This past season has been the most successful for the Mock Trial team at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County since the team was founded in 2011. The team’s season ended at the American Mock Trial Association’s National Championship Tournament, where the Retrievers came in eighth place in their division and had the 13th best record overall.
The NCT was the last of a series of competitions hosted by AMTA, where mock trial teams from across the nation participate in the hopes of eventually getting to the NCT in April. The first portion of the series are regional competitions, of which there were 28; top teams from each of these regionals advance to the Opening Round Championship Series in March, and the top five to six teams from each ORCS earn a bid to the NCT. This competition series cuts the mock trial field from over 750 teams that compete at regionals to the top 48 teams in the country at the NCT.
This season required a collaborative effort from UMBC Mock Trial, as the team faced several challenges throughout the year. “Everyone has pushed through their own individual struggles at different times throughout the year, and they have committed themselves to helping the team succeed,” said sophomore chemistry major Thomas Kiley. “We had 19 days to prepare an entirely new case … everyone did what they had to in order to make UMBC Mock Trial have an impact at this tournament. Everyone has grown this year into a stronger competitor, and next year we are going to be even better.”
Head coach Ben Garmoe, a 2013 political science graduate, is one of the founders of the UMBC Mock Trial team. Garmoe is an adjunct professor at UMBC as well as a full-time litigation attorney, and he dedicates much of his time to mock trial, which is evident through the team’s numerous achievements and continued growth. Garmoe’s role as a coach includes him being a mentor to the students on the team, as he “is there for us when we are having personal issues, and … whenever we need help with mock trial,” said Nihir Nanavaty, a senior political science major. “I quite literally got my scholarship to law school because of UMBC Mock Trial and the things Ben has done for me when it comes to speaking with law school admissions officers and writing recommendation letters.”
Their recent eighth place finish at the NCT is not the first of UMBC Mock Trial’s achievements this season. The team placed first at Duke’s Tobacco Road Invitational in the fall as well as at Georgetown’s Hilltop Invitational in January, outranking teams from Brown University, Fordham University, Columbia University and Howard University. According to Sydney Gaskins, a member of Mock Trial’s A-Team, the first place win at the Hilltop Invitational is the first time UMBC Mock Trial has ever maintained an undefeated record at a tournament.
Gaskins, a sophomore political science major who has just completed her second year participating in UMBC Mock Trial, has had a particularly triumphant season. She has won several awards at the AMTA tournaments, including attorney awards at the regional and ORCS tournaments. Most recently she was awarded an All-American Award for her role as an attorney at the NCT, which is the highest honor in the country. “I couldn’t have done any of this alone. I needed my teammates, my coaches and my loved ones every step of the way,” Gaskins stated. “They gave me the resources that I needed to succeed. Whether it was words of encouragement or a simple hug when I was at my lowest, they were my backbone through it all.”
Gaskins has also been invited to compete in Trial By Combat, a one-on-one mock trial championship that aims to challenge some of the best individual competitors in the country. Only 16 students are chosen nationwide out of the 750 total teams. “[It] is … surreal. I’m very excited to be UMBC’s first TBC competitor and show everyone what we’re made of,” said Gaskins.
UMBC Mock Trial looks forward to what is to come in next year’s season. Through the losses and the wins, the team continues to put their best foot forward and strive farther. “At the end of the day, hard work pays off, and UMBC Mock Trial is a perfect example of what can be done when a group of driven young people set their minds to do something amazing,” Nanavaty said.