A UTD mock trial team went undefeated and finished in first place with a perfect ballot at their latest tournament.
The team competed at the Bulldog Brawl against four other teams from two other universities, Gonzaga University and Washington State. The Bulldog Brawl is an annual tournament hosted by Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington.
Political science junior Annika Russell joined the team this fall.
“It was interesting because our competitors were all from the Pacific Northwest and the Washington Area. And then we came from Texas, out of left field, and swept the tournament,” Russell said.
They went completely undefeated with an 8-0 record. Mock trial coach Tony Seagroves said he’d never seen this happen in his five years with the university.
Political science junior Zahrah Khan, a captain of the team, said that in each round, two judges sit and score the teams to decide which team won.
“All of the judges were actually in the legal profession,” Russell said.
Judges included the Vice Dean of Gonzaga Law, the assistant attorney general for the State of Washington, the district attorney of Spokane County and a federal prosecutor turned federal judge.
Winning 8-0 means that beyond winning the overall competition, every single judge the team interacted with voted for them.
Khan said it is important to read the judges to predict what they will be looking for in a round. Political science senior Allison Clay, another captain of the team, said that adaptability was the most important key to their success. Being able to enter a room and determine what the judge was looking for, then catering to that, made them fierce competitors.
“Because mock (trial) is so subjective when it comes to judging, the fact that we went 8-0 means even more because we were consistent,” Russell said.
Mock Trial is a one credit UTD course. Students enrolled meet five hours a week, in addition to preparation outside of class, and travel on weekends, like the competition in Spokane. Clay said the class learns about rules of evidence, procedure, how to write an opening statement and how to build a theme. Just a month ago, they started scrimmaging against another team from UTD, Clay said.
In that last round, stacked with the best competitors from the host university trying to give UTD a run for their money by forming a team made up of all their captains, the ballots were really close.
“I thought we were going to lose,” Clay said. “The other team was so good.”
In the end, the ballots were close, but UTD still won. Khan said the experience level of their competition made the tournament more enjoyable..
“The most fun rounds are the ones where you’re competing against really good teams and it is really close,” Khan said. “It was just back and forth the whole time in that round.”
All the team members said they were thankful for how kind their competitors were. Some said they made friends and professional connections they will continue to talk to.Clay and Khan each won outstanding lawyer awards.
Next weekend, the other two mock trial teams will be headed to Rice University in Houston. This team’s next competition will be in Santa Barbara, California.
“In the end, it is a bonus if we win,” Clay said. “But we’re doing this to learn and prepare us for law school and to be successful in the real world. I’m excited to see us do even better because you improve exponentially after your first tournament. I’m so excited to see how polished, how complex our arguments are going to get.”