Swarthmore Mock Trial Reaches Opening Round Championships for the First Time Since 2011

Daniel Song ’24, Jonė Bagdankyė ’25, Brenda Ramírez ’26, Kayla Nicholas ’26, Khy Fields ’26, Maya Levine ’26, Nathanael Brown ’26, Kilin Tang ’25, Julia Leblanc ’23, and Joshua Ovadia ’25

On Feb. 18 and 19th, Swarthmore’s Mock Trial team competed at the Washington D.C. Regionals in hopes of earning an invitation to the Opening Round Championships (ORCs), a set of competitions that precede The American Mock Trial Association National Championships. The team competed against 22 other schools and placed sixth in the region, qualifying for ORCS for the first time since 2011

Mock Trial is a relatively new program at Swarthmore, having died out several times over the past decade. Most recently, it was restarted in 2020. This year, the team is composed of mostly first-year students and is coached by alum and co-founder Scout Hayashi ’22, local Swarthmore attorney Brittany Green, and Widener law student Kyle Westerfer.  

The team had success at the invitational level earlier this season. Khy Fields ’26, Nathanael Brown ’26, and Daniel Song ’24 each won Outstanding Witness awards at invitational tournaments. The team’s primary goal was continuing this trend through Regionals. 

In an interview with The Phoenix, Mock Trial President and team co-Captain Kilin Tang ’25 described obstacles the team faced leading up to the Regional competition. 

“In late December, we had a major overhaul of the entire executive board. Our former President and Wellness Chair had left. As a result, we consolidated from two teams to one,” Tang explained. “It was a very difficult transition. Not only was I appointed as President over the span of a day, I was also tasked with leading an entirely new team. We were left with a month and a half to prepare for Regionals.” 

Tang went on to explain the cultural changes he implemented as the new president. 

“Our former president had a philosophy of catering to the individual needs of each team member, which I think ultimately proved unsuccessful,” said Tang. “The philosophy I tried to instill is that this is a team effort. Sometimes that means doing things we don’t like, but it’s because we enjoy each other’s presence and want to achieve our goals.”

Fields agrees with Tang’s philosophy of viewing mock trial as a team effort. 

“We’ve been through a lot of ups and downs this season, so seeing everyone from our newest members to our only senior reach the fruits of their labors has been so rewarding,” Fields said of the team’s Regionals win. 

Fields emphasized that the team’s success was the product of hard work and dedication. 

“To prepare for Regionals, the team fully committed to giving our all. I think we all knew we had the skill and talent to reach our goal but feared something going wrong or factors out of our control,” she said. “The dedication to performing at our best was on all of our minds and truly shone through while practicing and competing.” 

Hayashi ’22 reflected on her experiences as an old member of the team and in her current position as coach. 

“Coaching this year has felt surprisingly similar to my previous experiences on the team. Another Swarthmore alumnus, Veronica Yabloko ’22 and I started the program as freshmen and held ‘player-coach’ positions on the team until we graduated,” Hayashi explained. “The biggest difference is now, without competitive responsibilities, I have more time to teach the basics of mock trial and come up with creative ways to help the team solve problems.” 

Hayashi expressed gratitude towards the team’s dedication toward the club and explained that some of her tactics as a coach are out of the ordinary. 

“Even though I’m new to coaching, the team has been great in working with me and trusting me … I’ve suggested some really strange things, for example: having them give a speech while staring at themselves in the mirror, or practicing volume by shouting across a room, but they’re always up for it,” Hayashi expressed. 

Hayashi also explained how the coaches are tailoring the next few weeks of training to help prepare the team for ORCs. 

“Some of the newer competitors will work on getting more confident in the courtroom, and Brittany and I are working on replicating realistic practice scenarios for them. More senior competitors will focus on adapting to the more dramatized style of ORCS competition. Our other coach Kyle, a decorated AMTA mock trial-er, will be helping them with that,” she said. 

Swarthmore Mock Trial will compete in the Washington D.C. ORCs on March 11 and 12 against 23 other teams. Regardless of the outcome at ORCS, the team’s run at Regionals marks a historic win. 

“Swarthmore was truly the underdog in this tournament … We also had the most difficult competitive schedule of any team at the tournament,” said Fields. “So, for us to persist and still succeed as we did is truly an amazing accomplishment.”

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