UC Santa Barbara’s Mock Trial A and B teams competed at the UCLA Sunset Strip Invitational Competition virtually from Jan. 15-17 and both finished with five-to-three winning records.

Over the course of the tournament, teams competed in a total of four rounds, twice on defense and twice on prosecution. Courtesy of UCSB Mock Trial

UCLA Sunset Strip Invitational Competition (UCLASSIC) is regarded as one of the most well-known tournaments on the west coast and invites many of the nation’s top programs to compete, including Stanford, UC Berkeley and UC San Diego. This year, the tournament was held over Zoom and 19 schools competed, with 30 teams competing in total. 

Over the course of the tournament, teams competed in a total of four rounds, twice on defense and twice on prosecution. Each round was evaluated by two judges who scored the components of each team’s performance throughout the case by recording points on a ballot, and teams had the opportunity to win eight ballots.

According to third-year history and philosophy double major and B team captain Raana Naghieh, UCLASSIC is “a highly competitive tournament.” 

Each night before a tournament, Naghieh said that her team spends six to eight hours practicing their material, bolstering team spirit and reviewing their statements and examinations another ten times in the morning right before their round.

“If we have nothing else [to revise], at least be confident and loud and slow, which are the three rules of mock trial. It’s just, ‘Sound like you know what you’re doing,’” Naghieh said. “Just getting up there and hoping that you’re going to make a shred of sense.”

Naghieh said she enjoyed finding peace and humor in the unexpected moments during the competition, adding that there’s no way to fully prepare and script for an objection battle.

“You’ve spent three hours writing a cross examination, and you’re gonna throw it all out the window because what their witness actually testified to you ended up being a completely different thing than [what] you expected,” she said. 

Caroline Baldan, a second-year applied mathematics and philosophy double major and internal communications chair for mock trial, said she enjoys the unpredictability of performances and working together with her team to craft quick responses in the heat of the moment.

“When you go to a tournament, you’re in high pressure, high adrenaline — you’re going through a three-hour round all together. Crazy things happen, like sometimes another school just says something that you’re like, ‘Where did you even come up with that?’ Then you have to find a way to respond to it, and it’s just so fun to all work together on that,” Baldan said.

Baldan said she likes the competitive and performative aspects of mock trial, but especially being able to put something together with her team, going to meetings at least twice a week to discuss case theories, write material and practice presentations. While the community is very competitive, Baldan said it’s also very rewarding.

“I really love all the people on my team, and so getting to work with them is really fun. When you get a bunch of people together, who all really care about this activity and who really care about each other, we’re all working really hard to make our material as good as it can be,” she said.

The teams also took home two additional awards, with one of the team’s competitors, Priya Ravi, earning the Highest Ranked Witness in the tournament and the A team winning the Spirit of American Mock Trial Association (AMTA) award.

According to Madison Thomas, a third-year psychological & brain sciences major and president of UCSB Mock Trial, the team who receives the Spirit of AMTA award is voted on by fellow competitors and is given to the team that exhibits the best sportsmanship throughout the tournament.

“[Mock trial] is an extracurricular at the end of the day. We do it because we like it, and I think other teams really pick up on when you’re there to have fun,” Thomas said. “Whenever we win SPAMTA, it means the world to me and to our program because we’re not only are we good at mock trial …  we’re nice people too.”

Thomas said that while mock trial is a very stressful and time-intensive extracurricular activity, the team still focuses on creating a fun and positive environment.

“Mock trial can be really competitive. There’s a lot of type A personalities, myself included. It’s a competitive environment, but I think something — especially at UCSB — that we try to focus on is still having fun,” Thomas said. “As much as mock trial is about competition, at UCSB, we really tried to focus on growth and having fun.”

A version of this article appeared on p. 6 of the Jan. 27, 2022 print edition of the Daily Nexus.