The last gavel slammed for UC Irvine Mock Trial’s season was a joyous one as it indicated that the team had ranked eighth in the country.
Despite the program being non-existent no less than five years ago, the team was able to stand toe-to-toe with the top teams in country in the American Mock Trial Association’s (AMTA) national championship. These competitors included two teams from the University of Virginia, the University of Washington at St. Louis and George Washington University.
Although UCI Mock Trial is composed of 31 students, Head Coach Justin Bernstein selected only nine to compete in the final rounds of nationals.
These competitors included fourth-year dance major President Marissa Oxman, fourth-year economics and accounting major Danielle Bardellini, third-year criminology, law and society and psychology double major Gaya Shanmuganatha, third-year criminology, law and society and sociology double major Christian Acevedo, third-year music major Tom Collins, second-year biology major Anagha Dixit, fourth-year political science and international studies double major Shima Gorgani, fourth-year philosophy major Ben Larson and Brisa Simmons, a second-year biology and political science double major.
Assisting Bernstein in coaching duties were Michael Smith and Danielle De Smeth. Additionally team members Hannah Wright, a first-year political science major and Morgan Hampton, a third-year political science and anthropology double major were there to observe the trial.
Bernstein was incredibly proud of the team’s work overall.
“This was by all accounts the most competitive tournament in the history of the [AMTA] because it was more difficult to even get to this tournament than ever before … At the beginning of the year there were 611 teams and we tied for eighth,” Bernstein said.
Aside from its placement, the team also earned two All-American Awards, which are given to the top 10 students in the country. Adding a somewhat unexpected layer to this success is that both students earning these awards were first year competitors.
Both Collins and Dixit, earned All-American awards for playing witnesses. Yet, according to Bernstein the team’s most significant award can be attributed to the whole team. This was temonstrated by the team earning the spirit of AMTA Award, which is given to the team noted as having the best sportsmanship among its peers.
“We were the only team in the competition with a perfect ranking, which means that all of our opponents gave us a perfect 10 on the Spirit of AMTA. We were recognized as the most civil, sportsmanlike, friendly and respectful team in the country, so we’re extremely proud of that,” Bernstein said.
According to Bernstein the team’s placement this year helps to cement its status as a national competitor.
“By any measure the [UCI] Mock Trial Team is considered a national force at this point. We’ve placed in the top 10 in consecutive years, we’ve won multiple All-American awards in consecutive years, we’ve repeatedly won the Spirit of AMTA award, being recognized by our peers by being sportsman like,” Bernstein said.
Oxman looks forward to the future, but at the same time is pleased with her team’s position this year.
“I’ve been in this program for four years now, I helped get it started and I cannot tell you how proud I am of my teammates and of the people in this program,” Oxman said.