. “We were very close to advancing out of regionals, which is something that many experienced programs cannot say. This shows we are building the foundation of a strong program and will be even more competitive in the future.”
During the competitions, students assume the role of either an attorney or a witness in a fictional case against other teams. Teams are scored by judges who are often professors, practicing attorneys, law students or real-world judges. Participating in the competitions helps students build their public speaking and collaboration skills.
The Simpson Mock Trial team is looking forward to continuing to grow the program and recruit more students.
“One of our primary goals is to recruit a few more students in the fall, so that more Simpson students can see the benefits of mock trial next year,” Tyler said. “Given our strong performance at regionals, I am optimistic we will advance even further next year, now that we have some experienced members who I hope will return in the fall.”
The Simpson Speech team also has been busy.
The team competed at a two-day tournament in Eau Claire at the University of Wisconsin the weekend of Feb. 10-11.
Riley Brennan placed sixth on Day One and fifth on Day Two in Poetry, qualifying her poetry to the National Forensic Association (NFA) National Tournament. This is the first year Simpson will have students attend this national tournament.
Additionally, Katie Brunner, the assistant director of Speech and Debate, was awarded the prestigious Grace Walsh Award at the conclusion of the tournament.
“It is exciting that one of our faculty members was recognized in this way,” said Spencer Waugh, director of Speech, Debate & Mock Trial at Simpson. “I would like to extend my congratulations to both Katie and Riley!”
The Grace Walsh award is named after a very influential former coach for the UW-Eau Claire forensics team. Current competitors and coaches nominate and vote for the winner each year. It’s awarded to a coach who has shown a great deal of commitment to their team and positively impacted the greater speech community as Grace Walsh did herself as a coach.