Southwestern’s Great Debaters
After only two years on campus, Southwestern’s Mock Trial Team has done well enough to qualify for a national tournament.
Eight members of the team - Alex Barnes, Emily Goodman, Sarah Gould, Juan Juarez, Alexis Kropf, Lili McEntire, Ashley Richards and Jake Wilson - will participate in a National Intercollegiate Mock Trial Tournament to be held in Memphis March 27-29.
The team qualified for the national tournament by placing 6th out of 22 teams at the Great Southern Regional Tournament held Feb. 21-22 in Houston.
Southwestern won several other awards at the tournament in Houston. Kropf, Wilson and Abbey Benold all received Best Regional Witness awards. A team consisting of Benold, Chris Everton, Rebekah Gomez, Camden McCabe, Kate Peteet, Lorena Saenz and Chanea Wells placed 9th in the tournament and is first alternate to attend the tournament in Memphis. The entire Southwestern Mock Trial Team received the Spirit of AMTA (American Mock Trial Association) award for the team that best exemplifies AMTA’s core ideals of civility, justice, and fair play. This was the second year in a row that Southwestern’s team received this award.
Gould started the Mock Trial Team last year after realizing that Southwestern did not have a forum for students who are interested in debate.
“I did debate in high school and thought it was a very valuable skill to master,” she said.
Although Gould hopes to attend law school, she said many of the 15 members on Southwestern’s Mock Trial Team do not. “Almost every major at Southwestern is represented on our team,” she said. “Students like to do this for the team experience and because it is fun.”
Gould credits much of the team’s success to its coach, John Higginbotham, who serves as judge for Williamson County Court at Law #3. “We wouldn’t be the team we are without him,” Gould says. “It is very rare for a team this young to go to the national tournament. We are competing against some very established teams. We also are one of the smallest schools competing.”
The team practices once a week with Higginbotham and two additional times a week on its own. The case the team is arguing this year is based on the landmark 1964 Supreme Court case known as New York Times vs. Sullivan, which established the standard that has to be met before press reports about public officials or public figures can be considered to be defamation and libel.