Mock Trial Team's Success on National Stage No Longer a Surprise
The Eastern Kentucky University Mock Trial Team has over the years defeated so many teams from much larger, more well-known schools, it’s hardly a shock any more.
Many of the team’s members come from the small towns that dot Kentucky’s rural landscape and, together with some more urban counterparts, continue to prove that, given the opportunity and guidance, EKU students can compete on a national stage with anyone from anywhere.
“The name of the school doesn’t matter,” team member Angel Spurlock said. “I’m proud to show everyone that Eastern Kentucky University is just as good, if not better, than any Ivy League school. I love that people know not to underestimate us.”
Fresh off another outstanding invitational season, the EKU team qualified again for the American Mock Trial Association’s national tournament. EKU’s “A” team has finished in the top eight in all seven of its tournaments this season, including a first-place finish at Northwestern University’s Windy City Invitational in Chicago.
What enables EKU students to compete so successfully against the most elite private and public universities in the world?
Coach Tom Parker cited critical thinking skills, stability and, as they often say in sports, a tough schedule.
“Our Mock Trial students largely craft their own case theories, writing their own opening and closing statements as well as direct and cross-examinations of witnesses,” Parker explained. “While the coaches provide input and guidance, the process of creating and honing the content is primarily student-driven. That forces our students to think critically about the material throughout the year, and allows them to be quick on their feet during trials, responding and adapting in real time to opponents’ case theories, questions, and so forth.”
Many of the team members are also members of EKU’s similarly prominent Honors Program, which “does a terrific job of teaching and nurturing the cross-disciplinary critical-thinking skills that we rely and build upon in Mock Trial.”
As for stability, the current coaches have been with theprogram a number of years, and “our best competitors tend to return for multiple years of participation.” The experienced students can then mentor newcomers, maintaining the program’s momentum. The addition of EKU Mock Trial alumni Kristeena Johnson and Brandon Williams as coaches further enhances the program’s stability and quality.
Parker said the program also benefits from the University’s generous financial support, which “enables our students to get out there and face students from top colleges and universities throughout the country. We have found, more often than not, that our students rise to the level of competition that they face, and they find that, if they prepare and practice as much as we ask them to do, and if they believe in themselves, they are as good as anyone in the country.”
Each year, through a competitive audition process, 14-20 students are selected for the program and receive academic credit for competing. Auditions are held at the beginning of the Fall semester.
Other coaches, besides Parker, Johnson and Williams, are Lynnette Noblitt and Sara Zeigler.