Ten members of Brown Mock Trial earned a place at the American Mock Trial Association National Championship last weekend.
The team placed 17th in its 24-team division at the tournament, according to team captain Daniel Sprecher '09. There were 48 teams in all at the tournament.
Rachel Shur '12 received an intercollegiate All-American Witness Award at the tournament — which took place Friday to Sunday in Des Moines, Iowa — after scoring high marks, along with two other participants, for her portrayal of a defense witness.
Unlike most of its competition at the tournament, Brown Mock Trial is entirely student-run. Its 30 undergraduate members are divided into three equally-weighted teams.
The team captained by Sprecher earned the opportunity to participate in the national championship by finishing third at a preliminary national tournament.
"It was very much unexpected," team member Ben Schrank '11 said of earning the trip to nationals. "Brown is unusual in that we do not have a coach. … We came across no (other teams) without coaches."
In addition to having no professional guidance, the Brown team's most experienced members are spread evenly among its three groups.
"This team was freshmen and sophomores, and we were neck and neck with everyone else, which was absolutely incredible," Sprecher said. "We were definitely the youngest team there."
The last time a Brown Mock Trial team made it to Nationals was in 2007, when the team was composed primarily of experienced upperclassmen, said Venkat Mendu '12, one of the team members.
"We do very well pretty consistently," said Erinn Phelan '09, a captain of one of the two teams that did not travel to Iowa. "Every year, we qualify beyond the first round."
Though some of the costs of the trip were covered by funding the team receives from the Undergraduate Finance Board, team members had to pay about $150 out-of-pocket to fund the trip, said Maria Gordon '11, one of the 10 students who went to nationals.
The team's success stems in part from its cohesion, members said, and its ability to focus on having fun.
"In the end, it's just a game," said team member Joshua Bernard '11. "It's hard to remember that when you put so many hours into it."
Despite the young team's success this year, Schrank said a return trip to nationals next year would require just as much hard work and team effort.
"I think if we continue to do what we did this year — practice regularly, maintain our great team dynamic and exploit the natural talent that each of our members possesses — we'll be well-situated for a repeat performance next year," Shur wrote in an e-mail to The Herald.
The other team members who competed at nationals were Joshua Bernard '11, Alysha Naik '11, Herald Higher Ed Editor Gaurie Tilak '11, Andrew Becker '12 and Andrew Nizamian '12.