By Jared Kennedy
The University of Nebraska at Omaha Mock Trial Team can now claim a title they never before could: champions. The team locked in its first win ever at an invitational.
When the dust settled, 8-0 was the final tally after two well-fought days at the Richard Calkins Invitational Tournament. Drake University, which is located in Des Moines, Iowa, was the host school for the tournament.
UNO’s mock trial team has only been in action for three short years. This is heightens how sweet the victory is for the team. It also came as quite a surprise for many.
Jody Neathery-Castro is chair of the political science department. The team is the brainchild of the department. Castro says the team was never really expected to be such a force in competition be-cause mock trial is still a new practice at UNO.
“This really was a wonderful surprise for the team,” Neathery-Castro said in an interview with UNO communications.
The UNO students battled hard for the top spot. There were 27 other teams who could have robbed them of their ultimate victory. On top of securing such an upset, two members even won individual awards.
Joe Loukota won the Outstanding Witness award. Team co-captain Mallory Sleight took home the Outstanding Attorney award.
For this season, each team has to argue a case involving alleged casino bribery. Students act out each roll in the mock trial. With each tournament, the students have to react to new evidence and new arguments. Experienced eyes watch over the competition. A panel consisting of legal professionals who score each trial is tasked with scoring each mock trial team’s performance.
Mock trial teams, among other reasons, are important because they help students get experience who may go into law later on. It can serve to spark student interest in criminal justice, and help student expand their horizons in the process.
Three days a week, the UNO Mock Trial Team can be found practicing for their next win. Often the team practices late into the evening. These students are heavily invested in the team and are adamant their hard work pays off in competition.
“We’re all workaholics, but only be-cause we love it,” Sleight said.
Shannon O’Connor is participating in his first year as the coach of the UNO Mock Trial Team. The team will compete in four more invitational competitions before heading to Regional competition in February. Depending on how the team competes, they could potentially qualify for an open round championship this coming March.
Any and all UNO students are welcome and encouraged to participate in the Mock Trial team. Students who participate are able to learn courtroom procedure by enrolling in the Mock Trial class.
Students can either enroll in the mock trial practicum while taking the mock trial class, or they can wait and take the practicum following the class.
This is what students must do if they want to be a part of this now award winning mock trial team.