Junior Chase Ford and senior Tedeja Dean won recognition as All Regional Witnesses at the American Mock Trial Association Regional Competition in Lawrence, Kansas.
The award comes at the end of an emotionally challenging competition season for UMKC’s Mock Trial team. In October of last semester, Irene Downs, UMKC alumnus and Mock Trial coach, passed away.
“The weekend Irene passed away we were actually competing at Drake University,” Ford said. “She had said goodbye to us before making the drive up, not knowing that would be the last time.”
The team continued to compete this season, hosting an invitational tournament renamed The Derek Moorhead and Irene Downs Memorial Invitational.
“It would have been really easy for us to throw in the towel and give up on Mock Trial,” said team president Ford. “Instead, it motivated us to see this season through and make sure she would be proud of us.”
Ford is currently working on Downs’ goal of creating scholarships for members of Mock Trial.
The team nearly advanced past regionals, narrowly losing to the University of Minnesota in the final competition.
“That’s the closest we’ve been in a long time to making it out of regionals,” junior Katie Beilsmith said, “and it just makes us that much more determined to do it next year.”
The Mock Trial team also faced other organizational challenges. The team brought on Lynette Lockhart, a practicing attorney for over 12 years, as a coach at the start of last semester. Lockhart needed time to transition.
Despite her recent arrival, the organization’s members already appreciate her experience in the field.
“She teaches us thoroughly the lens of mock trial,” Beilsmith said, “but also in regards to how it will help us in real life, because most of the people on the team plan on going to law school.”
This year, half of the organization was made up of freshmen. The new members had few issues learning and adjusting to the team.
“I’m impressed because the freshmen catch on really well,” Beilsmith said. “We all work really well together.”